Glenn McGrath has played a huge role in shaping the India-Australia rivalry. The former Australia pacer spiced up the contest as much with his provoking remarks and hard-nosed approach as with his unparalleled skills with the ball.
The legendary speedster, now director at the MRF Pace Foundation, spoke to Hindustan Times on the upcoming India-Australia series. Excerpts:
India will be desperate to hit back after the demoralising loss to England…
India won't be as confident as they have been in the past. But yes, everyone here would want them to bounce back and beat Australia.
Both the teams are going through transition. In that light, does this series become crucial?
It's of course crucial to both the teams. India haven't lost much at home, so they will be keen to make amends for the loss against England.
As for Australia, they have taken a lot of confidence from their series against South Africa. They were on top except for one Test where South Africa dominated.
Michael Clarke is coming off a good season but MS Dhoni is under some pressure…
Dhoni is respected by one and all. He is a strong leader and quality player. He will be under some pressure after the loss to England.
Clarke has had a sensational year. He won the Allan Border medal for the best cricketer. He is the best Australia player at moment. Yes, a little bit of contrast there.
Clarke won't have Ricky Ponting and Micheal Hussey…
The loss of Ponting and Hussey is tough to cope with. This opening up opportunities for youngsters apart, it will put lot more responsibility on Clarke and Shane Watson.
You have known Sachin Tendulkar for long now. Have you noticed any change in him, and your view on his impending retirement?
He is a class player. He still plays the Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup. Sometimes he smashed me out of the park, and sometimes I got him.
There are lots of memories; even the bad ones feel good. He has the passion which is what you need. As soon you lose that passion, it's time to hang up the boots. He obviously has it as of now.
India's demand for rank turners backfired against England. Can Australia do the same?
You come to India expecting slow and turning wickets. That is what India is about. Nathan Lyon has enough experience to play the lead role.
The other spinners - Xavier Doherty, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell are inexperienced but they have potential.
What about this pace attack?
Our strength is still our pace attack. India is a tough place for fast bowlers. It will take them a while to adjust to the wickets.
But it's not that fast bowlers can't succeed here. You can get the new ball to carry and get reverse swing when the ball gets old.
You have taken your first step towards mentoring. Do you see yourself having a full-time coaching role down the line?
I always said I didn't want to commentate or coach and I am doing both. But, let's see what happens. I wanted to get away from cricket after retirement; it was my life for twenty years.
I had a good four-five years away from the game. Now I am ready to get back into it. At MRF Pace Foundation, it's three times in a year and two weeks at a time. I am learning myself and hopefully teaching the boys what pace bowling is all about.
Fast bowlers in India either fade away or succumb to injuries. What can be done to address the issue?
India is a tough place to play cricket, and fast bowling is the toughest part. The wickets in India are low and slow.
It is hard work for the fast bowlers and they end up just trying to build pressure bowling the right length. The bowlers have to work on their strength and keep fit to avoid injuries.
(The writer's trip was sponsored by the MRF Pace Foundation)