Australian fast-bowling great Glenn McGrath has cautioned against the heavy workload facing today’s fast bowler while putting the onus on individuals to cope with the pressures of the modern era.
The former international was in Chennai earlier this week to take over from Dennis Lillee as director of the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai, and spoke to Cricketnext of the need to have a healthy attitude as well as what he hopes to accomplish in his new role.
There has been plenty of criticism of today’s packed calendar and the extra workload provided by an influx of Twenty20 cricket shortening the life span of a fast bowler. While acknowledging that it was becoming tougher to be an out-and-out fast bowler in today’s era, McGrath, 42, believed that attitude was the key to success.
“The times have changed and players are expected to keep up with them. Three formats are difficult, no doubt, but adjusting is part of the job today,” he said. “Sport changes and you have to learn to adapt. If you want to be the best at what you do, then you just put your mind to it and don’t complain too much. To excel you need determination. You need to have attitude. That’s a word I believe strongly in – attitude.
“You’ve got to take responsibility instead of looking for excuses or blaming everyone else. At the end of the day, how you go is up to you. It goes how good or bad as you want it. It’s as simple as that.”
McGrath, who played just two Twenty20 internationals for Australia but featured in 14 IPL fixtures, has been an advocate for Twenty20 cricket in the past, but asked whether today’s fast bowler would be able to have a career as long as his, expressed concern that three formats would take its toll.
“It will be interesting. It depends on how much Twenty20 cricket is being played. To run in and bowl 150kmph every ball in Twenty20 is impossible,” he said. “Twenty20 cricket will sap you. It’s about execution, whether people are willing to rely on mixes of pace and variation instead of out-and-out pace bowling. Twenty20 cricket has a dangerous potential there, but hopefully at the Test level you will see strike bowlers and fast bowlers running in.”
Like Lillee, McGrath believed that all successful teams needed a solid fast bowling attack. Being in India, the question of the health of the country’s fast-bowling future was an inevitable one and McGrath was optimistic. “You look at the top teams around the world, and they’ve done well with fast bowlers. When we were No. 1 we had a very good pace attack. South Africa have Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. A great attack. If you want to be No 1 you need a strong fast bowling attack,” he said.
“That’s what India need to work on. I’ve seen an increase in talent here. There are younger guys coming through who can hit good speeds, such as Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. The key is keeping them fit and monitoring the work load. I wouldn’t have those two playing all formats.”
McGrath, Australia’s most successful fast bowler with 563 Test wickets will replace Lillee, who held the post since its inception in 1987. Having himself worked with Lillee as a 22-year-old, and had the legend teach him about refining his action instead of remodeling, McGrath felt it was imperative for a bowling coach to not tinker too much with a fast bowler’s action.
“When I first worked with Dennis, it was more about refining the action I had. I think I had a fairly solid action, there weren’t too many problems. My hips were in line with my shoulders, I was very much a front-on bowler than a side-on bowler. At that stage it was more about recognizing that you can be a front-on bowler instead of a side-on bowler. It was very much a case of ‘OK, this is his action, its solid, its not stressful, we shouldn’t have too many problems, so how can we get the best out of him?’”, he said. “That’s what I hope to be able to do with MRF. It’s a challenge but I am really looking forward to it. There’s a lot of talent in India.”