McGrath bows out at the top
Glenn McGrath has forged a career around making bold and bedevilled predictions about the opposition, but as his 14-year stint in the Baggy Green of Australia comes to a close, not even he could have foreseen the glorious legacies he leaves behind.
The lanky New South Wales bowler has long made the lives of journalists easy, marking almost every series with a forecast of handsome triumph - either in self-appointed personal duels with key batsmen or with heavy margins of victory for his team.
But, after an international debut that saw him return 3-142 against New Zealand, it would have been hard to envisage that McGrath would become the finest Australian seamer of his generation and one of the all-time greats.
McGrath bowed out of the Test match arena after one of his more accurate predictions - a 5-0 Ashes whitewash against England this winter - came true, but having stayed on to take part in Australia’s third successive World Cup win, he has finally decided to call time on his playing days.
The 37-year-old has hoovered up wickets and awards with abandon in a career that has coincided with a golden era for Australian cricket and he can look back with pride on a glut of accolades that represent his regard in the game.
He has been a Wisden cricketer of the year in both England and Australia, collected the inaugural Allan Border Medal in 2000 and five years later joined the exclusive 500-wicket club in Tests.
But that, along with his status as the most successful World Cup bowler of all time, tells only half the story.
Trinkets and statistics can only say so much.
What McGrath has done on top of breaking records is maintain a certain element of traditionalism and guile in modern fast bowling.
While the likes of Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar, England’s Steve Harmison and his own sometime bowling partner Brett Lee have been indulging in a seemingly endless battle with the speed gun, McGrath’s presence has constantly emphasised more earthy values.
Every youth coach and beginner’s manual stresses the foundations of a successful bowling career - at any level - are line and length.
McGrath’s continued success at the highest level proved them all right.
It is instructive to note that one of the most famous series’ of the modern era and one of Australia’s few disappointments - England’s thrilling Ashes win in 2005 - pivoted on a match that McGrath missed through a late, freak injury.
To England’s despair, McGrath was not prepared to sign off on a low note and he was a cornerstone of the side that reclaimed the urn with an unflinchingly merciless performance Down Under.
That was the end of McGrath as a Test cricketer but, despite some increasingly fragile fielding displays, he had one more assignment - and 26 World Cup wickets - to complete before ending his stint at the top.