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Back in the saddle, McGrath raring

Belonging to a trade whose exponents have been rubbished as “light in the head”, McGrath stands out as a thinking fast bowler, writes Varun Gupta.

cricket Updated: Apr 11, 2008 02:57 IST
Varun Gupta

He loves to preserve an air of mystery around himself. Although remarkably receptive and forthcoming, he speaks as if in a soliloquy, with his otherwise long-drawn sentences ending abruptly at critical moments, forcing his interlocutors to read between the lines.

The words lack the sass and menace of yore, and he repeatedly breaks into an impish smile that only he can explain, but doesn’t. There’s also the small matter of a beer belly, which is not really a surprise knowing the Australians’ love of lager — legend has it that his former teammate David Boon once guzzled 50 cans during a flight from Australia to England. But mistake all this for a sign of losing the edge and mellowing with age, and tell him so, and Glenn McGrath will not countenance that.

“Well, it was worse a couple of months ago,” said McGrath on the sidelines of the Delhi Daredevils’ practice session.

“I was a bit nervous about my first real session today, and initially I did bowl a couple down legside. But after a dozen balls, I felt surprisingly good, like I never had a break. So no worries,” he added defiantly.

To say that McGrath is a mere fast bowler will be to say that a violin is mere wood and catgut. Belonging to a trade — fast bowling — whose exponents have been rubbished as “light in the head”, McGrath stands out as a thinking fast bowler, as was reflected when asked about his proclivity to target batsmen before the series.

During the Frank Worrell Trophy in 2000, McGrath proclaimed that he would snare Sherwin Campbell for his 299th victim, and then scalp Brian Lara for his 300th. In fact, he went one better, claiming the additional scalp of Jimmy Adams for a memorable hattrick.

“It was not being arrogant, but simply a ploy to put pressure on myself. I thought if I could get an edge before a series, then why not.

“If I get that guy a couple of times initially, I deflect the pressure on him, and you guys (the media) do the rest, and make him my bunny,” he said.

In the age when injury and recuperation determine the longevity of a fast bowler’s career, McGrath’s was a fairly smooth one.

He attributes it to the baptism with fire he underwent in his early days, and the fact that he picked up bowling relatively late and without the expertise of a coach.

“I didn’t play that much cricket when I was younger, I played my first representative game when I was 17, which is unusual, and six years later I was playing Test cricket.

Not having any coaching probably helped my body find the most natural way to bowl.”

McGrath also felt today’s bowlers were reluctant when it came to putting in hard work.

“In my prime, I looked forward to the start of the season rather than have a break. Maybe guys these days aren’t prepared to work so hard, they take the easy road,” he felt.

For someone who loved to give batsmen both barrels at any given opportunity, McGrath feels that the Aussies have a notorious reputation because they are more “upfront”, although “India can mix with the best when it comes to chirping”.

McGrath also said that he would be “surprised and very disappointed” if any Australian player cut short his international career to play in the IPL and hoped that the ICC would create a window for the IPL in the FTP.

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