Next generation looks healthy
Glenn McGrath will end his remarkable career in Saturday’s World Cup final and bow out confident Australia’s seam bowling resources will be in good shape without him.
The veteran 37-year-old will bowl the final delivery of his illustrious playing career at the Kensington Oval hoping to help Australia to an historic third successive World Cup triumph.
It is a career which has spanned 14 years at the highest level and has brought him 563 Test wickets and 380 one-day international victims, 25 of which have been in this tournament alone.
His relentless accuracy over those years has prompted fears that, in conjunction with the recent retirement of Shane Warne, Australia may struggle to maintain their dominance of world cricket over the last decade without him.
But McGrath is confident that once he walks off the field for the last time, Australia have enough resources in the seam bowling department to ensure they remain competitive for years to come.
“I think the future is looking good, especially when we’ve got guys like Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson dying to get out for a game and Brett Lee at home,” enthused McGrath.
“I think the fast bowling stocks are good. If you look at the four guys operating over here, it’s one of our strengths that we work well together and we’re all different bowlers but compliment each other.
“You’ve got the old bloke running in and hitting the top of off-stump, Nathan Bracken swings it and comes back with the old ball, Shaun Tait who comes in and just blasts guys out and then Brad Hogg has just had an exceptional tour - he played a big part in 2003 and he’s done the same here.
“I think we’ve got a great bunch of bowlers over here and when I finally hang the boots up there are plenty of options.”
The statistics of this tournament alone suggest McGrath is right to be optimistic with three of the leading four wicket-takers coming from Australia’s ranks.
McGrath leads the way with 25 victims - a World Cup record which has eclipsed the previous best of 23 recorded by Sri Lanka’s Chaminda Vaas in South Africa four years ago - while strike bowler Tait has taken 23 wickets and Hogg has 20.
Brett Lee, ruled out of the tournament after suffering an ankle injury in New Zealand, adds to their bowling resources while there are high hopes for 24-year-old Tasmania swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus in the near future.
That strength in depth has persuaded coach John Buchanan, who also leaves his post with Australia after the final, to believe McGrath is correct to be confident about the future.
“There’s no doubt when a great player leaves your midst, you don’t fill those shoes very, very quickly,” said Buchanan. “Glenn is and will be regarded as one of the great all-time players of cricket.
“They are very difficult shoes to fill but for all that, Ricky and the selectors and the coaches have got some exciting young players of the future to work with and I’m sure they’ll be bursting to emulate what Glenn has done.”
The success of McGrath has possibly been the biggest surprise of all after many critics predicted this could be a tournament too far for a player with two World Cup winners’ medals already in his collection.
But a change in emphasis by McGrath at the start of the tournament has transformed him into a serious competitor for the player of the tournament award having already claimed three man-of-the-match prizes during the event.
“I’m probably bowling a bit differently this time than I have before,” he confessed. “I’m probably a bit more aggressive than I have been in the past and I think that’s the reason I’ve got a few more wickets.
“I’m going for a few more runs than I would prefer to or am used to, but to walk off the field with 25 wickets and Shaun Tait on 23 and Brad Hogg on 20 is great - the fact we’ve bowled every team out bar Bangladesh when we only had 20 overs at them gives us a lot of confidence.”
His duel with flamboyant Sri Lankan opener Sanath Jayasuriya could also be one of the key battles in the final with a notable success for either player expected to influence the overall outcome of the match.
But McGrath is confident he can exploit Jayasuriya’s natural instinct to play his shots, stressing: “In Australia I’ve always been pretty successful against him because the bounce has nicked him out quite a few times.
“I think we know each other very well. I know exactly what I want to bowl to Sanath and I’m sure he knows where I’m going to bowl to him.
“He’s an aggressive type of player and those type of players will come off some days but there’s always a chance they will give you their wicket - I’m really looking forward to the match up there.”