18

'I had a fast-bowler's mentality in a medium-pacer's body'

Former New Zealand allrounder Craig McMillan talks about his brand of aggression, and his battles with Shane Warne

Interview by Andrew Fidel Fernando |

"When you get older you think about a lot more things and forget the things you enjoyed" © AFP

From an early age, summer was all about playing cricket. I got a cricket bat as a Christmas present and summer was all about that from then on.

Bowling wasn't my key skill, but I just loved being involved in the game. Being in the field can be tedious, and bowling was to get into the action and make a difference in the game.

Life would be very boring if you coached everyone the same way.

Pakistan was an amazing place. I went there as a 17-year-old - with the Under-19 team. I took so many things away, because it was so different to New Zealand. The streets were so chaotic. The ball was turning more than I had ever seen. There were so many people. We had to have mosquito nets over our beds, which was new to us. We played Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq. I had to grow up very quickly. I look back on that tour as one of the highlights of my career.

At times I was good at masking self-doubt. Once I walked on the field I tried to show an air of confidence - to hide those thoughts. I learned very early on that body language is very important.

As a player you can be quite closed in your thinking, because it's all about your own performance and the team. As a coach you open your field of vision a bit.

"Sometimes the boys in this side bring up my dismissal against Shane Warne, in my second-to-last Test for a bit of a laugh. They say, 'Macca do you remember this?' and pull up the video"

Stephen Fleming wasn't a combative sort of person, but I remember in 2004 when he decided to draw a line in the sand against South Africa, and the team just completely got behind him. Graeme Smith had been annoying us all tour by being very slow getting ready for the bowler. As we walked out onto Eden Park, I remember Flem had had enough and gave Smith a spray, saying: "Mate, we won't be waiting for you today." We all grew an extra leg when we saw that. I think we won the series 5-1. It was very smart of him to do that to gel us together, because South Africa had been a bit of a bogey side.

I had quite a few battles with Shane Warne. He knocked me over a few times. There wasn't too many when I got the better of him. He was a genius.

The guys have talked about it, but I haven't taught anyone in this current team my square-on stance.

When I got the ball, I felt it was an opportunity to get a bit of my own back

When I got the ball, I felt it was an opportunity to get a bit of my own back © Getty Images

On the tour of India in 2003, we knew we weren't going to get any favours. India had just been to New Zealand, where the wickets were quite sporting. I remember in Ahmedabad batting four hours for an 83 to help draw the match. I think that was one of my most satisfying innings. It wasn't a swashbuckling one, but it was what the team needed.

Being verbally aggressive was part of my nature. I enjoyed it - most of it was with the ball.

Sometimes the boys in this side bring up my dismissal against Shane Warne, in my second-to-last Test, for a bit of a laugh. They say, "Macca do you remember this?" and pull up the video. Tim Southee or someone will be leading it. When I look back at that ball now, it was either one that I should have padded away or swept for six. My thinking was muddled, and I was playing for my place in the side.

"I liked to try new things and different things. At times maybe I took it too far, like when I batted front-on against Warne at the SCG"

I didn't think that any spinner could bowl. It was probably my downfall at times. My approach to spin was very aggressive from an early age. I liked to use my feet and hit down the ground. It also meant I got out to spin quite a lot.

With John Bracewell as coach, you always felt you were just one bad series away from getting dropped.

I liked to try new things and different things. At times maybe I took it too far, like when I batted front-on against Warne at the SCG. I wasn't afraid to be different, though.

That mid-2000s Australia team wouldn't just beat you, they would bully you. You just couldn't take a backward step.

"I haven't taught anyone in this current team my square-on stance" © Getty Images

My first Test, at the Gabba, summed up my career. I hit Warne down the ground for six to bring up my first Test fifty. Then I had a first-ball duck in the second innings. There was a high and there was a low. In some ways it also summed up how I wanted to play the game.

I had a fast bowler's mentality in a medium-pacer's body. I wanted to bowl fast. I always felt that as a batsman you were going to get bounced by the quick men, but I always wanted to give it back. When I got the ball, I felt it was an opportunity to get a bit of my own back.

I played some of my best cricket over the last 18 months of my career, because I went back to the things I did as a young 21- or 22-year-old. I did the things I enjoyed, just keeping things simple and embracing a "see ball, hit ball" approach. Sometimes when you get older you think about a lot more things and forget the things you enjoyed.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

 

LOGIN TO POST YOUR COMMENTS

  • POSTED BY Blake on | January 18, 2016, 3:53 GMT

    Sherlockoz - well said my friend

  • POSTED BY Lindsay on | January 18, 2016, 1:33 GMT

    Theluckycountry..easy to see you're Australian!!! Takes one to know one. Talk the talk is your motto, what was your international career like??? Like most kiwis he acknowledges he was not the most talented player around, but gave his everything for the team.....I remember when he was suffering badly with his diabetes and struggling to stay on the field...still gave his all. Why is it that jerks like you think you have the right to criticise others performances....please publish your international record so we can critique you.

  • POSTED BY Paul on | January 18, 2016, 0:30 GMT

    @OSHOBABA , I think something is lost in translation here.

    I grew up playing cricket in NZ, and a "sporting" wicket is semi-sarcastic slang for "greener than a cow paddock".

    As a batsman if I showed up and someone said the wicket was a "sporting" one, I'd be prepared for an extremely tough day.

    Essentially "Sporting" = "seam bowler's dream".

  • POSTED BY Steve on | January 17, 2016, 15:47 GMT

    McMillan was feisty little character always willing to fight and more often than not played above his weight. As some other commenter mentioned, NZ in those days fought hard despite lacking heavy weights like Laras, Tendulkars, Pontings, etc. That's what made them the dark horse in every big tournament. I loved watching them play.

  • POSTED BY Sam` on | January 17, 2016, 3:29 GMT

    In an era where NZ weren't big on talent but high on spirit, McMillan was a key figure and one who, though his record wasn't great against Australia, was never afraid to take it up to the Australians. Some of the more talented players from England and SA during that era would have done well to adopt a similar combative attitude to his. McMillan was a good player and one who always brought more to his side than his numbers.

  • POSTED BY Daniel on | January 16, 2016, 21:26 GMT

    WC1992 maybe if you could spell we would take notice, also i don't ever remember you playing. Macca was a great entertainer and that's what we want to see.

  • POSTED BY Wayne on | January 16, 2016, 20:25 GMT

    The cold damp conditions in England keep them looking young Mux164

  • POSTED BY m on | January 16, 2016, 12:59 GMT

    hahah you were a bowler thats news to me, to me you were overrated player with high tamper

  • POSTED BY Murray on | January 16, 2016, 10:59 GMT

    I think it is Trescothick. He kept wickets for England in 4 ODIs against NZ in 2001/2

  • POSTED BY ashmit on | January 16, 2016, 10:16 GMT

    2002=03 pitches sporting?? plz check teh scores of that series on cricinfo...that was an absolute grassy pitch where teams struggles to scor 100 runs..terming it sporty againreflect the bias of western countries which see grassy pitches as true wickets and turning track as bad pitches...

  • POSTED BY corey on | January 16, 2016, 8:02 GMT

    id say it is trescothick in the picture, too young for alec stewart

  • POSTED BY Stratocaster on | January 16, 2016, 7:26 GMT

    Ah that man John Bracewell. Cut short the careers of Astle, Mcmillan, Cairns, Oram, Tuffey, Fleming. I blame him for our shit test record from 2006-2012. And never mind Justin Vaughan for taking out 2 years of Shane Bond's career.

  • POSTED BY Wayne on | January 16, 2016, 6:41 GMT

    @ANDREWBG. It's Alec Stewart I believe

  • POSTED BY Utsab on | January 16, 2016, 6:04 GMT

    McMillan was a bit of a Balottelli of the NZ team of 2000s. An utility player with a spirit and a swag. He'd have been a hit in today's T20 age. Though, I wonder how he would have fitted in to this NZ squad whose philosophy is to answer to rants with performances on the field. In the current NZ squad, the only guy who has a somewhat McMillan-like zing is McClenaghan.

  • POSTED BY Arif on | January 16, 2016, 5:44 GMT

    I remember following the Kiwi team during the late 90's. Chris Harris, Craig, Gavin Larsen, Roger Twose, Fleming etc. Lot of wonderful memories, especially from Harris. Who would bowl tidy overs in the middle than score those crucial runs late in the inning. Kiwi players are really underrated and don't get the coverage they rightly deserve. Cheers for this article

  • POSTED BY Casey on | January 16, 2016, 5:38 GMT

    he did okay with his limited talent but should have worked harder on his fitness aye.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | January 16, 2016, 5:07 GMT

    Is that Marcus Trescothick keeping wicket in the last picture ?

  • POSTED BY Vinod on | January 16, 2016, 3:25 GMT

    enjoyed the read....Craig McM was combative, spirited and such guys are generally thorough team men....their enthusiasm and energy lifts the team....if i remember exactly, he was once dropped and left cricket to become a salesman or something similar...feel he has a good cricketing brain...good luck to him from an indian fan...