“I can't ever remember having a bad dream about bowling. When I dreamt about cricket, I just bowled the ball I wanted to,” the most dominating bowler in the history of Australian cricket wrote in his autobiography Line and Strength.
The aforementioned statement describes the best of Glenn McGrath, the man who charmed cricket enthusiasts in the nineties with perfect pace and accuracy. As the leading wicket-taking pacer turns 47 today, let’s take a trip down memory lane to cherish the fine cricketing memories of the Australian legend.
McGrath’s approach towards bowling was so simple and sound that it always resulted in wonders. In his 14 years' career span of international cricket, McGrath claimed 949 wickets collectively in all-three formats, highest by a pace bowler.
Although the Australian soil has always been fertile for producing quality pacers, McGrath’s journey in international cricket was more like a fairy-tale.
Following an uphill journey, McGrath’s arrival in the international cricket was a shift of an era in Australian cricket. He made his Test debut in November 1993 against arch-rivals New Zealand at Perth, followed by his ODI debut in December.
On his debut Test, the Aussie pacer took the scalp of former New Zealand opener Mark Greatbatch (18) and tailender Danny Morrison (0).
Australia’s pace dominance was initiated by legendary bowler Dennis Lillee. Whenever Lillee used to come on field to bowl, spectators used to cheer “Lillee, Kill Kill Kill…” indicating him to either make the wicket fall or the batsman who comes in between.
The seed soiled by Lillee gave birth to aggression in pace and bouncers were invented not to excite the game but to hit the batsmen deliberately. West Indies bowlers like Joel Garner, Curtly Ambrose, Michael Holding and Courtney Walsh followed the trend and domination shifted from here to there.
McGrath was the man who brought the dominance back to Australia and that too without hurting any batsmen deliberately. All he carried under his sleeve was sheer combination of pace and accuracy.
Describing the unpredictability and the body language of the six-feet-five-inches-tall bowler, former Australian cricketer Geoff Lawson once said, "McGrath looked the same no matter if he bowled a bouncer or a yorker."
Playing 124 Test matches for Australia, McGrath claimed 563 wickets, highest by a pacer and fourth-highest by a bowler in general. He celebrated his zenith in a Test match against Pakistan in 2004, where he claimed his Test-best spell – 8/24.
In ODI cricket, McGrath took 381 wickets from his 250-match-long career, with an impressive economy of 3.88 runs per over. His ODI-best spell of 7/15 came during the 2003 ICC World Cup in a pool match against Namibia.
McGrath played just two T20Is for Australia, claiming five wickets with the best spell of 3/31.
The speedster from New South Wales retired from international cricket in April 2007 after Australia won their third consecutive title. He was bestowed with the player of the tournament at the mega-event.