“What we learnt was that when you play without any of the pressures and expectations we normally put on ourselves, your skills can be properly expressed”
New Zealand skipper, Brendon McCullum has revealed that the tragic death of Philip Hughes and its aftermath played a pivotal role in how the entire kiwi team went about in their cricket last year.
The kiwis were in Sharjah last year when the news of the tragic death broke out. McCullum told that the Pakistan Test was delayed by 24 hours, to allow for the players to grieve and express their sorrows.
In a recent interview with the Cricket Monthly, McCullum said:
“It felt like he was one of us. It was this horrible feeling of knowing it could have been any one of us. We didn’t want to continue. I was looking around the sheds and thought there was no way we could get these guys in the right space to play cricket. What you saw was a team playing without feeling. What we learnt was that when you play without any of the pressures and expectations we normally put on ourselves, your skills can be properly expressed.”
The whole New Zealand team was hit severely by the tragedy. Skills coach Gilbert Enoka was appointed to help the players deal with the sorrow and emotional torture. Enoka is a very experienced professional, who had also previously worked with the national Rugby side, which is the current world Champion of the sport.
McCullum believes the week that followed Hughes’ death was the turning point for the cricket team. According to him, the entire senior squad started approaching the game like never before, and for the first time ever, the New Zealand team seemed to have constructed that much needed identity.
“Most of it emanated from us being semi-embarrassed about the way we had played in the past. It has to be authentic and it may not last – you can’t force it down people’s throats – but this is the way I want this team to play and I know the senior guys have similar feelings on it.”
New Zealand went on to defeat Pakistan in the UAE ODI series. Following that, they beat both Sri Lanka and Pakistan at home, before a staggering unbeaten run all the way to the World Cup final. The kiwis also enjoyed a memorable summer in England, where they drew the Test series. The ODI series also ended up being a close one, with the black caps losing by 3-2.