England men's managing director Rob Key has lavished rich praise on Test captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum for turning around the fortunes of the country's Test team in this year's home summer, saying the pair have that "bit of magic".
After winning just one Test in their last 17 matches, Joe Root and Chris Silverwood stepped down as captain and coach respectively. Key, who succeeded Ashley Giles as England Men's managing director, then got McCullum and Stokes on board as head coach and captain respectively.
Under the duo, England have won six out of seven matches in this year's home summer, starting with a 3-0 sweep of World Test Champions New Zealand, followed by a record-breaking chase of 378 to beat India by seven wickets and came back from behind to defeat the Proteas 2-1.
"When you go through life, you don't want someone telling you what you can't do all of the time. There is no real secret to it. All of the great people you listen to, they are not saying 'be careful of this', 'don't play outside there', 'don't do this'."
"If you're going to be inspired by people, you want them to convince you that you can do something that maybe you can't do. That's what Stokes and Brendon do in particular -- they give you confidence. What you need is that bit of inspiration, that bit of magic, and those two have it," said Key to Sky Sports after the third Test ended at The Oval.
Key further threw light on how Stokes was at a different level altogether as a leader. "All it was thinking, 'how do you get the best out of talented individuals? Who are the best people to get the best out of Jonny Bairstow'? Players like that, who we have watched the play and think he's so good this lad."
"We're all of the same philosophy, though Stokes is to another level. He is so inspirational. And the other thing that shouldn't be underestimated is how smart he is. He has not wasted one word, there is always a reason for what he does, what he says and how he says it."
"Whatever style of cricketer you are, there is something in it for you. It's about trying to maximise each individual and get them to perform to their potential, and they've done it so well."Key admitted he has been amazed at the turnaround in England's Test fortunes since taking up the men's managing director's role.
"When I took this job on, I thought anything that happens this year is a bonus. We just wanted to try and win a couple of games and see what happened from there. What Stokes and McCullum and those players have done - and all of the support staff and coaches who have got on board with it has been an unbelievable job."
"My view was always that we had to change the mentality of our cricket. I then went to try and find people who could do that, and they have done it better than I thought anyone could to be honest.""They have done it by just being themselves, doing what they think and what they believe.
And they have taken everyone with them. I just love the fact that everyone has enjoyed watching Test cricket. It has been fantastic."