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Thread: An Analysis of McGrath

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    excellent article, c_c
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    Awesome articel C_C love your writing!
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    excellent post man.. corridor of uncertainty is the best region to bowl, and I wanted to add little bit on speed of the bowler where you touched a little bit. Mcgrath being a medium pace bowler helps him a great bit, because a batsmen is more confused timewise to medium pace than a fast pace bowler. Even if a bowler who bowls 95+ with same style and accuracy as Mcgrath will not have the same success because, the batsmen will not have smaller time to react, and most likely leave the balls alone and wont nick as much. And last even if the batsmen play and nick at 95+, its in his favour a bit as the ball will travel much faster and more likley to travel over keeper and slip fielders.
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    Superb Post C_C. You definately are one of the top posters on CW

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by C_C
    This is my sequel to Sehwag's analysis ( maybe i should analyse all players piece by piece but then i would fail all my courses). because i feel that it has to be addressed.

    When i first laid eyes on McGrath, it was 1994 i think involving OZ and RSA in RSA...
    i was but 13 years old then and only beginning to appreciate the finer points of the game.

    Up until that point, my bowling hero had been Curtley Ambrose, catching the west indian at his furious best while i was actively watching cricket.
    First thing that struck to me was "he is the white ambrose, albeit a vastly inferior copy".

    Vastly i say, at that time, because McGrath wasnt that metronomically consistent with his line and length.
    But certain similarities were evident right away. Both employed the same bowling principles- moving the ball came secondary to them in light to the priority of capturing the 'corridor of uncertainty'.

    From then on, mcGrath improved vastly and in a matter of couple of seasons i saw a great improvement in line and length. Now he stands as a giant of the game who has been at worst even terms with the best of the best batsmen.

    Much is said of McGrath recently, with some even insinuating that he is lucky.
    Well i thikn he constructs his own luck really by his fanatic dedication to the corridor of uncertainty.
    So what is the corridor of uncertainty ? its this belt of region that is half a foot or so outside the offstump with a width of few inches...
    As a young upstart pace bowler, i came to appreciate the importance of that region very quickly.
    For it is one region where the batsman can never be sure whether to leave or play consistently. A ball with a slight inswing can crash into your off stump and another with a slight outswing can kiss the edge and go to the slips.
    As a batsman, i was always forced to play the ball ultra late when pitching on this zone- later than i would've liked, since one needs to really really judge it carefully.
    With the ball pitching on stumps or with you you guage a ball easier. Simply because in a batsman's mind, protecting his wicket is the top priority(in most test match scenarios) and with a ball pitching on stumps, your immediate concern is to protect the wicket and its only the length and the swing that makes the determination whether to attack or defend.
    When you pitch in on the corridor of uncertainty, the stakes are raised far higher for now you gotto really think about the line as well.
    It is no mean feat either, given the nature of the corridor- too much swing either way and the ball moves into the comfort zone of the batsmen...too much outswing and it ends up a foot outside the offstump, ripe into the driving range. too much inswing and it gets into the pull/flick/leg drive' zone.

    Indeed, the corridor of uncertainty is made for the type of bowlers who arnt big movers of the ball(that is, after pitching). The only bowlers i saw who consistently owned the corridor of uncertainty but were big swingers of the ball are Akram, Marshall and Hadlee.

    I've often notice the batsmen being hurried for shots against mcGrath but far less often hurrying for shots against someone like say Gillespie/Walsh.... why is it so when Gillespie /Walsh are usually considerably faster than McGrath ?
    Its because where the ball pitches - the corridor of uncertainty. Which makes the batsman hesitate an extra millisecond.

    Another thing McGrath has is the ability to control his swing. That is one of the hardest abilities to master in all of cricket....to give a bit more swing than the last delivrey or a bit less swing.
    You essentially do this by gripping the ball closer/further away from the base of your palm.
    Swing is imparted by your hand rolling over the ball at the point of release. More surface to roll over( holding it deeper in your palm) often results in more torque generated and thus more swing and vice versa.
    People who think this is easy should try it out on their backyards, where you are holding the ball closer to your palm yet making it come out from the tip of your fingers.

    I've seen McGrath swing the ball decent amounts quiete a lot of times but he uses it extremely wisely. His stock delivery is the one that moves a little bit either way but every once in a while he throws in the one that swings half a foot or more.
    Essentially that creates much more doubt for the batsmen.
    In a sense, he is the Clarrie Grimmett/Anil Kumble of pace bowling, alongside Ambrose. Extravagant movement is irrelevant if you cannot use it wisely and minimal movement is extremely potent if you can control it and use it wisely.
    Its essentially a mind job. With a standard swinger, i can guage the 'swing' of the ball after an over or two on a particular pitch and play accordingly. its like a mental calculation : " if he swings it in, it will move in about half a feet, if he swings it out, it will move about half a feet out. Gotcha'.
    With McGrath, there is no 'Gotcha'. You have to be far more watchful because he varies his swing very efficiently. Perhaps the best exponent of this art was Akram but in my opinion, in the ability to vary the swing, McGrath isnt far behind.
    Years earlier, when i took Kung Fu, i learnt that the easiest opponent is one who is confused. He is easier than someone far less competent but more confident. And essentially the fundamental philosophy of Kung Fu is to kill you or maim you. Then why do they have such elaborate hand and foot movements ? well one of the main reasons is to confuse the opponent. McGrath operates in a similar way. His objective is to confuse you and then land the killer blow. So yes, he profits predominantly from batsmen's indescritions. but he is manufacturing that indescrition by his elaborate and cunning bowling plan. McGrath is one of the exponents of mental warfare. His objective is to dismantle you by probing you and making you steadily unsure of yourself and represents a shining example of where mind can trump over sheer natural talent of blitzing past the batsmen through extravagent swing or pace ( not to say proponents of that kind of bowling wernt thinking bowlers mind you). Which is why there is only one way you can succeed against the likes of McGrath or Ambrose- you have to back yourself 110% and make yourself completely immune to their elaborate plans. That is unnatural to most human beings- to throw caution to the wind and go by instincts 100%. Which is why only the best of the best or the utterly reckless have had some success against these kind of bowlers.
    Afridi has had some success against McGrath- far more often than players who are far better products than him. Why is that? because he backs himself 100% and takes the attack to McGrath come what may. The likes of Tendulkar and Lara have had up and down battles with McGrath and they've predominantly succeeded by playing aggressively. You cannot negotiate with McGrath on his terms. You are doomed if you do. You will have to negotiate on your terms. Indeed, one of the very few players i saw that had the measure of Ambrose was one Basit Ali.....another one, who backed himself 100% come what may.
    That approach may backfire against others but against McGrath, that is the only way to go.
    Some might ask 'well if Afridi or Basit Ali can deal with McGrath or Ambrose better than most, why arnt they as good as the tendulkars or the laras ?' that question deserves a thread of its own but one of the biggest answers is adaptability. You cannot play someone like mcGrath and Akram by the same philosophy. you will have to adapt. Essentially, this is the quality that the likes of Afridi and Basit Ali have little of.

    Ally all this to McGrath's height and excellent bounce and you got a very potent bowler in the Curtley Ambrose mould. Which is why it always makes me smile when somoene calls harmison the white ambrose. The 'white ambrose' is none other than McGrath ! or perhaps Ambrose is the black McGrath- for their bowling styles are very similar- much more similar than Ambrose and Harmison for example.They both have similar stranglehold over the corridor of uncertainty, both rely predominantly on subtle variations and utmost of all, a relentless barrage by building pressure- they give you one bad ball every spell or so to punish and really make you earn your kudos instead of handing out a freebie here or there.

    Another thing McGrath is excellent in, is wrist positioning. Essential goal is to have a good and neutral wrist position. This is the 'tennis toss/racket swing' analogy. The best servers are one who have the same toss/racket swing for the a number of different serves. McGrath has the same wrist positioning for his outswinger or his inswinger and essentially, you are pushed out of your comfort zone- its extremely hard to read someone like McGrath from his hand and you will have to base it completely from after the ball is released.
    McGrath is a master of pushing you out of your zone and make you second guess.
    That is his forte and given his expertise in it, i can almsot garantee that it will work in any era and any condition and against any batsmen more often than not.

    Regards.
    A very good post, add McGrath's movement off the wicket into and away from the batsman and you get a very good idea of why he is so potent. (You may have already said this, I skimmed the middle bit! haha)

  8. #23
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    As excellent piece C_C, well done.

    A couple of small additions/comments.

    Variation. While he isn't known for moving the ball a long way, McGrath has almost all the 'tricks', and when you can move the ball 2 inches in or 2 inches out, that's 4 inches the basman has to cover. He also varies the bounce to a higher degree than most bowlers, meaning he creates doubts on 2 different axes.

    As you mentioned, he bowls well within himself pace-wise. What you didn't mention is that this gives him yet another variation.. Most bowlers have an 'effort ball' that's around 5-10kmh faster than normal, McGraths is 10-15 kmh faster.

    You mentioned that the players who have handled him better are instinctively attacking. I'd agree with this, but what you didn't cover is that these batsmen have to face other bowlers at the other end, and generally speaking, these bowlers require a different approach. A purely instinctual attack will get you into a lot of trouble against the likes of Gillespie and Warne, so those few players who can do this with enough skill to succeed against McGrath probably wont last long enough to really trouble him. That leaves only the very top batsmen ( Lara, Tendulkar ) who can attack McGrath and retain the presence of mind to change their approach when they're at the other end.

    Even the greatest players can't succeed in a vaccuum.

  9. #24
    Hall of Fame Member aussie's Avatar
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    aussie

    well CC mate here comes another compliment superb post, agreed on everything i must say when i first say its lenght i wasn't that interested. I think most of us knows how superb McGrath is but i dont think we could have contructed a better analysis on him.

    I would like to see how would anaylse 4 other modern greats Lara, Tendulkar, Warne & Murali

  10. #25
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    Do one on ponting as well.

    Mgrath is the best bowler I have seen. I'm only 18 but I've seen Akram, younis, Ambrose and Walsh and Imo Mgrath is better than all of them.
    (although younis was my fav to watch)

  11. #26
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    To me, its extremely difficult to deciede rank between McGrath and Ambrose.

    They are both alltime greats of the highest callibre.

    In my opinion, on a favourable pitch, Ambrose is more deadly and on an unfavourable pitch, McGrath is more deadly.
    On a pitch like Perth, 90s Durban, Sabina park etc., i would pick Ambrose over McGrath.
    On a pitch like Sydney, Antigua, Bangalore etc., i would pick McGrath.

    McGrath IMO is physically fitter and more robust than Ambrose, who had knee problems at the same age as McGrath and at an older age, McGrath is better....but at a younger age (below 30), i think Ambrose was better.

    McGrath has more wickets while Ambrose has a slightly better average...i think this is due to the bowlng attacksthey were a part of. Early on in his career, Ambrose had more support than McGrath did but McGrath has had a more consistent support - in the latter half of his career, Ambrose was a lone warrior with Walsh and the next best WI bowler was considerably off World Class stature. McGrath has Warne all his career and able/excellent support in the form of McDermott/Fleming/Gillespie/Kaspa....all of whom are better than the likes of the Benjamin duo, Dillon, Rose, King, etc.

    McGrath has faced the best batting lineup of the two and did superbly while Ambrose IMO faced a cumulative superior batting resistance in his career. Ie, while Ambrose hasnt faced a batting lineup of the ilk of IND, he had to contend with Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa - an aggregate superior batting lineup, since IMO RSA had better depth through the 90s and OZ + ENG + NZ were overall better batting force than the overall competition McGrath faces.

    Its too hard for me to differentiate but another 2-3 seasons of brilliance and i would give it to McGrath.

    Next in line IMO is Wasim Akram. To me, he is one of the biggest underachievers in test cricket......'under achiever ? with 400 wickets @ 23 ?HA!' may say soem fo you but the tools Akram had at his disposal boggles the mind and i wonder why he doesnt have 500 wickets @ 18-19 average.
    His variety was stunning- he has singularly the BEST variety of all bowlers i''ve ever seen with the best overall mastery of different deliveries- accuracy/consistency was in the same league of mcGrath-Ambrose, was considerably more menacing than either of the two on dead wickets but strangely a lesser force on favourable wickets. I've seen him beat the edge and outfox batsmen more often than any other bowler...Akram IMo bowled the most wickettaking deliveries for one of the least returns in terms of wickets that i've ever seen.

    I would slot him after the Ambrose/McGrath duo.

    From the 90s bowling crop, Next in line IMO is Donald. He was a brilliant bowler and while not as potent as McGrath/Ambrose on favourable wickets, he was just as devastating on unfavourable wickets as McGrath. He sacrificed a bit of control for that extra oomph in pace and as a result was both more destructive and less consistent than Akram,Ambrose and Pidge.
    Donald was, IMO, the best 'strike' bowler of them all barring Younis.....he was superior in getting batsmen that wernt well set but once the batsman got set, Donald had less options and struggled more to get the batsmen out than Ambrose,McGrath and Akram.


    Next in line IMO is Shaun Pollock of the 90s. In one sentence, he is/was a slightly inferior model of Ambrose-McGrath. Same philosophy, same skills but a shade below.

    The next one, IMO, is Coutrney Walsh.
    He was a 'good bowler' most of his career but made a very strong finish and makes a good case for the 'great' category based on his longetivity and record. He became a really classic strike bowler late in his career when he perfected the slower ball - his primier weapon later on in his career IMO.
    Walsh was just as consistent as McGrath, Ambrose and Akram but had lesser tools and variations to torment the batsmen. Not as good a strike force as Donald-Akram-Younis but not as good at getting set batsmen out like Ambrose, McGrath and Akram.

    And then, there is Waqar Younis. I cant help but feel a lil bit guilty at rating Waqar behind all these players because of his injury-affected career but thats how his career turned out in the bottomline i guess.
    Waqar MK-1 was singularly the best fast bowler i've ever seen. period. better than Hadlee, Marshall, Lillee, Ambrose, Akram and McGrath. Period.
    he got excellent swing at super high speeds ( by some estimation, Waqar may've been the fastest bowler of all alongside Akhtar, Lee, Holding, Thommo, Patterson,Tyson and Gillchrist - while no one timed him at his furious best in the late 80s/early 90s, he was clocking 155kph in 95, after 2 serious back injury that robbed him of pace) , was the best proponent of reverse swing and had intimidation oozing out of him.
    But Waqar MK-2 was merely decent. After 2 serious back injuries that required him to remodel his action, he lost the pace that made him deadly.
    IMO, i rate him and the likes of Donald lower because they are more dependent on pace than McGrath-Ambrose-Akram etc. Waqar's philosophy wasnt consistency but stunningness. His bowling revolved around producing that 'magic ball' which would even fox Bradman at 299. He has produced more stunning deliveries IMO than anyone and closest to him is Akram....but he has bowled a heap of codswallop far more often than any of these bowlers have.
    In a sense, Waqar was the deadliest of them all but also the easiest to pick apart.

    If Waqar had remained fit, i wouldnt mind wagering that he would've ended up as the greatest bowler of them all......but as it stands, he isnt.


    After him, i would say the next best bowler of the 90s was Gillespie. He IMO, was a better bowler in the 90s than he is now, particularly before his collision with Tugga that led him to lose a bit of zing in the speed department.
    He was essentially an inferior model of Donald-Waqar in terms of devastation but slightly more consistent.
    One knock against him is that he isnt so good when he doesnt have his support cast of McGrath-Warne and is too inconsistent. Dizzy is just as likely to average 18 with the ball next series as he is 40......but a good bowler nonetheless.

    After him i would rate Fanie deVillers, another mighty underachiever in the game. Fanie was a seam bowler of the highest callibre with an Ambrosian/McGrathian consistency and control. Was capable of swinging the ball both ways extremely well and one of the best swingers before pitching alongside Marshall and Akram.

    After him, i would rate Srinath. He was a good swinger of the ball with a cracker of an inswinger and one of the fastest the subcontinent has ever produced- till his shoulder injury, Srinath was consistently faster than Donald. Wasnt very consistent with his line and length and wasnt in the same mould of devastation as Waqar-Donald-Akram either... IMO, overusing him and lack of any support in the pace department makes him appear more lacklustre than he really is.
    Was very good at unfavourable conditions but mediocre when conditions favoured the fast bowlers.

    So thats my top 10 list from the 90 and since :
    Ambrose/McGrath, Akram, Donald,Pollock, Walsh, Waqar,Gillespie, deVillers and Srinath.

  12. #27
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    hmmm i reckon akram probably deserves to be above McGrath and Ambrose. As much as I hate to say it (cos he got so many aussies out) the guy was an absolute gun with new and old ball and knew how to bowl every trick in the book.
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  13. #28
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    I largely agree with your assessment of 90s pacers. One bowler I feel you are doing a slight disservice is Ian Bishop, who despite his injury problems was an absolutely frightening bowler in the early part of the 1990s, better than Srinath in my opinion. Perhaps Shoaib Akhtar is a little unlucky to miss out as well, but his performances have never quite matched his ability.

    For me the Ambrose/McGrath question is tilted slightly towards McGrath by the nature of the wickets they have played on at their peak. Through the 1990s wickets were usually quite helpful for seamers in the West Indies, Australia, England and South Africa. All these places are largely flat wickets today. And while I agree that Ambrose is superior on a helpful wicket and McGrath superior on a flat wicket, and that both are excellent on either surface, I feel that bowling well against the higher quality batting lineups of today on flat wickets is a greater feat, and as the pitches have become more flat, McGrath's average has gone down.

    Also, as you pointed out McGrath has more wickets and Ambrose a lower average, but McGrath's average is actually falling quite rapidly at the moment with his latest run of excellent form. Ambrose's average did not drop below 21 until around 2 years before his retirement, which is probably where McGrath finds himself today, and with his recent form he has moved closer to Ambrose than might be assumed. For the sake of comparison, here is the top 10 pacers since World War 2 by average, as of the end of the Australian tour of New Zealand.

    Frank Tyson (1954-1959) - 76 wickets @ 18.57
    John Wardle (1948-1957) - 102 wickets @ 20.39
    Alan Davidson (1953-1963) - 186 wickets @ 20.53
    Ken Higgs (1965-1968) - 71 wickets @ 20.75
    Malcolm Marshall (1978-1991) - 376 wickets @ 20.95
    Joel Garner (1977-1987) - 259 wickets @ 20.98
    Curtley Ambrose (1988-2000) - 406 wickets @ 20.99
    Neil Adcock (1953-1962) - 104 wickets @ 21.11
    Glenn McGrath (1993-) - 499 wickets @ 21.23
    Fred Trueman (1952-1965) - 307 wickets @ 21.58

    The next five is where we see more 90s bowlers coming in - Pollock, Donald, Hadlee, Imran and Miller. Only a few months ago, Pollock and Donald were ahead of McGrath.
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  14. #29
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    Oops.
    I forgot about Bish...
    Slot him in and bump-off Srinath.

    Akhtar ? no.
    He did jack diddly squat in the 90s....i am looking at it both from 'who did well in the 90s' as well as 'how good are they actually' perspective...at the end of 90s, Akhtar had an average of 40 with the ball...and on the whole, he is atleast 4-5 seasons of excellence short of matching the names above.

    As per McGrath-Ambrose debate goes...like i said, i think its very close and i can see people picking either one of the two.....how well you do as a bowler is not only your skills but also in light of the batting units you face, pitch support and bowling cast support.
    I am slightly tilted towards Ambrose in all honesty...simply because he faced an overall superior batting cast than McGrath with much less consistent support.....but i can see people picking either one of the two.

  15. #30
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    I think Mgrath over Ambrose becasue he has bowled at better players and got worked them out recently on flatter pitches.

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