WELLINGTON (Reuters) – The romance of finishing his career by leading New Zealand into one last battle against Australia on home soil persuaded Brendon McCullum to bow out of international cricket before next year’s World Twenty20.
The 34-year-old announced on Tuesday that he would be retiring from all forms of international cricket after the two-test series against the Australians in February.
The need for New Zealand Cricket to name their squad for the World Twenty20, which takes place in India next March and April, denied him the chance to simply walk away after the second test at Hagley Park, but he is still determined to go out on a high.
“I think there’s something romantic about finishing playing in front of New Zealand crowds,” he told reporters in Christchurch.
“Also to finish in Christchurch, which is my established home, that was my focus there. I knew I could steel myself for a couple more battles and they’re ones I’m looking forward to.”
McCullum’s chronic back problems are well documented but the former wicketkeeper said that was not the reason for his decision to call time on his career.
“Look, my body’s been a bit sore for a while but that’s international sport,” he said.
“But that’s not it. I think, in the end, the time has just come.
“I love playing cricket but I guess all good things come to an end. I guess the team’s just about ready for the next person to take over …”
That next person looks certain to be Kane Williamson, who will lead the side to the World Twenty20.
Williamson scored a century to drive the Blacks Caps to victory over Sri Lanka on Monday, passing McCullum’s New Zealand record for runs in a calendar year and moving to the top of the test batting rankings in the process.
“He’s a genius, he’s going to hate me saying this, but number one batsman in the world says it all,” McCullum added.
“He’s a consummate professional and a champion fella and he’s still only 25. He’s going to be one of the best players the game has ever seen, but again he’s going to hate me saying that.”
After what he described as a “really great year”, which included the run to the 50-overs World Cup final, McCullum is looking forward to his compatriots coming out in force for his final two tests in Wellington and Christchurch.
“The World Cup captivated New Zealand,” he said. “The playing numbers and the support we built up because of the way we played should see some great crowds for us.”
The explosive batsman said he would focus more on career highlights after his 101st test but was most proud of the culture in what he described as the best New Zealand team he had ever played in.
“It’s up to others to decide what the state you’ve left the team in but hopefully I’ve left it in a better position than when I took over,” he said.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)