McGrath’s well-paced journey at MRF Foundation

McGrath was part of the first batch of Australian bowlers who attended training sessions at the Pace Foundation under the watchful eyes of Dennis Lillee . He is now the director of the Foundation.

K.M. Mammen, chairman and managing director, MRF Ltd, presenting a memento to Troy Cooley at an event to mark MRF Pace Foundation’s 25-year partnership with Cricket Australia, in Chennai on Monday.   -  K. Pichumani

It was a nostalgic afternoon for Glenn McGrath. As the MRF Pace Foundation celebrated its 25th year of partnership with Cricket Australia, the Australian bowling legend couldn’t help but walk down memory lane.

After all, he was part of the first batch of Australian bowlers who attended training sessions at the Pace Foundation under the watchful eyes of Dennis Lillee — the then director of the Chennai-based academy. That was in 1992, and McGrath hadn’t made it to the Australian side yet.

Cut to 2017.

The same gentleman was on Monday interacting with the scribes to celebrate the grand journey of the Foundation, of which he is now the director. “Dennis (Lillee) was my hero when I was growing up. So, it was a special feeling to learn under Dennis. Young Australian bowlers have come here and have later played for the country, and the young Indian bowlers from here have gone on to play for India. This shows how important the MRF Pace Foundation is,” McGrath said.

The Australian was sharing the dais with the top brass of MRF Limited — the corporate group that’s been running the Foundation for thirty years now. There were also two representatives from Cricket Australia — Troy Cooley, the head coach of the National Cricket Centre and Ryan Harris, the pace bowling coach at the academy. One of McGrath’s former team-mates also graced the occasion.

As they all lauded the initiatives taken by the Foundation, McGrath was happy with the way his wards were making their presence felt. “I have always believed that batsmen save matches, bowlers win them. I am quite happy with the way our youngsters have performed,” McGrath said, drawing reference to Ankit Rajpoot, Basil Thampi and Aniket Chaudhary — who have all been chosen for India A team’s tour to South Africa.

Talking about the change the game has seen, McGrath felt that fast bowling has evolved a lot in the last twenty five years. “Fast bowlers still remain the same. Hard work, sticking to basics, and reach at the top level. But now, with technology developing so much, things have changed. About 25 years ago, we had a video-recorder, which had to be put on fast forward, rewind and pause mode every now and then to analyse the technique. Now, with technology, you can just slow your action down and find out what’s going wrong. Bowlers’ technique can easily be worked upon with the help of technology,” he said. “That helps in doing a bit more specific training. Put the hard work in, run a bit, bowl 20-25 overs each…”

Having seen the Australian youngsters from close quarters, Cooley admitted that when the Aussie youngsters return from Chennai, they are more strong and tougher. “If you have to be on top, you have to adjust to every condition. India has the toughest conditions and it helps the bowlers learn to bowl at various lengths. It gives you that experience,” Cooley said, adding that these days the focus has shifted to shorter format of the game.

Ryan Harris, who has been a part of the Australian team in some of the most important tours, has recently taken over as the pace bowling coach. And the former pacer, who himself was prone to injuries, admitted that as a coach, his initial job is to earn the trust of the bowler when he is going through a bad phase. “If you have an injury, you have to accept it and move on. Trust is very important,” he said.

While McGrath felt that Mitchell Starc was the most dangerous Aussie bowler currently, Harris’ money was on Pat Cummins.

At a time when pay dispute has struck Australian cricket hard, McGrath refused to take any questions on that, but both he and Harris admitted that Steven Smith’s evolution as powerful captain impressed them — they all knew him as a soft-spoken, quiet gentleman. “Taking over a team can be tough, but Smith hasn’t changed…he enjoys the extra pressure,” Harris said even as McGrath nodded in agreement.

  Dugout videos