NZ cricket great McCullum hired to coach England's test team

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FILE - New Zealand's Brendon McCullum salutes the crowd as he leaves the field for the last time for his team after being dismissed for 25 by Australia's Josh Hazelwood on the third day of the second international cricket test match at Hagley Park Oval in Christchurch, New Zealand, Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. McCullum has been hired as head coach of England’s test team in another bold appointment coming soon after the decision to select Ben Stokes as captain. (Ross Setford/SNPA via AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

New Zealand cricket great Brendon McCullum was hired as head coach of England's test team on Thursday in another bold appointment coming soon after the decision to select allrounder Ben Stokes as captain.

The 40-year-old McCullum, who currently coaches Indian Premier League team Kolkata Knight Riders, has never been in charge of a test team and only retired from playing in 2019.

He was regarded as the catalyst behind New Zealand's emergence as a major force in the test game — the Black Caps won the inaugural world test championship last year — and his preference for attacking cricket will be welcomed by Stokes at the start of a new era for England.

“I believe in Brendon and Ben Stokes — a formidable coach and captain partnership," said Rob Key, director of men’s cricket at the England and Wales Cricket Board. "Time for us all to buckle up and get ready for the ride.”

McCullum's first series with England will be against his native New Zealand in June, with the opening test beginning June 2 at Lord's.

England has won only one of its last 17 tests, a run that includes a humiliating 4-0 series loss in the Ashes Down Under. That sparked a rush of dismissals and resignations — at one stage, England didn't have a captain, coach or head of men's cricket — but the leadership roles have been filled now, with Stokes replacing Joe Root as captain and Key the replacement for Ashley Giles.

“He has a recent history of changing cricket culture and environments for the better," Key said of McCullum, “and I believe he is the person to do that for England’s red-ball cricket.”

McCullum takes the position previously held by Chris Silverwood, who oversaw the test and limited-overs teams. The ECB has decided the red-ball and white-ball duties should be split going forward.

“In taking this role on, I am acutely aware of the significant challenges the team faces at present," McCullum said, "and I strongly believe in my ability to help the team emerge as a stronger force once we’ve confronted them head-on.

“I’ve enjoyed several robust conversations with Rob Key about the direction of travel for the team and have found his enthusiasm contagious. I’m no stranger to bringing about change within a team environment, and I can’t wait to get started."

McCullum described Stokes as “the perfect character to inspire change around him.”

"I look forward to working closely with him to build a successful unit around us,” McCullum said.

McCullum will travel to England after the Knight Riders complete their IPL group campaign on May 18, subject to obtaining a working visa.

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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