INTERVIEW: Glenn McGrath

Former Australian pacer Glenn McGrath at an event in Mumbai
Former Australian pacer Glenn McGrath at an event in Mumbai

Aritra Chowdhury’s interview with Glenn McGrath in Britain’s leading Asian newspaper Asian Lite.

Australian fast bowling legend Glenn McGrath believes India’s flamboyant batsman and Test skipper Virat Kohli is the right person to lead the team and his aggressive approach both on and off the field is a positive sign as long as he is scoring runs.

“I think it is a positive. Because you want a leader who is strong, who wouldn’t take a backward step, who would lead by example. But you don’t want to go too far or go overboard crossing the line,” McGrath, who is on a three-city tour as Hardy’s brand ambassador for Sula Selections, said in an exclusive interview here.

“I think Virat has held himself in good control at the moment. I like the way he has gone about it. He can back it up with runs with the bat. He is a class batsman as well. Being aggressive is one thing and can’t back up is another, but Virat can back it up. I think India are in good hands moving forward with him as a leader.”

The retired fast bowler who claimed 563 wickets in 124 Tests and 381 scalps in 250 One-Day-Internationals (ODI) took over as the coaching director of the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai in 2012 from fellow Aussie pace bowling great Dennis Lillee.

Speaking on the current young Indian bowling line-up comprising pacers Varun Aaron, Mohammad Shami, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Ishwar Pandey, McGrath said he is impressed with the present lot and hopes they continue performing even better.

“I am impressed with the way they go about it. I always say skill take you so far, attitude will take you the rest away. The attitude of the boys there is second to none. Varun Aaron bowls close to 150 kmph, swings the new ball. I think Varun has got a a big future. Iswar Pandey is on the verge of making it into the team. He is doing good and other guys also are doing well,” the 45-year-old said.

With the Indian cricket team searching for a new coach following the exit of Duncan Fletcher, McGrath said not all good cricketers make good coaches, adding that top teams should look for coach within their country.

“Coaching is about being, handling your players well. Creating an environment where they can relax and play at their best. We have seen Darren Lehmann who did a great job for Australia. When he came in, there were quite a bit of tensions in the team.”

“He just allowed the boys to relax and just go about the game. Players respect him and you need that mutual respect. A coach is mainly a man manager than anything else,” McGrath said.

Speaking on whether India should look for a coach from India or overseas, he said: “Yes, this is an interesting one. I always felt Australia played better with an Australian coach. At the end of the day, it depends who is best for the job. If the current country doesn’t have quality and standard coach, like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh should bring oversees coach. But top teams should look for coach within their country.”

With all new range of cricketing shots coming up these days, specially in the shorter formats of the game, and bowlers getting a hammering from batsmen, the legendary fast bowler believes improvement in skill level, having variety in bowling, specially bowling yorkers, and getting the basics right can help them check run flow in the slog overs.

“Skill level plays a big part. Getting the basics right, having control and variety. I think in T20 boys can come in and bowl six totally different balls. Don’t need to land them very well. But you can get away with it. But if you have control, you can be very successful.”

“We have seen examples like Mitchell Starc recently in World Cup and also Lasith Malinga bowling yorkers which these two bowlers deliver very well and no one else can. I think other bowlers don’t attempt bowling yorkers as they are not good enough to bowl perfect yorkers and are taken for runs,” McGrath said.

Speaking about his on-field rivalry with India’s batting legend Sachin Tendulkar, he said, “It was always a good challenge. I loved bowling to Sachin. You can know how good you are after bowling to these class players. I got him out a couple of times and made it hard for him, other times he scored big hundreds.”

With the Ashes series coming up between England and Australia at the end of the year, McGrath believes Australia have a good chance of winning it.

“Australians are playing some pretty good cricket. I am predicting Australia will do very well and win the series.”

On the prolonged controversy in English cricket surrounding sacked batsman Kevin Pietersen, he said, “It’s a dilemma. KP is a class player. There has been lot of friction between him and the team and the England board.”

“A player of his quality would make it tougher for Australia. If he is not playing, it makes it easier for Australia and if he is playing, he will make it tougher for Australia.”