New Delhi: The trait of a good coach is to not change a player, but to work according to the strength of his ward. And that is exactly what former Australia fast bowler Glenn McGrath believes in. Known for his immaculate line and length in a career that saw him take 563 Test wickets and 381 ODI wickets, the fast bowler who now works closely with young fast bowlers at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai feels that one should never compromise on pace. Also known as Pigeon, one of Australia’s greatest fast bowlers told budding fast bowlers at a two-day camp organised by the Haryana Cricket Association in partnership with MRF Pace Foundation, that a bowler’s ability to bowl fast makes him unique and being able to pitch the ball in the right areas at pace is what makes him lethal.
Speaking to CricketNext, on the sidelines of a two-day camp at the Chaudhary Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium in Lahli, McGrath cited the example of Mitchell Johnson when he said that the left-arm fast bowler was the biggest example of how the perfect combination of pace and accuracy made a bowler unplayable – during the Ashes in 2013-14 in Australia as he finished with 37 wickets in the series.
“Pace is what makes you unique and you just need to work on control. Mitchell Johnson is a good example during the Ashes series in Australia where he kept his pace and worked on his control, sorted out his action and suddenly went from a dangerous bowler to a lethal bowler. So you should always try to bowl at your quickest, but work on your accuracy,” he said.
There have been cases in India over the years when bowlers who broke through on the scene due to their ability to bowl fast turned to bowling line and length. But McGrath said he hated the idea of seeing someone cut down on pace to increase accuracy. He went on to add that a bowler cannot be taught to bowl fast, so if one has that ability, that shouldn’t ever be compromised.
“I think you always try to bowl quicker there is no doubt about that. But what we are trying to improve is our control. If we can improve our control and land the ball where we want, there is more chance of taking wickets. Pace is something that is unique. You can’t teach someone who bowls at 130kph to bowl at 160kph. And if there is a bowler who can bowl at 160kph, I hate to see them slow down to 140 to get control. That is just ridiculous,” he smiled.
Senior bowlers like Harshal Patel and India fast bowler Mohit Sharma were also seen at the camp as it is not every day that one gets to work closely with one of the best the game had. And McGrath said that some things only come with experience and cannot be taught at the training ground alone.
“I think it comes down to experience. You can talk to guys who have done it before and that will give him ideas on what he should do, how he should be thinking and how he needs to go about his job. But then, at the end of the day, it is on the individual to execute the plan at the wicket.
“Also, it is important that the bowler has faith and belief in himself to try things. If you try something and that doesn’t work, then when you face a similar situation again, you know what doesn’t work. But if you are hesitant about trying something new, then you will never learn anything. Plenty of people can give you advice and suggestions, listen to them, but do what suits you,” he explained.
The two-day camp saw young bowlers not only asking the Australian legend about the do’s and don’ts of fast bowling, but also on how to ensure that they manage the workload and train in the off-season. One of the fast bowlers at the academy shared his experience and said: “He is so humble and approachable. He told me that with the workload and the hectic schedule it is tough being a fast bowler on the body. We have to be physically strong enough and fit enough to put up with the stresses of fast bowling. At our age, we should look at starting to get a little stronger. He went on to explain that if we have a good bowling coach who can give us a few pointers in terms of technique that always helps. But there are a lot of fast bowling coaches out there who are not technically sure what they are doing.
“He even added that when he was playing, he honestly had no idea. It has only been in the last six years that he has worked out the technical side of things. He added that at our age, we have to be prepared to work hard as there is no substitute to hardwork. If we can find a balance between how much bowling we should be doing and the amount of strength training that we should do, that would be ideal.”
Signing off, McGrath had just two points that he wants all young bowlers to remember. “One you need to know yourself and secondly you must get to know your game,” he said.