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England fast bowler Steven Finn is a keen writer as well as cricketer. Here is his first published effort in the Observer – about his hero Glenn McGrath.
I have only ever seen McGrath bowl live once, at the Walker Ground in Southgate in 2004 against Yorkshire. McGrath donned the blues of Middlesex in three national league games that summer. I remember perambulating round the ground, taking in the performance of my idol from as many angles as possible. From side on, I could see the incredible carry that he was getting, sending the ball firing through to the wicketkeeper. From behind his arm I could see the "shape" he was getting on the ball, taking it consistently away from the right-hander. The rhythmic run‑up and the unique and individual way he jumps in towards the stumps at release of the ball – just as every coaching manual says you shouldn't! This all added to the magic of the moment I was caught in. It showed he did it his way and also gave me something to relate to as a cricketer. Because I was doing a similar thing when I was bowling.
Finn emphasised his admiration for McGrath in an interview to Donald McRae.
"You know," Finn says, "I would spend hours in a net like that, trying to bowl like McGrath, or copy his mannerisms. That's where my love of cricket started, dreaming of bowling like McGrath or Flintoff. And that's why, now, it seems bizarre I'm actually that person on TV when I'm playing for England. Your mind can start racing then and you can get ahead of yourself. But that's why it's important to remain realistic. I've only played four Tests against Bangladesh and, although I've got some wickets, I know how much I've got to learn. I've got some big challenges ahead – whether it's to try and stay in the Test team for the series against Pakistan or to get stronger in my body. I've been thinking a lot about how much better I can get if I work hard and stay level-headed."