Brett Lee owns the official ranking as Australia's No.1 bowler, but Troy Cooley, the new pace mentor, believes Glenn McGrath is still the country's best fast man. "Of course he is," Cooley said before watching McGrath in his first formal training session of the season in Brisbane on Wednesday. "He's held that mantle for a while."
Despite the vote of confidence from Cooley, who was a crucial behind-the-scenes figure in England's Ashes victory last year, Cricket Australia has ranked McGrath in fourth spot behind Ricky Ponting, Lee and Adam Gilchrist on its 25-man contract list. However, McGrath, 36, said in The Courier-Mail he was boosted by the selectors' faith after missing tours to South Africa and Bangladesh while his wife Jane was undergoing cancer treatment.
"To be honest I was really happy with the ranking because I wasn't sure where I would be," McGrath told the paper. "It was great that the selectors showed faith in me. It has given me a lot of confidence. It does help." When McGrath missed a large chunk of action in 2003-04 with a career-threatening ankle problem his ranking slipped to 15.
McGrath still managed to play seven Tests last season, taking 24 wickets at 27.16, but while he was away Lee assumed the attack leader status in series wins over South Africa - he collected 17 victims at 19.52 - and Bangladesh. This week McGrath is fine-tuning his action with Cooley at Allan Border Field and he is certain he will be ready for the first Ashes Test at the Gabba in November. Cooley also said there were no barriers to McGrath returning to his peak.
Cooley joked he would "sit and listen for a while" when asked how he could help a man with 542 Test wickets. "We've got to get his preparation right and hopefully I can have an input on that and make sure he's ready and fit when he wants to go," he said. "I don't plan any changes to his action but he wants to get quicker so we'll try and work on that."