On the eve of his powerful MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, Brendon McCullum sat down with Jo Harman of All Out Cricket to talk about the reasons behind his international retirement, the reshaping of his country’s cricketing psyche and to remind us all that, in the end, it’s really just a game.

Here is an extract from that interview.......

Three months on from his international retirement, Brendon McCullum gives the impression of a man happy with life as I join him in a West London pub a few days before he delivers his MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s.

While fans the world over craved another ride on the helter skelter before closing time, McCullum decided that he’d had his fill, signing off from international duty with an innings that encapsulated his attitude to the game.

“I thought I’d go out swinging,” he says, pint in hand with notes in preparation for his lecture scattered across the table. “I’d never have been able to live with myself if I’d got out defending in my last Test match! I was like: ‘Kane Williamson, best player in the world, greatest defensive technique around, and he can’t lay bat on it!’ I don’t have a defensive technique, so there’s no chance I’m gonna play like that. I turned round to BJ Watling and said, ‘Mate, I’ve only got one way to play here’.

”Coming in on the first morning of his final Test, with the Kiwis 32-3 on a green Christchurch seamer against a rampant Australian attack, McCullum had a hoick second ball, clearing his front leg and streakily edging to the boundary. Three balls later he launched Mitchell Marsh back over his head to break Adam Gilchrist’s record tally of sixes in Test cricket and then hit a further three boundaries from his next four deliveries. It was the kind of start to a Test innings that only very few are capable of and even fewer would dare attempt.

In a little over two hours at the crease McCullum hit 21 fours and six sixes, reaching his century from 54 balls, the fastest hundred in Test history. It was carnage – a fitting denouement to a career that in many ways has mirrored the metamorphosis of the game as a whole over the past 15 years. But why call it a day now when the going’s this good?

It’s been speculated that the Chris Cairns trial – in which McCullum gave evidence against the former New Zealand all-rounder at Southwark Crown Court before jumping on a plane to Australia to captain his country in a Test match a matter of days later – had hastened his exit. “Yeah, maybe,” he says. “I came to the decision in Perth [last November, a month after giving evidence] that I’d just had enough.

“I also didn’t want to be a cricketer that hung on because he needed the adulation and the respect and all that rubbish that people crave when they’re younger. I didn’t want to cling on for those reasons. I just wanted to play the game and have a good time. When I started to feel like that was diminishing, then it was time to get out. I think a lot of guys if they hang on too long actually start to resent the game. Whereas I went out genuinely still loving it.”

To read the article in full, as well as exclusive interviews with Alex Hales and Heather Knight, pick up a copy of the latest issue of All Out Cricket magazine here