This blog is all but dead. But I had to come out of retirement to pay tribute to the one man, if any, who can be credited for transforming a very good Australian unit to the best outfit the world has ever seen.
While the cricket world goes ga-ga over Warne, the genial (off-field) McGrath will quietly play second-fiddle. This post is not meant to take anything away from Warne, every bit a champion as there was any, but to put McGrath’s contributions with the ball in perspective. McGrath’s stats are far superior than Warne’s, slice them however you want. His average is nearly 4 points better; his strike rate nearly 6 balls better. If that doesn’t convince you, consider how Australia has fared in his absence. Or the percentage of wickets that included the one of the top six batsmen. The only reason Warne has more wickets than McGrath is because, being a spinner, he can bowl many more deliveries. Most importantly, McGrath has been outstanding against all opposition in all conditions all over the world. Apart from taking those crucial early wickets, he’s gotten vital breakthroughs virtually everytime his captain has turned to him. No batsman can claim to have had the better of him. He has kept the best batsmen of his time on a leash (Tendulkar), if not completely dominated them (Lara). Warne, of course, has a huge blemish on his record against the Indian batsmen. While McGrath may not be as entertaining or flamboyant as Warne, he was certainly more effective.
Remember McGrath not by what you see in the on-going Ashes series. The fast bowlers’ banes — age and injury — have rendered him to be merely good for quite some time now. Instead, for all the non-Australians out there, recall the time and again that he’s dashed your hopes. It still hurts.
It’s a testament to his fitness and commitment that he has lasted this long in international cricket. The time is right for him to bow out, and he will be sorely missed. Stuart Clark has huge boots to fill (although the initial signs are good from Australia’s perspective). The greatest cricketer I’ve seen, bar none, will be playing his last Test next week, and I’ll be watching.