Dubai: New Zealand can prove to be quite tricky customers in the white ball contests in their upcoming series against India, according to Nathan McCullum, the former Kiwi all-rounder and elder brother of the illustrious former captain Brendan McCullum.
India will be touring New Zealand later this month for a full tour comprising of five T20 Internationals, three One-day Internationals and two Tests.
Nathan, an utility cricketer who served the Black Caps well in limited overs cricket before retiring after the World T20 in 2016, was in Dubai for a short visit as a member of the New Zealand Expo to do a recce on the progress for the Expo 2020 — to be hosted by the emirate later this year.
Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview, the 39-year-old said: “It’s tough to pick any favourites in the series against India, who are on an unbeaten streak. However, the Kiwis can be a different opposition in the their own conditions and surface and their bowling has also recovered from the niggles.”
Looking back at what was an eventful 2019 for his country’s cricket, he rued the missed opportunity for Kane Williamson & Co when they lost the ICC World Cup final at the Lord’s after what was easily the most nerve-racking of finals in the tournament’s history.
“It was really heartbreaking for our people to have come so close to winning the big prize and then losing out on the number of boundaries. This is the second time in a row that we lost the 50-overs final,” said McCullum, who himself was a member of the 2015 World Cup, when they lost to Michael Clarke’s Australia.
It had been a saga of so-near-yet-so-far for the New Zealanders in the major ICC tournaments, with the only time them doing justice to their potential being way back in 2000 with the Champions Trophy.
Asked if they could set the record straight in the upcoming World T20, scheduled in Australia in November-December, Nathan struck a positive note: “Yes, I would rate their chances highly if New Zealand can have a selection of the right death bowlers.”
A mingy off-break bowler and handy lower order batsman, Nathan has represented the country in 84 ODIs and 63 T20 Internationals during his international career — during which he plied his trade in English County teams like Lancashire, Glamorgan and T20 franchise leagues like Indian Premier League (IPL) and Big Bash. Heaping high words of praise for the IPL, where he played for Sunrisers Hyderabad as well as the now defunct Pune Warriors, he said: ‘‘I really enjoyed my time there with the some of the sharpest minds in the game, like Tom Moody. It’s an extremely competitive event which teaches the young players to perform under pressure.’’
It’s no secret that Nathan, during his playing career, had to mostly live under the shadows of his brother Brendan — whose fearless captaincy, wicketkeeping and explosive batting has endowed him with a cult hero status among cricket fans all over the world. Asked how was it to live in the shadows of a more gifted brother, Nathan was objective enough. “We were very different as cricketers but our time together in the national team was quite special and enjoyable. There were a number of times when we performed well together but I would not like to mention any special moment,” he said.
Finally, Nathan had an extremely positive feedback to give about the progress of the Expo 2020 venue. “My job was to take a first hand look at the progress of the site. It’s a project of amazing magnitude that’s coming up and is going to be a huge success,” he added.