Glenn McGrath: The difference between a good Australian side and a great one


Glenn McGrath’s career stretched from November 1993 to January 2007, and more or less exactly coincided with Australia’s undisputed dominance in world cricket. A close scrutiny of the numbers, however, makes one ask whether Australia would really have been this great a side without him. The answer is probably negative.

Looking at Australia during McGrath’s career, we find them winning 95 and losing just 28 of the Tests they played, giving them an incredible win-loss ratio of 3.39. However, when McGrath played for them, the ratio went up to 4.05. Without him during the same period, it remained a good, but not quite that remarkable at 1.75.

At home, with McGrath in the side, Australia won 51 and lost 5. With him not in the side, they won 5 and lost 3. Defeating Australia in Australia with McGrath playing was nearly impossible.

What is even more remarkable is the way the opposition teams on an average scored 340 runs per innings when McGrath did not turn out, and were bowled out for 260 when he did.

A champion bowler can also lift the performance of the rest of the side.

When bowling with McGrath in the team, Jason Gillespie picked up 199 wickets at 26.86 at a strike rate of 55.3. When McGrath was not in the side, he laboured his way to 36 wickets at 30.69 picking up a wicket every 67 balls. From a very good bowler, he became average.

Shane Warne, a great bowler in his own right, did no suffer that much. His 501 wickets with McGrath in the side came at 25.05, while his 184 wickets without the premier bowler in the team were taken at 26.80. However, his strike rate went up from 56.1 to 62.7 when McGrath was not part of the bowling unit. At the same time, his economy rate of 2.67 came down to 2.56. That shows, when McGrath did not bowl alongside him, Warne became more containing rather and less attacking bowler.

McGrath was not just a great fast-medium bowler. He was the difference between some of his colleagues crossing the threshold between good and very good and very good and great. And he was the reason why Australia was a world champion side rather than merely a very good one.

Text: Arunabha Sengupta
Illustration: Maha