Former England captain and Sky Sports Cricket analyst Nasser Hussain says that for all Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes’ appetite for an exciting brand of cricket, runs remain the top currency for England batters.
Speaking on Sky Sports Cricket’s latest vodcast, ahead of Thursday’s first Test against Pakistan, Hussain and fellow former England captain Michael Atherton praised the ability of head coach McCullum and skipper Stokes to attract multi-format batters to play Test cricket.
However, Hussain added that despite the leadership’s desire for an exciting brand of cricket, runs remain the top priority.
Atherton said: “One of the important contexts of this tour is that there’s a young group of English batsmen there who are multi-format, like [Liam] Livingstone, [Ben] Duckett who is back, [Will] Jacks, [Harry] Brook.
“If Test cricket and this series grabs them, there’s a chance there to hold them in all formats rather than seeing a number of them disappear to T20.”
Hussain added: “I guess it’s linked to the brand. When Rob Key first came in [as managing director of England men’s cricket] he spoke about the brand of cricket, and it’s linked to that.
“It’s a great statement that Stokes and McCullum have got Livingstone, Duckett, got these multi-format players buying into the brand of Test cricket they want to play. I’ll just throw in one caveat, one proviso: still the currency is runs.
“You look at Alex Lees, he played in the Caribbean the way he wanted to play, he then last summer played the way Stokes and McCullum wanted to play, didn’t get the runs that are required and was axed.
“So if I was giving any kind of advice to any young player it would be that you’re only going to be judged on the runs. Not the way you play, however much Stokes and McCullum say: ‘We want these type of players.’
“If you get runs, Alastair Cook-type players can still play in this side because they got the runs. So go and get it, that is still the currency to stay in the side.”
The importance of Stokes to this England project
Sky Sports Cricket’s Michael Atherton…
“It’s a bit like Virat Kohli in India. Kohli is the most important cricketer in India, and therefore probably the world, and he was very much, ‘I still think Test cricket is a worthwhile thing to be involved in’. Young players followed that.
“Stokes saying to Livingstone, ‘forget the Big Bash and the £150,000, come and play Test cricket for us in Pakistan’. He’s a very hard man to say no to is Stokes. Having a player of that stature, charisma and importance, that still values the five-day game, is a big thing.”
Sky Sports Cricket’s Nasser Hussain…
“I completely agree with Ath. It sends a message, not just to Livingstone but everyone underneath and all the lads coming through.
“It’s more fun when you’re doing well. It only works if you’re getting runs and you’re having fun because otherwise, as we know, Test cricket becomes tough.
“Mentally, you better make sure you’re doing this for the right reasons, because this format will test you more than any other. I can guarantee you that.
“If you’re not buying into it completely, by the end, there is always an eye on the slightly easier option of white-ball cricket.”
Watch England’s three-Test series in Pakistan live on Sky Sports Cricket. Coverage of the opening game begins at 4.30am on Thursday ahead of a 5am start in Rawalpindi.