'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

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