George joins McGrath production line
Glenn McGrath has been able to achieve something with fast bowlers that Shane Warne couldn't with legspinners, by inspiring a production line of next-generation quicks. Steven Smith, who is currently showing promise, is the closest to a successful Warne clone despite every young cricketer wanting to bowl like him when he was playing. But there are fast men dotted around the world who carry McGrath's characteristics.
Stuart Clark was the first "next McGrath" and has been followed at New South Wales by Josh Hazlewood, who made his ODI debut last week. In England it's almost impossible for something to be written about Steven Finn, the 201cm 21-year-old, without mentioning the man who took 563 Test wickets. They join Pakistan's Mohammad Asif, South Africa's Morne Morkel and the Ashes-winning Stuart Broad in modelling themselves on McGrath - or wanting to be like him.
Over the past two weeks Australia A have benefited from the McGrath-like work of Peter George, a South Australian fast bowler, who took 11 wickets in two first-class games against Sri Lanka A. Apart from his height and ability to operate at a pace in the mid-130s, George has also picked up some McGrath mannerisms and comparisons.
"It's a pretty high compliment for me, if I could be half of what he was then I'd be pretty happy with that," George told Cricinfo. "Glenn was always a hero of mine growing up. It's something that does come out in a lot of young kids, you can usually tell who they idolised when growing up."
At 23, George is surprised to be still growing and was 203cm at his last measure, 8cm taller than his role model. Extra bounce caused by his high release point is his major weapon, but he has also been working at the Academy over the past two winters on developing a consistent outswinger. Craig McDermott, a man who mastered high pace and swerve, has been advising him along with Troy Cooley, the bowling coach, at the Centre of Excellence.
"The main thing I try to do is stay tall and use my height, and get as much bounce as I can," he said. "Any movement is a bonus on top of that."
The extra lift caused the trouble for Sri Lanka A's batsmen in Queensland. George collected 4 for 13 in the first innings of the second game in Townsville, which followed his 5 for 84 at Allan Border Field. Each performance helped set up a convincing win while increasing his first-class tally to 18 games.
"It's been a really good couple of weeks, spending some time around some senior cricketers," he said. "It's been a really good experience." In both matches he bowled in partnership with Ben Hilfenhaus, who leaves on Friday to join the Test team in England, and was impressed with the amount of swing the Tasmanian achieved.
George is not part of Australia A's limited-overs fixtures, which start with a Twenty20 in Townsville on Friday, and was back at the Academy on Tuesday to prepare for their upcoming series. Once those engagements conclude he will return to South Australia hoping to build on his encouraging first two seasons.
After taking 36 Sheffield Shield wickets last summer, George was awarded a brief introduction to life as an international when he was flown to New Zealand as Test cover for Ryan Harris. The visit lasted only three nights, but he got to bowl at training on Test eve before leaving after the match began.
"It would have been nice to have hung around for a bit longer," he said. "But the time that I was there was really valuable. It was a bit of a taste, I'm keen to get back there if I can."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo