‘My fear is where international cricket will be in 10 years,’ says Glenn McGrath

With 20 teams competing in the ongoing ICC T20 World Cup, McGrath expressed his support for the expanded tournament, where more teams get the opportunity to participate.

Published : Jun 03, 2024 21:28 IST , Chennai - 8 MINS READ

Former Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath at MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai on Monday.
Former Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath at MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai on Monday. | Photo Credit: RAGU R/The Hindu

Former Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath at MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai on Monday. | Photo Credit: RAGU R/The Hindu

Legendary Australian pacer Glenn McGrath on Monday said that a strong opening bowling combination is key to winning T20 matches and highlighted that a left-arm/right-arm opening bowling combination adds an element of unpredictability and makes it harder for the opposition to settle into a rhythm.

“It’s like a left-hand/right-hand opening combination for batters. You sort of don’t want them (batters) to get used to it. But I think it also depends on how they are bowling. They still have to bowl well,” McGrath said.

“And T20, you don’t have much time to be ready. If you’ve taken an over or two to warm up, the game is already gone. I’ve said that when T20 first started, batters took the game away from the bowlers; then, the bowlers caught up and started bowling well. And now, the batters have gone to the next level. So, it’s up to the bowlers,” he said.

“And if you’ve got a good opening bowling combination, that’s why you’re going to win matches. When Mitchell Starc is bowling well, he’s one of the best in the world. (Pat) Cummins, (Josh) Hazlewood are always going to bowl well. But Starc is the X-factor,” he added.

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“You’ve got (Jasprit) Bumrah for India, who’s class. I think the whole IPL has shown just how good he is,” he said at the MRF Pace Foundation ground where McGrath is on his periodical visit for training the trainees at the Foundation.

He picked Starc and Bumrah as the two pacers he’s expecting to dominate on the docile pitches in the West Indies in the ongoing T20 World Cup and added that India’s fortunes would depend on the other pacers bowling well with Bumrah.

“We saw Mitchell Starc at the end of the IPL. He came into his own, which was good to see. Bumrah just seems to be the one bowler that batters find it hard, even in T20s, to get on top of. So, I think if Australia is to win this World Cup, Mitchell Starc has to bowl well. A lot of it relies on him. And Bumrah for India, but then it is who’s going to take wickets around Bumrah and who’s going to bowl well around him,” he said.

Asked for his favourite team to win the ongoing T20 World Cup, he said, “I don’t think there’s going to be a standout side that’s just going to go through undefeated. I think it’s just the nature of the game. I don’t write off any team.”

With 20 teams competing in the ongoing World Cup, McGrath expressed his support for the expanded tournament, where more teams get the opportunity to participate.

“I don’t mind it. I like to see other teams getting chances. I like the concept as long as it’s not just easy games. It’s a good experience for these other countries that don’t play a huge amount. We saw the first match, USA-Canada, with the USA chasing down 194. So, yes, I like it,” he said.

“It’s about taking the game worldwide. I saw that at one stage 94-95 countries around the world had a cricket association, which surprised me. But the more that we can take the game (worldwide), I think the better for it,” McGrath added.

Asked if the current team would be considered the most dominant Australian team if it managed to win the T20 World Cup, having already won the World Test Championship title and the ODI World Cup, he said, “When I ended my career, we didn’t play much international T20. Now, it’s nearly the most-played. So, yes, if they can come out and win this T20 (World Cup), there’s an argument to say that they’re one of the best teams, without a doubt. The way they played in the ODI World Cup to finish strong shows they’re big-game players.”

On Starc having said that in the future he might leave one format in International cricket to play more franchise cricket worldwide, he said, “I guess, personally, my fear is where international cricket will be in 10 years. Hopefully, Test cricket is still held in high regard. I think it’s still my favourite format of the game.”

“But I think it’s the way of the world. Everyone wants to be entertained. It (franchise cricket) is quick. It’s exciting. With all these T20 franchises starting all around the world, I think it’s up to the senior players, and the administrators, to hold Test cricket in high regard. And international cricket in high regard. It would be nice to have a crystal ball and see where it’s going to go. But T20 cricket is here to stay. If that’s what we can take to other countries that don’t really watch cricket, there’s still a lot of bonuses there too,” he said.

Speaking about tearaway speedsters and whether express pace is needed to threaten the batters more these days, McGrath stressed on the need for control along with pace.

He said, “Express pace is very unique and it is something that’s natural. You can’t turn a 130 kph bowler into a 160 kph bowler. Unfortunately, the biomechanics and the physics and what you have does not quite work like that. You’ve got to be born with that. Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar, Jeff Thomson, and even Wasim Akram, a lot of these guys are just unique and freaks. To bowl 150 and 160 is great. There’s that fear factor.”

“But if you can bowl that speed with control, you’re going to take wickets. Bumrah bowls good pace and has good control. The upside is the fear factor. The downside is you get anything on that ball, it’s flying to any part of the ground. If you can combine sheer pace, which is natural and unique, with control, then you’re going to do well,” he added.

With reference to the upcoming Border-Gavaskar Trophy that begins in November in Australia, McGrath guessed that Steve Smith’s success as an opener might determine his future in Test cricket and expected a tough challenge from India saying that it’s hard for him to comprehend that India has beaten Australia in its last two tours.

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“It’s a challenge for Steve Smith now to see if he can be successful at the top. Australia is going to need him to be successful at the top, obviously, with Warner having finished. Who’s going to come in and take over? I think it’s a big moment in Steve Smith’s career as well. If he can be successful, he’ll play on. If he’s not successful, it’s going to be interesting to see how long he plays Test cricket. The challenge is up to him. I think he needs that, and it’s good for him. For the Australian team to do well, he needs to do well,” he said.

“India has beaten Australia in the last two tours, and I still find it hard to comprehend. We come here, we find it hard to win in India. India finds it hard to win in Australia, but not anymore. I think the challenge is for Australia to win at home against India. It’s going to be a great series. I think India now has confidence when they go over there,” he said.

“We spoke about Australia, and how good this team is. They have to win this series against India if they want to be classed as one of the best sides of all time. You can’t lose a home series. They lost to the West Indies up at the Gabba. Hopefully, that was a bit of a wake-up call. We’ll see how they go. It’s going to be interesting,” McGrath said.

He added that Australia can take a leaf out of West Indies’ book, referring to the latter’s eight-run win at the Gabba in January.

He said, “Why we all play the game of cricket, why we all watch the game of cricket, is because we love it. We want to get there and have fun and enjoy it; live for the moment, rather than just being a part of it like it’s business, like it’s another day at the office.”

“I think the energy and the passion that West Indies showed, especially Shamar Joseph (7/68 in the fourth innings), is what cricket’s about. You couldn’t begrudge West Indies winning. Even in Australia, a lot of people were happy for the West Indies just because of the energy and the passion that they showed when they played,” he said.

“They just went out and had fun and gave it everything. I think hopefully Australia will see we need that same passion and energy if we’re going to be one of the best teams of all time,” McGrath concluded.

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