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September 19, 2002
The Cricket Interview/Glen McGrath
'I look at every wicket as a different challenge'
His teammates call him 'Pigeon,' but Glen McGrath has the patience of an eagle waiting to pounce on its prey. With a nagging line and machine-like accuracy, Australia's greatest fast bowler -- in terms of wickets -- has acquired the best strike-rate in Test cricket, second only to his legendary compatriot Dennis Lillee.
His uncomplicated action is complimented with a flexibility that lets him recalibrate his line and length without wasting a single ball. And in that lies the attitude which has the best batsmen in the world, whether it is Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar or Michael Atherton, mention him in their list of greatest fast bowlers.
Assistant Editor Faisal Shairff spoke to the world's finest fast bowler in Colombo.
As the premier fast bowler in the world how do you cope with the strenuous international schedule through the year?
My biggest worry is getting into the season. You haven't been bowling for a while and your body isn't used to it. Once I bowl a few overs and play a couple of good games the body starts to adjust. Once I get my rhythm then maintaining that through the summer or the year is not a problem. I don't have a problem playing game after game; I actually prefer to continue playing once I have played, even if that is 12 months or 18 months. It does not matter then.
Fast bowlers are forever plagued with injuries? How have you managed to stay fit?
I did not bowl a lot when I was young and I think that sort of helped me. How you look after yourself is very important off the field. I train quite hard in the gym and look to build my strength and flexibility up. The other one is to have a very good action. I have been lucky that I have a very stress-free action. I am quite front-on and tend to go through the crease using my side muscles and stomach muscles more than my back muscles, and that puts me in good stead. If you have a very good action and work well off the field then you will be fine.
How do you handle pressure situations and maintain your line and length?
That is why I play the game. When it is getting tight you can hear the excitement; the buzz is there and it all builds up well. My philosophy is prętty simple: I just try to bowl every ball where I want to bowl it. And if you can bowl every ball that hits the top of off-stump whenever you want, then you will take a lot of wickets. Even if the batsman hits you for a four or a six, you take the ball and get him out next ball. So all it takes is one delivery to turn things around. I just keep very positive like that.
Is sledging a part of your tactical game plan? Or is it something that happens in the heat of the moment?
It is a 50:50 thing. Sometimes it is a good way to get yourself going. If I am not bowling well or bowling too flat I can pick myself up and get going with a few words. Other times, I am in a bad mood and I let the frustration get to me. But at the end of the day I am only human.
If I am bowling well and a good batsman hits me around then I am fine with that. But if a batsman is hitting rubbish shots off me and taking boundaries then I can't live with that. I get angry with myself and that shows in the middle.
Are you going to be more conscious now that the laws for on-field behaviour are more stringent than before?
I think occasionally I will. The Australian team still plays within their limits and by talking to match referees and umpires you get an idea of how far you are going. Everyone wants us to play tough and hard but if we overstep the line then there are laws now to stop that. We are probably more upfront in having a chat with the batsman but I don't think we do it any more than anyone else does. We might have to change things slightly, but not a great deal.
Batsmen around the world have insulated themselves from the lip that bowlers give them nowadays.
Some batsmen use it to their advantage. If someone has a chat with them they get worked up and can concentrate harder. It can prove detrimental to the bowler sometimes. I don't think Aussies are the only team that sledge. There are other teams who also do it but have other ways of doing it that don't catch the eye of the referee or the umpire. Other teams are more sneaky than we are; the Australians are just more upfront.
You know the cameras are on you, and even if you are having a chat with yourself in the middle or trying to fire yourself up it seems that you are having a go at the camera. So things out there in the middle are quite different from what you perceive off the television.
You don't fancy bowling too much on subcontinent wickets...
I haven't really come across a wicket where I feel I don't want to bowl anymore. It is always a good challenge playing on the wickets of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It is a true challenge and if you can bowl well on these wickets and get batsmen out then it is a true test of your calibre. It makes you a better bowler and also helps you climb up the world bowling rankings. I look at every wicket as a different challenge, try to assess the situation as quickly as I can and adjust to it.
What's your take on the use of technology in the Champions Trophy?
Time will tell. I am not a big fan of it, though. There will be more wickets for bowlers if they do use it, and with the ball rapping the pads three, four times in the over, I am not sure how that works. I think it will slow down the game a lot and that is what the ICC don't want. I am just waiting to see what happens after the series. I am not a big fan of that.
Accuracy is your chief weapon. How does a batsman face you?
I don't want to give the key to that away. I am a consistent bowler and the batsman knows where I am going to bowl the ball as well. It is not a secret really. If you bowl on off-stump line, every batsman will have to play at it and there in lies my chance. It is of paramount importance to get your line right and consistent.
There appears to be a wide chasm between Australia and the rest of the world. Do you reckon it is bad for the game to have a single team dominating the stage?
There are different ways of looking at that. It is how other teams look at it. Do they look at it as a challenge to play the best cricketing nation in the world and try and lift their game? If they do, then that will be good for cricket. Everyone wants to see that kind of cricket.
That is the approach teams coming to Australia should have. If they come with a negative attitude, thinking that we are too good, that will be detrimental to the game. Hopefully, other teams will start playing better cricket and we Australians enjoy the challenge. No one wants to see only one team dominate. It can get so boring.
Where do you think did Australia run away with the advantage?
We have a good cricket academy that imbibes good cricketing attitude. We have good young guys coming through the ranks. Our aim is to win every single game; we play good hard cricket. The structure we have in place for the younger kids is planned and well thought out. I think that is something we do better than most of the Test-playing nations.
Do you miss Steve Waugh in the one-dayers?
It was good to have him in the team. It was like losing a part of your family. It has been hard losing Mark and Steve. But one day I will be facing the same situation.
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