In a World Cup to be remembered also for being the last waltz of stalwarts, Glenn McGrath was the odd one out. The Australian pace spearhead was bowing out a happy man, with the future in good hands, something that Brian Lara or Inzamam-ul Haq could only wish.
The man who turns 37 in May was leaving with his head held high, having performed just as phenomenally as he had throughout a remarkable career. He said cricket would be farthest from his mind for the moment without ruling out the possibility of associating himself with the game in the future.
“I will first get away from cricket first and holiday with the family. It has been just usual for me till the final day, I felt as if it was any other day of my life… another day in office,” he said before the final.
Plans to quit had crossed his mind much earlier. “I had thought of quitting after Ashes but held myself back because of the World Cup.”
The man to have elevated the virtue of accuracy to a different level revealed that not many buy from him that things could actually be so simple. “I tell youngsters the more you make things complicated the more difficult they get. I concentrated on getting 99 of 100 balls hit the deck and the top of off stump. People walk away disappointed when I say that but it worked well for me for 12-14 years.”
McGrath was relieved to see what he was leaving behind. “There are many fast bowlers coming through. Stuart Clark has been excellent in Test cricket, and I am sure he will adjust to one-dayers. Mitchell Johnson is an express pacer, Shaun Tait has shown what he is capable of, and sure Brett Lee will be back. Nathan Bracken is bowling as well as he ever has. Things look good for us.”
McGrath said he is fond of a couple of bowlers-Curtly Ambrose and Wasim Akram-and that they were the standout pacemen of his times. “Ambrose had that height, a simple approach and always hit the deck. Akram would power through the crease and do whatever he wanted with the old and new ball. Both were amazing.” The tormentor of the best of batsmen he played against rated Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar ahead of everybody else. He added that the West Indian was “slightly” ahead of the Indian on his day and that bowling to them helped him assess where he was.”
“There are a few others who did well against us on their day like VVS Laxman, but only while bowling to these top guns (Lara and Tendulkar) did I get a true indication of where I stood. I am very proud of what I have done and now it's time to get back home and take my mind off the game. I have enjoyed all of it.”
Not that those who faced him will have similar things to say, but to those who watched him bowl, there can be few parallels. The most ordinary of deadly bowlers who made batsmen dance to his tune with sheer relentlessness and his aggressive body (at times verbal too) language, McGrath will always remain special. The most successful fast bowler in Test history must.