Bryce Edward McGain
March 25, 1972, Mornington, Victoria
Right hand bat
At the age of 35, Bryce McGain went from IT worker to professional cricketer and he did it with such success that within a year he was part of Australia's Test squad to tour India. The call-up came as Australia searched the country for their next long-term spinner and McGain's promising effort during Australia A's rain-affected trip to India helped his cause. He embarked on the trip as the No. 1 spinner and was almost certain to make his debut but was forced home due to an unusual injury to the tendons in his right armpit. Surgery was required but despite his advanced age, McGain did not give up on his Test dream. When he returned to state action in January 2009, he managed a timely five-wicket Sheffield Shield haul that earned him a place on the Test tour of South Africa. However, when his opportunity finally came at Cape Town, where at 36 he became Australia's oldest Test debutant since Bob Holland, McGain struggled to find the right length and was treated harshly to finish with match figures of 0 for 149, and his hopes of further international action had faded.
However, McGain remained an important player for Victoria and bounced back in 2009-10 with 26 Sheffield Shield wickets at 32.50, including six in the final to help the Bushrangers defeat Queensland. Despite turning 38 at the end of the summer, he continued to seek new challenges and secured his first county deal with a short spell at Essex in 2010. His determination to make the most of his career is not surprising, given that for 15 years it was near impossible for McGain to break into the state side while Shane Warne, Colin Miller and Cameron White filled the slow-bowling roles. He played three Pura Cup matches from 2001-02 to 2003-04 but had little effect and appeared destined to bowl out his career for his grade side Prahran while working in the ANZ Bank's IT section. However, when White was in the Australia side in January 2007, McGain was recalled for two games and grabbed his chance with a second-innings 6 for 112 to be one of the matchwinners against New South Wales in Sydney.
He earned his first state contract, quit his day job and was still hoping for a lengthy career despite his age, declaring that: "Most first-class cricketers at 35 have had the workload of ten years of cricket and I haven't." Things began well and in 2007-08 he was the leading Pura Cup spinner, with 38 wickets at 34.15, and the equal highest FR Cup wicket-taker. He played every first-class game for Victoria and also proved an unexpectedly valuable limited-overs bowler, with 15 victims at 24.40. Even more surprising was his Twenty20 worth; a collection of six wickets at 16.16 and an economy rate of 6.46 in the champion team suggested a relaxed legspinner with faith in his skills.
A lean spinner with a quick and low approach to the crease, McGain's strength is his consistency - his variations are used sparingly but loose balls are even rarer. He almost stole the FR Cup final from Tasmania in 2007-08 with a vicious late spell of 3 for 11 and he picked up first-class five-wicket hauls against the Tigers and the Blues. He struggled to use the SCG pitch to maximum effect in the Pura Cup decider, which may have in part cost him a place on Australia's tour to the West Indies, but following Stuart MacGill's retirement, he was widely regarded as the leading legspinner in the country.
Brydon Coverdale September 2010
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