'I'm on track for the Ashes' - McGrath
As the nation's cricket critics line up Glenn McGrath, he has insisted he is "on track for the Ashes". Another three former players have joined Ian Chappell and Geoff Lawson in gauging the success of McGrath's comeback during the Champions Trophy, but the bowler is in no doubt about his progress.
"I am improving every game and every spell and I am happy with the way I am going," McGrath said in the Daily Telegraph. "Other people can say what they like. People have got to remember it is not easy for a fast bowler in India."
After Chappell and Lawson questioned McGrath's future, Jeff Thomson, Allan Border and Merv Hughes entered the debate over the prospects of a man with 542 Test wickets. And Troy Cooley, the Australia bowling coach who worked with McGrath during the off-season, said it was "too premature to be worrying".
"From the camp to now, he has done everything possible that we thought he could do," Cooley said in the Sydney Morning Herald. "It's hard to get straight back into gear after a long break, particularly in one-day cricket, and I think he is on track to be ready for the first Test. There are no real concerns from our end."
McGrath conceded 27 runs in his first four overs against England on Saturday in a worrying sign, but he finished with 2 for 36 after Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson had worked through the middle order. "When he first came on against England I thought, 'Bloody hell, they're taking to him a bit'," Border said in the Herald. "But he came back strongly and started to get his radar and his pace back up to where it should be, the 130s, his rhythm was starting to get there.
"It just takes a little bit of time. He's the sort of bloke who needs more and more and more cricket and hopefully that's what's happening."
Merv Hughes, an Australian selector, also thought McGrath was "in a bit of trouble" during his opening spell against Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell. "But when you see the end result and he's gone ten overs for 36, you just think he's a cagey old warrior," he said. "As soon as he has a bad game people are going to ping him for his age but the great thing that he's got is a lot of experience."
Thomson said McGrath should play the first Test against England at the Gabba on November 23 but felt the selectors should move on if he does not perform in the opening games. "I have said for the last two years that although he's been fantastic, he is not what he used to be," Thomson said. "I feel it is past his hey day but it is hard to judge him on what he is doing in India because they are playing on dreadful wickets. You have to see him back here."
Thomson understands the pressure McGrath is under after extending his international career to go on the 1985 Ashes tour. He was 35 by the time he played his final Test and took only three wickets in two games at 91.66.
"You always think you have more to offer," he said. "Years after you retire you look back at footage of your last couple of years and think, what a heap of s*** I bowled then'."