Cricketers pick their favourites

'The best Australian bowler'

Part nine: Allan Donald on the most intimidating bowlers he has seen: this time, Glenn McGrath

Produced by: Gokul Chakravarthy, Suketu Mehta; Interviewer: Nagraj Gollapudi

July 11, 2013


Glenn McGrath

'The best Australian bowler'

July 11, 2013

Glenn McGrath sends down a delivery in his final Test, Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, January 2, 2007
Glenn McGrath: not a fan of those with bats in their hands © Getty Images

The reason I have picked Glenn McGrath as one of the most intimidating bowlers is because he was probably the most relentless bowler I have come across.

He bowled a heavy ball, wasn't express pace, but his control separated him from the rest. He came very close to the stumps and was a very tough bowler to leave. Gary Kirsten often use to say that he hated facing Glenn McGrath.

He was the best bowler to left-handers that I have seen. As a left-hander, you just could not leave him, because he got into a channel and the ball just did something off the seam that got it to go away from the left-hander.

He was rather aggressive, loved a chat, loved getting involved, and he was also one of those bowlers who hated anyone with the bat in his hand.

He had a rather easy run-up. He didn't hit the crease that hard, and wasn't the sort of bowler who use to bang the front foot in. It was all nice and easy through the crease. But he was a fantastic bowler.

His nickname was Pigeon. Everyone was his bunny. He was such a phenomenal performer. Like Dale Steyn, the numbers he racked up throughout his career were absolutely astounding. His contribution every Test match was staggering.

Against a team comprising McGrath, Gillespie, Lee and Warne, you know you are not going to get easy runs. I think his career economy rate was below three an over, which was unbelievable.

The best attribute about Glenn McGrath, for me, was his patience on flat wickets. There was one instance in county cricket that stood out for me, where he bowled 48 overs in an innings at Edgbaston and got 6 for 80. He never got impatient or annoyed with the situation and rather kept plugging away. I sat with some of our bowlers in the stands and I asked them to come and watch McGrath operate. He had put on a show. We watched him for two sessions, and he just put on a display of fast bowling on the flattest of pitches.

There were too many Test matches to remember where he put on a significant contribution. They were all significant contributions. Glenn McGrath, for me, would be the best Australian bowler. Dare we argue that with Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, but, for me, Dennis Lillee and Glenn McGrath would be right up there on the pedestal.

McGrath and Steyn's adaptability on different surfaces is what sets them apart from the rest. Their record in India and Pakistan is phenomenal, and that is because of the fantastic skill they possessed with the ball.

Coming to India and Pakistan, bowling there was a priceless learning experience for me. And looking at what McGrath and Steyn have done in the subcontinent tells you a story of where they fit into the legendary bracket.

Posted by   on (July 15, 2013, 14:06 GMT)

come on mr.donald....glenn mcgrath is a at 9....r u kidding me..? he deserve a place in top 3.....

Posted by   on (July 12, 2013, 19:02 GMT)

Glen McGrath was the finest bowler I have ever had the pleasure to watch. As a SA supporter I rate Donald and Pollock in this era too but for metronomic accuracy away swing and frugality McGrath was the man to watch. You just knew he would get a wicket when he started his spell. Great guy off the field too, I saw him return to the lady in front of me who asked for his autograph 10 minutes after end of play. He must have remembered he had promised her.

Posted by Wefinishthis on (July 12, 2013, 15:07 GMT)

For me, McGrath was the best bowler of the modern Era. I only see Marshall and Ambrose challenging that, although I admit that Steyn or Philander may challenge that in the future. It's not the fact that he's taken more wickets than anyone else (not including spinners), or that his average is better than the others (bar Marshall/Ambrose), or that his economy and strike rate were outstanding. It was his quality of wickets - something not easily measured, but an analysis was done some time ago on cricinfo of the ratios of top order to lower order wickets and McGrath and Ntini suprisingly came out right near the top. A guy who takes more wickets than anyone else, at that average and at that ratio? That's why Australia dominated. McGrath had the perfect career. He won everywhere he went and every tournament he was in. There was nothing left for him to prove. It came as no co-incidence that Australia's dominance ended with his retirement. Warne was replaceable (MacGill), McGrath was not.

Posted by   on (July 12, 2013, 1:53 GMT)

Full marks for Don......Glenn...u wer jus awfully awesome. ....

Posted by   on (July 11, 2013, 23:08 GMT)

McGrath was a bowler that only comes along every 20 years or so, Australia owed so much to his bowling talents and perseverance , you always knew if wickets were hard to come by he was the go to bowler and usually always got Australia back into the game, Allan Donald was also right up there in the great fast bowlers going around at the time.

Posted by page8383 on (July 11, 2013, 19:39 GMT)

Man this guy was superb. What his numbers dont tell you were the quality of his wickets. McGrath would target the best batsmen in every lineup: Lara, Tendulkar, Kirsten etc, and he would get them too. He talked a big game targeting these guys publicly in the press and would back it up time and time again. As an Aussie, I grew up watching him with the new ball for us. And there were very few times he didn't have a victim in his first spell. Time will prove this guy to be a genuine legend of the game.

Posted by   on (July 11, 2013, 19:03 GMT)

Dear Donald,

I am surprised you haven't covered Pollock in your 11 yet! Apart from the last 3-4 years of his career he was quick and was your partner in crime in ripping the heart out of many batsmen! He was far more economical and could swing the ball both ways and always kept it in the channel! I hope you name him in your next 2 players!

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (July 11, 2013, 11:34 GMT)

Perfect example of why extreme pace in bowling is not necessary and overrated. One of the first bowlers I'd pick for my all-time favourite team of my generation. Bowlers are the best!

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