Glenn McGrath goes teapot when he's called for a wide

Tea pout: Glenn McGrath didn't have many poor days on the field but he often looked like he did

© Getty Images

High Fives

The pains of Pidge

Did Glenn McGrath ever have bad days? He did - at least five, in fact

Peter English |

v West Indies, May 2003
Glenn McGrath was often in a flap with head-shaking curses, but on day four at the Antigua Recreation Ground he was off the Pigeon scale. His wife, Jane, was suffering with cancer back home and a grumpy McGrath was at the other end of the world, watching a Test match slip away. So he sledged Ramnaresh Sarwan, asking in rather graphic terms about his relationship with Brian Lara. Sarwan's reply took in McGrath's wife, apparently unaware of the seriousness of her condition. McGrath simmered, calling in umpire Srinivas Venkataraghavan as he collected his cap, and the argument appeared settled. But in between overs something snapped and McGrath had a meltdown of tired-toddler proportions. He strode towards Sarwan, pointing and shouting: "If you ****ing mention my wife again, I'll ****ing rip your ****ing throat out."

More than words: Ramnaresh Sarwan's jibe about McGrath's wife, Jane, hit a raw nerve because she was suffering from cancer

More than words: Ramnaresh Sarwan's jibe about McGrath's wife, Jane, hit a raw nerve because she was suffering from cancer Hamish Blair / © Getty Images

Surprisingly, the yelling did not gain the frown of the match referee, but the reaction in Australia was severe. Critics complained it was another example of the ugly Australians under Steve Waugh's captaincy, especially when they were losing. West Indies won the Test, with Sarwan's century helping West Indies in their record chase of 418. A couple of days after the match McGrath reflected on how he had been trying to remain calmer on the field. "It's something that I have worked on quite a bit, especially since becoming a father," he said. "I am a little bit disappointed in myself that I did do it."

v England, November 1994
Even masters don't always find things easy in the beginning. McGrath had been dropped after his first Test against New Zealand a year earlier and after going wicketless in the opening Ashes encounter, was cut again. Then a skinny 24-year-old, he was still trying to hone the consistency that would take him towards all-time greatness. Steve Waugh, who would later captain McGrath during an all-conquering reign, noticed the early insecurity. In his autobiography Waugh said McGrath "struggled to feel comfortable until enough faith in his potential was shown by the selectors". The chairman, Laurie Sawle, and his panel were certainly not convinced of McGrath's powers when he faced England for the first time at the Gabba. There were no breakthroughs in his 29 overs across the match, although it was a little tricky to organise a decent look at the batsmen with Shane Warne capturing 11 victims in the 184-run triumph.

Mike Atherton often was at the receiving end of McGrath's early inconsistency

Mike Atherton often was at the receiving end of McGrath's early inconsistency © Getty Images

Still, this was the first of only five times in 124 Tests that McGrath did not take a wicket - and the one occasion when the punishment was the axe. After being 12th man for three games, McGrath had learned his lesson and England never saw him as an easy target again. In the final Test, in Perth, he dismissed the captain Michael Atherton in both innings, initiating a hex that would end with 19 dismissals in 17 matches. Those six wickets at the WACA were also the first of 157 against the old enemy.

v England, August 2005
Never has a stray ball caused so much pain. McGrath's slip and twist of an ankle at Edgbaston really turned Ashes history. Australia were leading the series after their 239-run walkover in the opening Test at Lord's and it seemed the contest would follow the same striking pattern as over the previous 16 years. Ricky Ponting's squad arrived at the ground half an hour earlier than expected, leaving the players to mess about on the outfield before the formal warm-up. A rugby ball was picked up and the reserve wicketkeeper, Brad Haddin, started passing it to McGrath. All normal so far. But Haddin then threw one that bounced in front of McGrath and went past him. He turned to pick it up but did not see a cricket ball that had been placed on the ground by an Australian coach in preparation for throwing drills. After one false step, McGrath was on the ground with a sharp pain. "I'm in a bad way here," he thought, before a scan confirmed a ligament tear in his right ankle.

Twist of fate: McGrath's ankle injury at Edgbaston had a huge impact on Ashes history

Twist of fate: McGrath's ankle injury at Edgbaston had a huge impact on Ashes history © Getty Images

To continue the chaos, Ponting won the toss and sent England in. By the end of the day the relieved hosts were 407, having rattled along at more than five an over. On the final morning, McGrath's replacement, Michael Kasprowicz, was last man out, giving a buoyant and disbelieving England victory by two runs. Australia's limp remained throughout the rest of the series.

v Sri Lanka, January 1996
Few line-ups were able to shake McGrath from his suffocating control for long but the Sri Lankans, turbo-charged by the tiny Romesh Kaluwitharana, managed it during a volatile tri-series. Tall and precise, McGrath struggled against agile and innovative opponents, who were in the process of transforming from international minnows to World Cup winners. It was a spiteful summer, starting with Muttiah Muralitharan being called for throwing in the Boxing Day Test, and finishing with the squads not shaking hands when Australia won the one-day tournament at the SCG. McGrath was involved with ball and lip, including during the embarrassment of suffering the worst bowling figures in Australia's limited-overs history at the time. Kaluwitharana had been providing a dose of rocket power since being promoted to open, and in the final preliminary match at the MCG he locked on to McGrath.

McGrath removed Sanath Jayasuriya early but he was blasted for 76 in 9.4 overs, with Kaluwitharana responsible for much of the damage.

Metronome who: McGrath once held the worst figures for an Australian bowler in ODIs

Metronome who: McGrath once held the worst figures for an Australian bowler in ODIs © Getty Images

Robert Craddock, writing in the Courier Mail, said it was "Cyclone Kaluwitharana" who "sucked up McGrath" and "tossed him back to earth". So strong was Kaluwitharana's hitting during the series that the captain, Mark Taylor, said Australia's bowlers were "probably" intimidated by it. Kaluwitharana's 74 off 68 deliveries pushed Sri Lanka to their second win of the series over Australia, and signalled their rise ahead of their imminent World Cup success. For McGrath, these figures would remain his worst in coloured clothes.

Delhi Daredevils, IPL, 2009
The IPL arrived too late for McGrath, who only just made it on the T20 ride at all. While he had performed in the inaugural, light-hearted international bow of the format, in New Zealand in 2005, he quickly re-focused on extending his career in the more traditional arenas. When the IPL exploded onto the scene, McGrath had already been retired for a year, a three-time World Cup winner happily relaxing in front of the fire. But when Delhi Daredevils waved their auction paddle for the relatively modest price of US$350,000, he was headed back to India like a parent stumbling into a teenage rave. Initially it was a riot - he popped 14 wickets in 12 games of a successful opening campaign - but then it became, like, totes ridiculous.

Excess baggage: past his prime, McGrath (second from left) had to deal with being benched in the IPL

Excess baggage: past his prime, McGrath (second from left) had to deal with being benched in the IPL Tom Shaw / © Getty Images

Aged 39, one of the world's greatest fast bowlers suffered the humiliation of not being picked at all in the second season. "It has been hard to be a part of the bench, and I was hoping for a game during the league stage," he wrote in his Hindustan Times column. Fitness was listed as a significant issue, but in reality the game had grown beyond him. Instead of dominating the contest, he was forced to watch younger mortals such as Dirk Nannes, Ashish Nehra, Pradeep Sangwan and Aavishkar Salvi fill his place. After a couple of low-key appearances in the Champions League Twenty20, he returned to Australia and slid back into a much more dignified retirement.

Peter English is a journalism lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia





  • POSTED BY Altaf on | December 28, 2016, 10:56 GMT

    Match against Pak in 1999 Tri-series with India-Pak where Ijaz and Razzaq took on hammering 65 in just his 5 overs, including 5 consecutive 4s by Razzaq.

  • POSTED BY Ian on | December 15, 2016, 7:25 GMT

    GD McGrath....that nagging line and length, and that aggressive demeanour that was more apt for a bowler much faster than him. A friend of mine (Indian, obviously) would never stop singing paeans of Tendulkar, but even he would admit that Tendulkar had no answer to McGrath, who rendered him impotent on the biggest of stages.

  • POSTED BY Pravin on | December 6, 2016, 11:57 GMT

    Although I didn't like Mcgraths attitude, having grown up watching gentlemanly players like Dravid, the effectiveness of pidge cannot be denied. He could wake up from sleep with a bilndfold on him and still hit that magical line and more importantly that devastating length. Tendulkar won most of his battles against bowlers but Pidge did get the better of him on most occasions. And more importantly on important occassions.

    The one thing which teams didn't employ much against pidge was to slog him in the beginning considering how effective it usually was against him. Tendulkar did it a few times, and in that match where Razzak hit him for 5 boundaries, Ijaz ahmad had already taken him to the cleaners in initial overs.

    Massive fan of his bowling....

  • POSTED BY cricfan05439325 on | December 5, 2016, 9:48 GMT

    McGrath and Abdur Razzak event was also one to remember. Abdur Razzaq hit him for 5 consecutive boundaries.

  • POSTED BY siddharth110575 on | December 5, 2016, 8:16 GMT

    Okay. I feel many of us here (myself included) are mixing up our assessment of McGrath the player (in terms of wickets and performance) and his on field behaviour, sledging and unsportsmanlike demeanour. To be fair even his harshest critics cannot deny he did get those wickets! Similar case I feel where its ok to be disliked as long as he does his job well. Maybe this approach worked for him!

  • POSTED BY Ravee on | December 5, 2016, 6:42 GMT

    @siddiqimali, Has the word "most" been redefined by Oxford University or something? Because McGrath avgd 21.7 against Pak in Tests. Even outside of Australia, the Test avg was 22.45.

    In ODIs, he tormented Pakistan even more. McGrath's bowling avg against Pak is 19.1!!!! It's 17.77 outside of Australia! These are numbers most bowlers dream of!

    Here's the killer blow: McGrath played 9 finals against Pakistan. He took 26 wickets at an avg of 10.65 and strike rate of just 19!!!! There were three 5-fers in 9 innings.

  • POSTED BY Jarrad Nairne on | December 5, 2016, 5:15 GMT

    @Siddiqimlai on - He averaged 19 against PAK in ODI's and 22 against them in tests. I cant quite see how you think Pakistan had the better of him most of the time!

  • POSTED BY Muhammad Ali on | December 5, 2016, 2:33 GMT

    One should not forget the pasting he had at the hands of Abdul Razzaq during Carton & United series where he was hit for 5 consecutive boundaries and sixth was stopped by his boots on the follow through. His fifty came in only 5th over and Bill Lawry said during commentary that he has never seen McGrath being treated like this ever. Also in 99 WC league match, Moin Khan swept him for 6 over fine leg. I think Pakistan had better of him most of the time.

  • POSTED BY Hamish on | December 4, 2016, 23:10 GMT

    @PITCH_CURATOR the spitting at the opponent was an illusion caused by the foreshortening of TV cameras. There was a side on view which actually showed the distance between them and there's no way that he could have gotten near the distance.

  • POSTED BY Craig on | December 4, 2016, 22:50 GMT

    For those who say he was "lucky" and "average", well he got "lucky" 563 times in test cricket at an "average" of 21.64...

  • POSTED BY arvind on | December 4, 2016, 20:52 GMT

    My appeal to the fellow fans is to give respect where its due. A person cannot achieve a record of 563 test wickets if hes an average medium pace bowler. Even rahul dravid ackmowledged that mcgrath was the toughest bowler he had faced. India had its moments against him no doubt, but mcgrath was one the all time greats who kept a check on all of his contemporary great batsmen and theres no shame in accepting that. purely from a bowling perspective hes one of the best,beyond any shadow of doubt

  • POSTED BY siddharth110575 on | December 4, 2016, 16:50 GMT

    @ John-Orford on - Are you serious? If there were this kind of clampdown on sledging when it was really rampant, AUS would have been the first in line to receive it! Their intimidation of opponents with words and worse on the field played a big role in the kind of domination they were able to exercise. They were rarely if ever pulled up and got away with that standard line - thats just the way we play the game mate. They claimed to have some hazy line in the figments of their imagination which should not be crossed, but they were the first to trample all over it. Maybe they are a bit subdued now with their slide in standards and players who lack talent to back sledging with performance. But to suggest Aussies dont need pulling up for sledging is like living in some warped reality!

  • POSTED BY John on | December 4, 2016, 2:03 GMT

    Superlative bowler - I can't think of anyone better, though a few have been as good. Sledging is ugly and needs stamping on, firmly, once and for all - "Unsportsmanlike conduct" would cover it. And the Oz are good enough not to need it.

  • POSTED BY Kiran on | December 3, 2016, 17:28 GMT

    Fantastic bowler. But he used to sledge a lot and got away many times because the referees those days were very lenient towards Aussies and English. Can not think of many who can get away spitting at an opponent. That apart he was very skillful with the ball and had exceptional control. Easily the best ODI bowler of the late 90s. Would have been great to see how he would have adjusted against modern day batsmen who charge the faster bowlers. Always felt that batsmen then did not attack him enough and allowed him to bowl his meteonomic length.

  • POSTED BY Venkatesh Venkatesh on | December 3, 2016, 16:39 GMT

    The best bowler in cricket in par with Ambrose of WI for number wickets he has at economy rate was amazing , the way in which he was bowling to any batsman in and around off stump he was the best that even rattled many leading batsman & the main casualty for this was Brain Charles Lara . When he was injured and in & out of test matches during ashes campaign in England in 2005 was one the main cause of loosing ashes but he came back did excellent work in Australia in 2007 to regain ashes was probably out standing performance . Steve Waugh used him very well in all test matches to best possible way to maintain and win sixteen test matches in row the special credit should go to McGrath for this .After ugly spat with Sarwan he mellowed a bit & Australia is proud of you McGrath for your achievement but still one question still not answered can we get one McGrath of class and flair .Good luck Glean

  • POSTED BY Unni on | December 3, 2016, 15:24 GMT

    also in nairobi when sachin stepped out and hit him for Six. But he was such a great bowler and still remember the cries of ooh aah glenn mcgra ooh aah glen mcgra. my favorite aussie player

  • POSTED BY paul on | December 3, 2016, 11:12 GMT

    Without a doubt one of the all time great cricketers, he provides a bench mark against which all fast bowlers are measured. In a great team which could be rather unpleasant he was one player that normally kept himself in control and let his ability do the talking. Of the players I've been lucky enough to see he is up there with Lillee, Hadlee, Marshall, Akram & Steyn in the very highest class.

  • POSTED BY andrew2711976 on | December 3, 2016, 9:36 GMT

    @ SIDDHARTH110575 - You've got that the wrong way round. Australia were a great side because they had two bowlers who could attack and defend and took over 1200 wickets in the process. One of them was McGrath. If he was an 'average bowler of medium pace', you're going to be watching an awful lot of very poor bowlers over the coming years.

  • POSTED BY jasprit on | December 3, 2016, 7:45 GMT

    There is Nothing like McGrath in Bowling. Rhythm, Action, Effortlessness, Perfect Pitch, Bounce And Carry. Words cannot describe how Beautiful his bowling is. True Rolls Royce of Fast Bowling.

  • POSTED BY William on | December 3, 2016, 7:41 GMT

    @CHEGURAMANA If you can't recall McGrath doing well in India, that's probably because you were blindly supporting the opposition. He averages 21.30 in Tests in India. In 1996, it was a one-off Test. He didn't play in 1998. And he was the 2nd highest wicket taker in the 2001 series with a stunning average of 15.35 and a mind-blowing economy rate of 1.91. It takes an extraordinary level of ignorance to say that these aren't great. It's not his fault that his teammates didn't step up in the series. The true greatness of McGrath was his ability to get the best batsmen out - Lara (15 dismissals in 24 Tests), Atherton (19 in 17), Tendulkar (6 in 9), Kallis (6 in 14), Laxman (5 in 10), Pietersen (5 in 8). The mighty Tendulkar averages a paltry 36 in Tests involving Pidge. His ODI record is equally impressive. Talk about WC96? How about WC 99 and 03 where Tendulkar failed like an amateur to him?! So the truth is that Aussies were lucky to have him, not the other way around.

  • POSTED BY sajjad on | December 3, 2016, 6:38 GMT

    He is one of my favorites. In fact he is topper of that list. When ever i miss him, i open the You tube and there it is Rhythmic, agile, lovely fast bowling before your eyes. Joy to watch you dear Glenn McGrath. Wish i could meet you. Have a long and happy life, dear McGrath.

  • POSTED BY Varnendra on | December 3, 2016, 6:11 GMT

    It is amazing to see so many comments against McGrath. I can imagine just a few better than McGrath. Dennis Lillee, Richard Hadlee and may be Shane Warne. Wasim Akram was more entertaining but not as lethal a McGrath. Malcom Marshal was regularly ineffective in his opening spells. Other great fast bowlers of West Indies were not consistent enough. Steyn is good but better batsmen pick him up well. Lara was McGrath's bunny. And who can forget how McGrath made Tendulkar look like a newby in 1999 WC?

  • POSTED BY Ramana on | December 3, 2016, 5:25 GMT

    Only 5 ??!! took a fair tonking from Tendulkar in WC 1996 league phase. And from Brian Lara I think. India walked all over AUS in CT2000 on way to finals, McGrath was thumped properly. Cant recall him doing well in Tests in India: 1996, 1998, 2001, all lost series for the "greatest team". unbearable sledger......shud consider himself lucky in getting so many wickets.

  • POSTED BY Chanaka on | December 3, 2016, 3:19 GMT

    One of the most petulant cricketers I have watched. In the tri series final v SL in Sydney in 1995/6, he physically pushed Jayasuriya in the back, adding an insult that offended every Sri Lankan. When this was aired publicly, he threatened to sue but never did despite no one from the opposition retracting the statement.

  • POSTED BY siddharth110575 on | December 3, 2016, 2:43 GMT

    McGrath was an average bowler basically mediumpace around 130k, who was lucky to be part of a very strong allround Australian team at that time. Sure he did have off days but those were covered up by good performances by other bowlers or batsmen. Also during those years the Aussies had made sledging opponents with non cricketing skills an art form. McGrath as a personality would have been nowhere as menacing without that constant chatter in the batsmans face and far less effective as a bowler.

  • POSTED BY SRIVATSAN on | December 2, 2016, 8:27 GMT

    Missing out on the days Allan Mullally, Moin Khan and Doug Mariller took on Glen McGrath.

  • POSTED BY anurag9717482 on | December 2, 2016, 6:26 GMT

    It's a shame you list only five, but i just wish he had many more. One would be hard pressed to find a worse human being who played Cricket.