Matthew Renshaw's Big Bash batting clinic against the reigning champions could be a "career-defining" innings, according to Brendon McCullum, who suggested there's no reason why he couldn’t someday play T20s for Australia.
Renshaw's stunning unbeaten 90 off just 50 balls on Sunday evening signalled his blossoming from a once-gangly opener who nicked, nudged and left his way to gritty red-ball runs into an imposing short-form colossus.
Few batters have ever outmuscled McCullum (51 off 39) at the batting crease, but the former New Zealand captain who today announced his retirement from the Big Bash was happy to play second fiddle to his Brisbane Heat teammate almost 15 years his junior in a vital 122-run stand.
"When 'Renners' came out and you could see the presence that he had at the crease – the way that he was striking the ball, he was making it really easy," McCullum told cricket.com.au. "It was just a matter of giving him as much strike as possible."
Renshaw mixed devastatingly fluid power-hitting with deft reverse and lap-sweeps off both the quicks and spinners.
The left-hander struck four sixes and expertly negated ace Adelaide Strikers spinner Rashid Khan (1-30 off four overs) to see the Heat reel in the Strikers’ 8-176 with eight balls to spare.
"I think it's probably a career-defining knock from a T20 (perspective)," McCullum continued.
"He has that in him now and if he just focuses on the next ball every time, then he's got the sheer talent and ability and also power to be able to play at the top level in this form of the game.
"So hopefully it's a real breakout innings for him because he's a wonderful guy – he's a bit of a pest some of the time – but he's a wonderful guy and he's got a big future in front of him."
The innings was Renshaw's highest score for the season in any format and comes at a crucial juncture ahead of the resumption of the JLT Sheffield Shield season later this month.
The Queenslander was recalled to Australia's Test squad to play Sri Lanka earlier this month only to be overlooked. Coming into Sunday’s game, his batting average across all formats this summer was 17.
The wisdom of the 37-year-old McCullum has clearly rubbed off on him.
Not long after he'd walked off Adelaide Oval to begrudging applause from the parochial home crowd, McCullum had a quiet word with the 22-year-old.
"When I went in the change rooms he told me I need to just stay constant and not get too high or low," said Renshaw, who'd joined McCullum in the middle with the Heat in trouble at 3-18. "He just tries to keep me really grounded.
"After losing three early ones it was a struggle at the start. Having 'Baz' out in the middle there with me was great as someone who hasn't played too many T20s.
"Having him at the other end (as) someone who has as vast experience as him is great.
"I'm still trying to get my head around it a little bit … This is up there – probably one of my best innings ever really."
Renshaw's watchful approach in his early days as a Test batter meant the moniker of 'The Turtle' stuck – even though the nickname's origins related to his initial shyness around senior Australia players.
He was often overlooked when he'd been available for the Heat in previous years but has gradually established himself in teal this summer.
"I've always thought I've had a pretty decent T20 game but I've just never had the opportunity with all the four-day stuff," said Renshaw.
“I think you get pigeon-holed in that red-ball category.”
McCullum insists his attitude has never wavered.
"He's been in and out of the group and he's probably been starved of opportunities if anything," McCullum said. "It's never easy, you've got to do your time on the sidelines.
"What he has done is maintain a real strong presence around the group, he's a great fella, a real good team man as well.
"He's got a big heart and he's a guy who wants to perform for this team. I think over the years we'll see him blossom into a real strong T20 cricketer."
Asked if he could see Renshaw one day playing T20 cricket for Australia, McCullum said: "It's early days of course – we all talk pretty early when someone gets a performance.
"But if he's managed appropriately and he's given the confidence to play the style he's going to play, and there's also an understanding about how he's going to develop at the speed he needs to, then why not?
"There's a lot of very good cricketers around Australia – I'm not saying he should be in front of them at the moment – but who knows in the future."