Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum have changed Test cricket, says former England captain Michael Vaughan

England red-ball captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum will be remembered as the combination that changed the way we play and think about Test match cricket, according to former England skipper Michael Vaughan. Nasser Hussain, another former England captain, said it was great to see what could happen if team management takes the “fear of failure” out of players’ minds. Vaughan even said Pat Cummins and his Australian team will have “sleepless nights” after England scored more than 500 in just 75 overs on the first day of the Rawalpindi test against Pakistan.

“We have to be honest about what England are doing. They’re trying to change Test cricket and after eight games it’s going pretty well. It’s not like they did it once and then struggled for three games. They had one outlier, but otherwise it was always excellent,” Vaughan wrote in The Telegraph.

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“It’s still early days, of course, but I expect England to continue this way and I think we’ll be talking about this period for years to come. We’ll look back and see Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum as the double combination that Test match cricket has changed: the way it is played and the way we think about it.

“I’ve never known a captain in my time to have such an impact on a team when he watched or played the game. Look where the England team have been before. One win out of 17, thrashed in Australia playing cricket that’s completely here opposite.

‘First test team to encourage risk taking’

Vaughan said that while the Rawalpindi pitch was level, England should be commended for scoring at a fast pace without resorting to slogging. According to Vaughan, the England approach had brought risk-taking into Test cricket, as opposed to the risk-averse traditional way of playing the five-day game.

“This was an incredibly flat field and an inexperienced Pakistani bowling attack. But overall, Pakistan is the best team in the world in flat wicket bowling, taking the 22 yards out of the equation. England was just too much. It wasn’t reckless, it was good strong cricket shots,” Vaughan wrote.

“Watch them play these shots. They are what we would have considered risky in my day. They are not risky for them, because they are so used to it by white ball cricket: paddles, dance down, reverse swipes. They are a daily action that these players do. They have trained their brains and bodies to do it over and over again. And it’s a sensible way! It sounds crazy to say that a score of almost seven per over is not completely crazy. But these players, with their skills – it’s not outrageous. They were raised to do it.

“It’s all about mentality and language. Kids coming through these days don’t believe that if a bowler bowls well you can’t score. They don’t respond to the language I grew up with about getting bowlers into their second, third, fourth spells and then capitalizing. They think about how to deal with them. This is the first team to incorporate that mentality into Test cricket and openly encourage what we consider to be risk-taking. It’s what will help the modern player flourish.”

While admitting that it was not possible to replicate a day on a “perfect wicket” on which four batsmen scored Test centuries, Vaughan stated that England’s “juggernaut” was not something opponents would want to encounter.

“There will be plenty of older players who will say it is not possible to do this every time, and of course such an extreme example cannot be replicated every time. This was the perfect wicket and they capitalized. England need to prove this is more than just a hot streak, and to do that they will have to adapt and switch up and down like the great Australian team used to do.

“But people have wondered what will happen every time they do another bowling attack, and it continues to go well. I think in our summer the Australians would have said “we’ll have you”. But even Pat Cummins and co will have sleepless nights now, because this is a juggernaut. It is not a nice method or mentality to play against at all.”

From fearful to fearless

Hussain said he was an “anxious” player in his day, but this England team could have played as if nothing mattered when in fact it mattered a lot.

“What has changed is the mindset and the intent. As we regularly see now, it’s amazing what can happen when the coach and captain take away the fear of failure,” Hussain wrote in the Daily Mail.

“It is the scenario athletes dream of. To convince yourself that none of it matters when you know deep down that it really matters. To treat a role you’ve worked your entire life for as if it were just another day at the office. Imagining that you represent your country is like a mess in the park.

“I was an anxious cricketer, focused on surviving at all costs. These guys just want to go out and have fun. It’s great to watch.”

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