Australia news March 2, 2016

McGrath calls for off-season for fast bowlers


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Pacers need an off-season - McGrath

Glenn McGrath has said that the recent spate of injuries to Australia's fast bowlers has largely been a result of a cramped calendar with no allowance for an off-season. James Pattinson became the most recent casualty after he was ruled out for the remainder of Australia's domestic season following a recurrence of shin-stress problems. It was only one of Australia's injury-related woes in a week when Peter Siddle was diagnosed with stress fractures in the back and Ben Hilfenhaus retired from first-class cricket following persistent hamstring trouble.

McGrath, who is currently in Chennai on a coaching assignment with the MRF Pace Foundation, reckoned that the workload needed to be tailored in accordance with the bowlers' understanding of their bodies. "Bowlers need to know themselves and what sort of workload they need off the field," he told ESPNcricinfo. "For me, personally, the more I bowled, the better I felt whereas other guys need to be managed a bit more. So there is no one rule for everyone.

"Some of our injuries come from overbowling or high workloads, but it is more to me the fact that we need an off-season. Fast bowlers need an off-season because bowling and running deplete our strength. So as the season goes, our strength falls off and if we don't have an off-season to build it back up sooner or later, we are going to be injured."

McGrath attributed the absence of an off-season to Hilfenhaus' relatively early retirement from the longer format, but was nevertheless hopeful that younger bowlers like Pattinson would become less susceptible to breakdowns once their bodies matured with age.

"I think Hilfy had a very good career. Towards the end, there were a few injuries and I will probably put that down to not having an off-season," he said. "I saw him at the start of one summer where he looked physically strong, bowling quick and bowling good swing and had a great season. Next season, [he] probably didn't look quite as strong and injury became a problem.

"James Pattinson started fairly young. He runs in and puts everything on the line every ball. You are going to go through injuries. He is nearing the mid-20 age where hopefully he will have less injuries moving forward."

While he empathised with the demands made on fast bowlers, he was critical of the work ethic of the present generation. "[For] young fast bowlers, the harder they work the better they are going to be. That's where I think young bowlers probably let themselves down - they get to a certain level or play IPL, they think they have made it. They don't work as hard, they don't train as hard, they don't recover as well and that has a big effect. It's hard work to get to a certain level and it is harder work to stay there and that's the mindset young bowlers need to have."

McGrath, a strong advocate of fast bowlers playing across formats, said it was becoming an increasingly difficult decision to reconcile between playing as often as possible and opting to rest. "I think that's as much up to the individual as it is to the association. You got to weigh up what do you want," he said. "Do you want to be sort of playing for your country for as long as possible or the lure of playing IPL cricket and the money up for offer there? It is a tough decision and I'd wonder what I would choose. But, [at the] end of the day, if you are injured, you are not playing for your country, you are not playing IPL, you are not playing any cricket.

"A team is no longer 11 or 12 players; it is now a squad of 20-25 players. I think that's how teams around the world are managing it; giving certain players tours off. I am not sure they have really hit on the correct formula just yet, but they are working towards it."

McGrath, however, believed Siddle could emerge stronger from his recent injury crisis that led to uncertainty over his future. Siddle played the first Test against New Zealand in Wellington and picked up three wickets in the first innings, but had to miss the second Test after suffering back spasms during the second innings. He was subsequently diagnosed with stress fractures which will keep him out of competitive cricket for a significant amount of time. Siddle is also set to get his troublesome left ankle operated during the layoff.

Despite the odds stacked against Siddle, who will turn 32 in November, McGrath suggested that his track record marked him out as a tough competitor. "Peter Siddle has done an exceptional job. Not that long ago, he has taken 200 Test wickets which is a great effort, no mean feat there," he said.

"He has been written off for the last few years and yet he keeps coming back, keeps performing. It [Siddle's vegan diet] is up to the individual. If that is what works for him, then good luck to him. But I think there have been injuries to other bowlers which has allowed him to continue on and you have to make the most of every opportunity you get. So for Sids, I am really proud of what he has been able to achieve, and he is still there and he is still bowling."

McGrath admitted there might be a "little bit of credibility" to the theory that playing on drop-in pitches and grounds that are used for Australian Rules Football have led to harder centre squares, and have consequently increased the possibility of injuries. But his major concern was how drop-in pitches loaded the equation entirely in favour of batsmen.

"I think the drop-in wickets they are playing on these days are so good," he said. "They are flat, they don't offer anything to the fast bowlers and they don't change over five days. Then bowlers will try to bowl quicker, and I think then, all of a sudden, their technique changes and they put more stress on the body and then more chances of being injured. They need to leave a little bit more grass to balance it out a bit."

McGrath was also appreciative of the efforts of his former bowling partner Craig McDermott, who will step down as Australia's assistant coach after the World T20. "I think he has done an exceptional job as fast bowling coach for Australia for a long time," he said. "He worked well with the young guys in the Australian team. He was more about the thought processes in the game - the lengths to bowl, getting the ball up there, making the batsman play, getting a bit of swing."

Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Muhammad Ali on March 4, 2016, 10:08 GMT

    There used to be long tours and also, if I am correct, usually after playing for 3 consecutive days, there was a rest day as well to recharge batteries. Just like now people are switching back to organic food, cricket must return old times. Play less but quality cricket. In T20 format, instead of bowler bowling, let bowling machine do the bowling as it is a contest between two batting sides. LOL

  • Damian on March 4, 2016, 8:53 GMT

    Can someone please point out where umpires and DRS are mentioned in the article. I must be missing something.

  • Will on March 4, 2016, 7:39 GMT

    Australia spend too much time worrying about being aggressive and playing with a snarl on the face. Teach the players how to enjoy the game so they play with less tension and stress in the body. Definitely an over coaching problem and inability to smile while playing.

  • Paul on March 4, 2016, 3:41 GMT

    I seem to recall McGrath being very anti the rotation policy not so long ago.

    That's basically exactly what he's asking for. Just have to rotate your players so all of their 'down time' doesn't overlap, and also takes into account the chance to line their pockets in the IPL as well.

    Players are going to have to get used to sitting out games when they think they're OK to play.

  • Izmi on March 4, 2016, 0:28 GMT

    Australian fast bowlers are mostly on the sidelines nursing some injury or the other than actively engaged playing cricket for their country which means according to McGrath their participation would be virtually nil. How come unlike other fast bowlers around the world our pacemen are so feeble? They also take much longer to recover from an injury. I do agree with McGrath that since the introduction of drop in pitches the work load has increased and the strain on the body has doubled because of the placid nature of pitches in the country. As such taking up fast bowling in this country is becoming a nightmare as it has proved to be a batsman's paradise. If we don't take urgent action to abandon the introduction of drop in wickets and revert back to the old system we could end up with more casualties on the cricket field as well as suffer the consequences playing on traditional surfaces overseas. As a result our performance overseas in recent years has been very poor.

  • James Beetson on March 3, 2016, 19:50 GMT

    Too right, Pigeon. Every good quick deserves a chance to claim some bonus wickets on tour...what better way to rest sinews and stoke dwindling flames than with a few skins n' horns?

  • David on March 3, 2016, 11:49 GMT

    Landl47, you know perfectly well the traditional Australian pitch qualities - hard, fast, bouncy, and definitely some movement early on days one and two. So not quite the traditional English pitch. Look at what happened last time England toured and MJ and Harris went through them like a hot knife rough butter - 5-0. I think this confirms my thesis that Eng-Aus tracks are not the same and that Pidge was not talking about English style picthes.

  • sam on March 3, 2016, 10:55 GMT

    Many thanks cricinfo. May sensible,relevant and knowledgeable discussion and debate on all things cricket,cricinfo -with some good natured banter-be the norm on this prestigious site. More power to cricinfo! Thanking you once again.

  • Jose on March 3, 2016, 7:03 GMT

    McGrath is making a valid point on the impact of the dropped-in pitches (and the like) on fast bowlers. And, their deleterious effect on fines.

    How did umpires come into the picture. Anything is a good enough crutch make ones pet peeves walk?

    It's not fair to belittle Pidge's point, by sidetracking issues.

  • richard on March 3, 2016, 4:11 GMT

    Australia and England have the most umpires on the elite panal, the country that has the most problems with umpires and the decision making progress, and have the most money to train and encourage umpires, supply very few quality umpires do they.

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