Dear Mr. Brendon McCullum,
I hope this letter finds you in great health and spirit. I have been thinking about writing you this letter for a long time now and have finally decided to pen this down. You see it is difficult to comprehend that soon another of my favourite cricketers won’t be putting on his international jersey anymore. There has been a lot retirements in the recent years. Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Hussey, Clarke, Smith, you! When I was younger my parents would tell me that one-day, all of a sudden, I shall realize that life is not stagnant, people go away, move on, leaving us with memories to cherish and times to remember. Now, I wonder how right they were.
But this letter is not about me. It is about someone who has inspired me to be better, to not let myself act like others when they don’t act right and to understand that there are things out there who are bigger than us and we need to search for them lest we shall feel lost. This letter is about that man; this letter is about you sir.
“It is in inconsequential match or so we all thought. This is Cricket World Cup 2015 in its full flow and Australia would be crowned champions in the coming few days, but one team has already won the hearts. Coming back to the match, a Bangladeshi batsman hits the ball to the boundary, everyone thought it was going to be a boundary or so we all thought. One man had different thoughts and so he ran after the ball and just as the ball was about to reach the boundary he plunged himself onto it and then on the advertisement boards. It was still a four but something had happened.
He was in discomfort. That man, Brendon McCullum, was in pain and so was probably the whole of New Zealand. Brendon McCullum had converted a rugby nation and was resolved to convert a team made up of talented youngsters into world-beaters. But then our protagonist shrugged off the pain, signaled he was fine, wringed his hand and smiled. This was just an advertisement board, but it felt like in those days he could have well run into a truck and shrugged aside his broken bones and then set the fielding for the next ball.”
That moment to me enclosed everything I liked about the way you played the game. But this likeability was not there long ago. After the 2011 world cup, the New Zealand Cricket Board had organized a Presidential Election like race to the New Zealand Captaincy. You had lost to your teammate Ross Taylor and when Ross Taylor was removed as captain in
2012, after a Test victory in Sri Lanka no less, you had to take the blame. Frankly, I hated you at that moment. I won’t be surprised if many others did as well. You were after all to me just a tattooed ambitious guy who had usurped the rightful owner. A test match later, New Zealand had been shot out for 45 by South Africa. It was not just that many had lost hope of a recovery; it might as well be that they had beaten hope and then thrown it from a cliff into a valley to make sure it is never found.
But then something clicked somewhere and somehow you gave us a reason to believe. The one-day series afterwards in South Africa was won 2-1, it was a first in New Zealand’s cricket. There was a new crop of players to work with, a new, faint, as it may have been, hope to believe in.
And behind the scenes a great heist was being planned. Victories were needed and so was a better demeanor. So out came a team meeting, plans were made, suggestions were given and a bond was formed. For much of the next one year, New Zealand gilded itself with the tags of an improving team with some spurts of brilliance piercing through madness. It remained like this until West Indies arrived on your shores. Three tests played, one nearly won and two bossed around. The summer had started and jigsaw’s solutions were appearing. And they all looked beautiful.
After that came the Indians, befuddled they stood at what they had hit. I remember that it was at Basin reserve that you made a heist like not many of us had seen before. You hit the first test triple century by a New Zealander. Martin Crowe had said he could now die without any remorse. He was once your strongest critic, now he was one of your biggest fans. Who was I to still hate you, still not admire the integrity and passion you led with and still not adore the way you put the interests of the fans before everything else.
But there was to be more to this bravado and that too, when it was the least expected. Philip Hughes had died, leaving everyone bereft about how a young life had been lost forever. A talent was left unfulfilled, a life left unrealized. How the world shed its tears, how sorrow engulfed everyone. While this was going on, you rekindled the belief. Silent as everyone stayed that day, you rekindled the belief in this game that we all love and you did it all with respect. That innings had every ingredient that a great innings has but there was no celebration because bigger things mattered.
After all this, came the biggest cricket carnival in New Zealand and Australia. And even though Australia won the trophy, you and your men won our hearts. Who in this world would have imagined putting four slips in a one-day international match? Who in this world would have thought about exhausting all your strike bowlers’ quota inside 30 overs? Who in this world would have shown the bravado to come dancing down the track to world’s most fearsome bowlers? Who would have done the same to make sure the first dance did not seem like a fluke? You did sir, and you won our hearts with a smile.
And you always seemed to do that without a care in the world and it reciprocated through us all. There cannot be anything more joyful than putting smiles on people’s faces and you did that continuously for years. I know arguments might arise that your record could have been better, Mitchell Starc could have been played a bit better in the World Cup Final, you could have stayed on a little bit longer and this and that, and this and that. But hey, as you once taught us there are things bigger than all of us – joy, happiness, respect, humility- and you showed us bucket loads of it. All of it.
Have a nice post-career time, sir. After all, you deserve it. Thoroughly!
And yeah remember to beat the Aussies before that.
A fan you once converted