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McCullum: England will ‘refine’ style after defeat in India

Brendon McCullum says England will “refine” their Bazball style after sinking to a 4-1 Test series defeat in India but has urged his side not to be “timid” under pressure.

England were trounced by an innings and 64 runs inside three days of the fifth and final Test in Dharamsala as they suffered a fourth consecutive defeat since winning the series opener in Hyderabad.

The Bazball philosophy of taking the positive option has been questioned but head coach McCullum felt his side were guilty of “retreating” against an India team who have now extended their victorious run in home Test series to 17.

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Speaking before the Dharamsala drubbing, Stokes said England had progressed as a team in India

“India probably outplayed us at the style of cricket we want to play and made us start to retreat a little bit,” said the New Zealander.

“That’s something that we will have to change. If anything, we got more timid as the series went on.

“It is something we need to address because other teams will put us under pressure as well and we can’t really allow that doubt to creep into our game. We need to have total conviction in what we are doing in those pressure situations.

“We will allow the dust and hurt to settle a bit and then use that to make changes we need to ensure we are a better version of what we have started out as. We will have time to reflect and come back bigger, stronger and more refined.”

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Speaking before the Dharamsala drubbing, Stokes said England had progressed as a team in India

‘We are relaxed – but we have a hard edge’

McCullum also dismissed suggestions that giving players freedom to express themselves means he and captain Ben Stokes do not have honest conversations with their side during difficult periods.

England began the Bazball era with 10 wins from 11 but have now lost seven of their last 12 matches, going down to New Zealand once, Australia twice and now India four times.

He added: “While we’re both very relaxed and happy to make sure everyone’s enjoying themselves, let’s not mistake that for not having a hard edge. We didn’t get where we’ve got to in life and in our careers without some sort of hard edge.”

England's Jonny Bairstow (Associated Press)
Image: England’s Jonny Bairstow made double figures eight times out of 10 against India but failed to reach 40

“At this stage, these are the guys we believe are the best cricketers to win a series,” added McCullum when quizzed on whether players are too comfortable in their positions.

“If it doesn’t play out and if someone is banging down the door you look at that. Certainly nothing is closed to anyone, it’s just that you have to bang the door down.”

‘Stokes wanted it too much with the bat’

On Stokes, who averaged below 20 with the bat in India but returned to bowling duty in the final Test for the first time since knee surgery in November, McCullum added: “I actually think he wanted it too much with the bat but he’ll be back.

“He was trying to give himself every opportunity to build a big innings to ensure when the pressure moments came, which he knows how to deal better than anyone else in the world, that he was going to be the man to be there.

England's captain Ben Stokes (Getty Images)
Image: Stokes averaged below 20 with the bat in India, and failed to reach double figures in his final four innings

“To have him back in full operation [with the ball] is a huge positive for us and moving forward allows us to know we can balance the team in the right way.”

Stokes bowled India captain Rohit Sharma with the first ball of his five-over spell, taking out the batter’s off stump with a superb delivery that angled in and then nipped away to hit off stump, earning him his 198th Test wicket.

England Test series in India 2024

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