Short, wide and none too handsome
Glenn McGrath is bowling too short, too wide and is messing up his delivery stride, according to the former Test fast man Geoff Lawson.
McGrath, now 34, captured only one wicket in 26 overs against the scrambling Zimbabwean batting line-up during the recent one-day series, before declaring he was "not too far away" from his best. But Lawson said McGrath, previously fluid and impeccable, is now committing fundamental technical flaws.
"He's still making some errors that we don't normally see from him," said Lawson. "He's been taking a big step in, in his delivery. When he runs straight through he's much better."
McGrath's problems with his delivery stride, in turn, were preventing him getting his bowling shoulder far enough around. As a result, said Lawson, he is bowling slower than normal and struggling to land the ball on the spot - always one of McGrath's supreme assets in the past.
"I haven't seen him bowl so many wide balls and short balls for a long time," said Lawson. "It's just not there. He's getting poor figures against people who can't play that well, and that has to be a worry. McGrath's a very hard trainer but when you get to that age injuries are so much harder to come back from."
Lawson works closely with New South Wales quicks and has been vocal in his belief that Australia should employ a specialist bowling coach.
Although some rustiness was to be expected from McGrath after almost a year on the sidelines recovering from ankle problems, he was displaying worrying signs of wear and tear before his enforced lay-off. He has netted only 10 wickets - strike-rate 100.9 - in his past five Tests. In his most recent appearances, against Bangladesh last winter, he looked flat and bowled entirely without zip.
McGrath, who has said he is prepared to become a first-change operator if necessary, remains optimistic. "In the last one-dayer it was starting to feel really good," he said. "The rhythm was coming back then and I think that, with another couple of matches, the zip and everything will have come back. I'll try to keep bowling the next couple of weeks and then hopefully I'll be ready to go."
His captain Ricky Ponting is standing by him too. "He's got a bit of work to do yet," said Ponting, "but with 400-odd Test wickets to his name I'm sure he'll be back playing well again pretty soon."
On Tuesday, Australia will name a 13-man squad for the two-Test Sri Lankan series, starting in Darwin on July 1. A week or two later McGrath's prospects should become clearer to all.
(with Australian Associated Press)