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June 2, 2008
The first thing Stuart MacGill did after telling his wife he was going to retire was speak to his state and national team-mate Beau Casson. MacGill, who is disappointed he has to depart so soon, wanted Casson, the left-arm wrist-spinner, to have a bit more time so he could organise flying his family to the Caribbean.
Casson is the only other specialist slow bowler in the squad, although Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke offer part-time options, and is in line to become the key benefactor in MacGill's mid-series decision. "The most important thing for me was that Beau had an opportunity to get his family over," MacGill said after play on the third day. The final Test begins in Barbados on June 12.
While most of Australia worries about the state of the next rung of spin bowlers following the retirements of Shane Warne, Brad Hogg and MacGill over the past 18 months, MacGill is not concerned and rates Casson, who moved from Western Australia two seasons ago, at the top of the list. "The reason that New South Wales chased Beau so hard was because we think he can bowl and we think he can win games," MacGill said. "He proved that this year.
"Hopefully now that he's coming into a great team, there are a lot of great players in that side who can help you along. The Caribbean is a good place to bowl spin and I'm sure he is going to do well."
Casson's first reaction on hearing the news was to ask if MacGill wanted to change his mind. MacGill was a bit upset, so Casson gave him a hug. After 44 Tests, he doesn't want to leave, but knows it is time.
"I do have lots of goals in Test cricket and I do want to play, but if things aren't working out my way I don't want to be there," he said. "I am thinking about every single component of my game at the moment way too much because I have to, just to stay in it. That means I'm not going to be performing at my peak."
He said he "couldn't live with myself" if he let the team down and decided over the past week he had to step away. "I guess [I knew] since mid-way through the first Test and then unfortunately - the reason why I've done this mid-game - every single ball [on day two]." His control had gone and short deliveries were mixed with full ones on Saturday, but he recovered to remove Ramnaresh Sarwan with a fine legspinner on day three.
"I like to make people proud," he said. "I'm proud of myself, and I don't want to take the shine off it. I've got a lot of good memories. I'd hate to chuck in another bad one."
MacGill's time in Australian teams has rarely been quiet and he missed the team bus to the ground on Saturday. He arrived after play had started - Australia were batting after resuming at 259 for 3 - and walked in with Viv Richards, who told the Sydney Morning Herald the bowler looked "sheepish". There was no suggestion he was hungover.
"To be honest, it's incredibly embarrassing for me, but it's very, very simple," MacGill said. "The alarm didn't go off, I missed the bus, and I was late for work. It is significant, but that's as simple as it was, and I do feel embarrassed, because I just don't really need complications to be honest.
"Caribbean tours are hard work. I love a night out, but very few of us cope well with tours over here, so it was actually a pretty early night for me. I can't guarantee you I slept particularly well - I've got a lot on my mind - but I can't even use that as a reason. I was sleeping, missed the bus and was late for work. It would be cooler if I had a better story."
The tight schedule of three games in less than three weeks has also affected MacGill's 37-year-old body, with his knee and wrist the major problems. "The rigours of this particular tour have proven a little bit too much for me," he said. "Playing against West Indies in the Caribbean is hard work. You've got some very good players who respond well to playing in this region, it's hot, the pitches are unforgiving, the grounds are quite often small, and you've really got to earn your dollars."
Disappointingly for MacGill, he expects his final Test day on Tuesday to be one of his worst memories of a career that currently contains 208 wickets. "A lowlight will be walking off the ground at the end of this game," he said. "Probably the hardest thing is I thought I had already played my last Test in Hobart, so it means that two of my last three Tests I've felt pretty low. I really do because I don't want to stop playing, this is what I'm good at."
His highlights include taking nine wickets in his second Test, against Pakistan in 1998, and the 2003 trip to the West Indies. "Playing here on the last tour in Barbados, Steve Waugh said we were the only team in the world that could bowl them out twice and we did," he said. "That was great, nine wickets. Nine seems to be my lucky number. If I get nine in this Test it would be a nice way to finish."
Cricket Australia will decide over the next month what to do with his contract for 2008-09. Playing for New South Wales for a couple of seasons remains in MacGill's plans and he also has the second series of his wine programme Uncorked to film. "Maybe I'll finally get a real job."
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?