Cricket has seen few bowlers who have had the audacity to publicly announce before a series that they would target the best batsman of the opposition team. Glenn McGrath was one. It wasn’t as if he was the fastest bowler of his time, but it was his sheer mastery over line and length which allowed this Australian legend to become the game’s most successful fast bowler of all time (563 wickets in 124 Tests). In the midst of his umpteenth visit to Chennai (he fondly calls it his ‘second home’), the retired great shared his thoughts about what’s ‘trending’ in the sport in an exclusive interview with TOI on Sunday (August 28). Excerpts:
Why do Aussies struggle so much against spin in the subcontinent these days?
It’s an issue, but it’s up to an individual to devise a plan to counter it. Mathew Hayden is a good example because he didn’t play spin that well and then he developed the sweep shot to combat it and played it very well. To be either super-defensive or aggressive probably isn’t working. We’ve a fair bit of work to do between now and the Indian tour next year because the wickets are going to turn.
What can Australia do to repeat their success of 2004 in India?
They’ve got a few One-Dayers left in Sri Lanka at the moment. I know it’s a different team, but probably they’ll get a bit of confidence if they play well there. They’ll need a good Australian summer, play with good confidence, and then come up with a plan to combat spin. The practice matches would give them confidence, but the first Test is very important. If they can play well in it, and get off to a good start, that’ll help. It’s going to be hard work. Mitchell Starc, if he’s fit, would be a key to the bowling line-up, and then the spinners will have to do their job, and it’s up to the batsmen to come with a plan to score runs and survive against spin.
Is Virat Kohli the best batsman in the world right now?
He’s definitely up there. Virat plays with a lot of confidence. He’s quite an aggressive batsman who likes to score. He’s playing exceptionally well. He had a great Test career, taking over as captain, a lot of responsibility. As long as he’s batting well, things would go well, if there’s a form slump, I would be interested to see how he goes.
How would you have bowled to Virat?
He’s a top batsman who enjoys scoring, so hopefully build some pressure …take those scoring options away from him. I used to love bowling to Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, because I enjoyed the challenge to bowl to the best batsmen. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to bowl to Virat. It might’ve been a good thing, he might’ve hit me everywhere!
Your views about the Indian pace attack.
Ishant has been around for quite some time now. (Bhuvaneshwar) Kumar swings the ball well, Shami has had a bit of success. Then you’ve got the new breed-Bumrah coming through. He’s a bit unusual in the way he bowls.
Can India produce quality fast bowlers?
I think so. Fast bowlers in India are getting better. There’s more of them now. They’re leaving more grass in the Ranji Trophy. A third of the wickets aren’t too bad to bowl on for the fast bowlers. India is in very good hands with the young fast bowlers coming through. I hope they enjoy having me here and benefit from me being here.