McGrath: 'Pitches are batsmen friendly these days'

McGrath, the Director of Coaching at the MRF Pace Foundation, was in conversation with N. Ram, Chairman, Kasturi & Sons Limited. The event was organised by the Chennai International Centre at the Madras School of Economics campus here on Friday.

R. Ragu

Glenn McGrath faced some incisive questioning from Mr. N. Ram capably and there was applause for the engaging session from an appreciative audience.   -  R. Ragu

Australian pace legend Glenn McGrath felt pitches were too batsmen-friendly these days. “This is one of the main reasons teams struggle abroad. They are playing on similar wickets,” he said.

McGrath, the Director of Coaching at the MRF Pace Foundation, was in conversation with N. Ram, Chairman, Kasturi & Sons Limited. The event was organised by the Chennai International Centre at the Madras School of Economics campus here on Friday.

The former pace ace faced some incisive questioning from Ram capably and there was applause for the engaging session from an appreciative audience at the end of it all.

Looking at the surfaces in Australia, McGrath said, “In my days, the tracks in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide — they were all different. There was pace and bounce in Perth and Brisbane, while the spinners would come into play more in Melbourne and Sydney. Now, all that has changed. All the surfaces favour the batsmen, are similar in nature.”

McGrath felt the drop-in pitches did not help matters either. “A normal wickets deteriorates gradually and we could see cracks develop on the fourth or fifth days. But in the drop-in pitches, the surface on the final day behaves like on day two or three.”

The Aussie paceman believed contemporary batsmen — Twenty20 cricket being a cause — lacked the patience to build an innings in demanding conditions. “The batsmen are not prepared to bat through the tough periods of play, not prepared to do the difficult job of grinding it out. They are trying to play too many shots, their defensive play is not good enough.”

He added, “They are not prepared to adapt. They are far too aggressive.”

When Ram asked him about a cricketer who impressed him most with his ‘cricketing intelligence’, McGrath replied, “It would be Shane Warne, the best Test captain Australia never had. Warnie read the game very well, was a showman and loved the big moments.”

On the best captain he played under, McGrath said, “Allan Border built the team in very tough times, Mark Taylor, very shrewd, wanted to win from the first ball, Steve Waugh wanted to crush opponents from the first delivery while Ricky Ponting, who had a hard act to follow, still did a very good job winning two World Cups. But the captain of my all-time best Australian XI would be Border.”

Sharing his thoughts on two illustrious batsmen from his time, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, McGrath said, “You could tie down Sachin, contain him with good deliveries. It was hard to do that with Lara, very difficult to contain him.”

McGrath, who, at one point in his career, played 53 Tests without a break said he would not have been happy with the present-day rotation policy for pacemen. “I would have wanted to play every match,” he said.

He complimented Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Kapil Dev for their long and enduring careers and said effective and injury-free pace bowling was about the “right body type combined with the right action.”

He stressed technical skills, mental strength and thought process. At the MRF, McGrath highlighted the contribution of head coach M. Senthilnathan and was pleased with the progress of young pacemen Aswin Crist and K. Vignesh this season.

Rahul Mammen of the MRF introduced McGrath and Ram to the audience.