Who you gonna call? Pidge, Mitch and Stu, that's who
Who you gonna call? Pidge, Mitch and Stu, that's who
Stuart MacGill picks a team from among the best cricketers he played with
Stuart MacGill's legspin took 208 wickets in 44 Tests for Australia - an exceptional return, considering his path to the team was usually blocked by Shane Warne. MacGill also enjoyed a long first-class career for Western Australia, New South Wales, Nottinghamshire and Somerset. Here he picks an XI from the best red-ball cricketers he played alongside.
The first time I played against Matt, I bowled him. Sadly for me and the rest of my team, he'd already smashed 150. A week or two later he repeated the feat, this time in his first Shield match, playing South Australia. I had a front row seat many times over the years and was there when he broke the record for the highest individual score in a Test innings. You didn't want to be a bowler on that day. At his best, he was terrifying for bowlers. At all times, he was a formidable opponent.
Just prior to leaving South Perth in 1995 I played Midland-Guildford in a semi-final at the WACA. Simon wasn't yet 20 at the time and he belted the living daylights out of me. He's honest, hardworking and loyal, but his superb strength of character shouldn't disguise his enormous talent as a cricket player. This guy could bat. He could also bowl, and catch, and captain, and commentate… Not only the perfect team-mate but exactly the sort of guy you'd want your daughter to bring home! He's also my team's spinner (yes, Shane Warne's the greatest spinner of all time but I thought it'd be fun to leave him out).
It's no secret I was a complete muppet with the bat and some of the most terrifying experiences in my life feature Rod Marsh at the cricket academy pointing a bowling machine in my direction. Bouncer-evasion training was the scariest thing I ever did in my sporting career. Not for Ricky, who visited in 1991, when he was 16. After I'd endured a blur of short balls, he casually strolled into my net without fear or helmet and proceeded to remind Rod that not all bouncers need to be evaded. He was dynamic till the day he hung up the boots: not so much with the ball, but definitely with the bat and in the field.
I played in the same team as Steve a couple of times: with NSW as well as the Sixers. When he was selected for Australia in 2009 for the Ashes, I was shocked. Was he a bowler, or batsman? Fast forward a few years and he made 50 almost every time he batted in an Ashes series. If you can do that why would you bother bowling leggies?! Steve has lived through his share of peaks and troughs, but not a lot has changed: he's still gifted and still passionate. He just doesn't stop at 50 anymore.
If you ask Australian players of my age, born in the early '70s, to identify the most gifted batsman of our generation, Damien Martyn would without a doubt be the most frequent name raised. He used a bat barely half the size of those wielded by recent players, favouring timing and touch over power. He was the McEnroe of our game. I genuinely believe that he could have made a Test hundred with a stump. He was not only talented but resilient, coming back after six years in the wilderness. At times he made it look easy, especially in the subcontinent, but it wasn't easy at all. That's how special he was.
Steve Waugh (c)
I have never encountered another person, inside or outside of sport, who spent more time talking and listening to absolutely everyone he met so that he might better understand their point of view. Even though we didn't have much in common, when I talked to Steve Waugh, I always felt respected. If Steve believed that you trusted yourself, you would be hard pressed to find a greater ally. To this day I hold Steve and Mark Taylor up as icons of Australian sporting culture, everything we should aspire to be as sportsmen and women. I am grateful to have met him and he will always be my captain.
How's this lot for a top order?
Saurabh Das / © AFP
How's this lot for a top order? Saurabh Das / © AFP
Ian Healy (wk)
I was blessed by the wicketkeeping gods, having been fortunate enough to bowl to Chris Read, Pete Nevill, Graham Manou and Brad Haddin. And Adam Gilchrist, the best batsman in my year at AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) and a brilliant gloveman by the end. But the one man who will forever be my yardstick - in every single category - is Ian Healy, whose 100th Test was my first. He worked harder than I had ever seen a keeper work at the time, often alone, and through these actions proved to me that he respected his team and the game. In my opinion, Ian Healy changed keeping in Australia in the same way Shane changed spin bowling. What a legend.
I have a thousand Mitchell Johnson stories, many involving unsolicited acts of generosity that have shaped the lives of young players, but they are not my stories to tell. However, when my career abruptly came to an end on the 2008 West Indies tour, my team-mates gave me a memorable and heartfelt farewell as I departed for the airport. It was very emotional. Mitch was one of the younger guys and the last to step up, but instead of saying anything, he just gave me a big hug. And I mean big. When he finally let me go, he said: "Thank you for being my friend." By the time I'd wiped the tears from my eyes, he'd taken almost 600 wickets for Australia. He always persevered, no matter what, and at times was electrifying. If Mitchell Johnson phoned me today and asked for a favour, I would jump on a plane, no matter where he was on the planet.
1. Alastair Cook
2. Michael Vaughan (c)
3. Jacques Kallis
4. Brian Lara
5. Martin Love
6. Kumar Sangakkara (wk)
7. Wasim Akram
8. Dan Vettori
9. Malcolm Marshall
10. Anil Kumble
11. Curtly Ambrose
When I moved to Sydney in 1995, I was fortunate enough to join Sutherland Cricket Club. We played Bankstown in the final: four Waughs and at least eight guys who'd go on to play first-class. Apart from a bloke called McGrath, the best bowler in our team was a young Stuart Clark. I was as sure of his future that season as I was the next, when he hit me on the head first ball after I had walked out to bat for my new club, North Sydney. He was a great team-mate, a great bowler, and my admiration grew the more I played with him.
I refused to face Jason Gillespie in the nets. Too scary. Ian Healy told me that the fastest spell of bowling he ever kept to in a Test Match was from Dizzy: if you want to see some fire, check him out at Headingley in 1997. I'm completely unsurprised by his success as a coach because he played his cricket with an uncomplicated enthusiasm perfectly suited to a modern-day professional sports change room. He has always maintained good humour and humility even as his star rises as a coach. He is everything I love: a unique, quirky, quality human. But whatever you do, never ask him about his batting.
When I first saw Glenn McGrath, he bowled seriously quick. The next time I watched him, on TV, he had pulled it back a little. But as history shows us, this just made him even more intimidating: no bad balls, immaculate line and length, an uncompromising demeanour. He exuded confidence and class. Even when he was grumpy his opponents knew he was a good bloke. Imagine how his team-mates felt about him. Of all the wonderful memories I have of this champion, playing in Dubbo for the SCG XI with my two "Sutho" team-mates, McGrath and Clark, will endure as one of my favourites. Glenn McGrath: ooh-ah!
Stuart MacGill is currently "wine guy and dishwasher" at Aristotle's in Neutral Bay, Sydney
Scott Oliver tweets @reverse_sweeper
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