| McGrath: Break was a real help
Potchefstroom: Australia fast bowler Glenn McGrath sensed his side had the upper hand over India in their World Cup Group A match on Saturday when Sachin Tendulkar started talking to him.
“After one pull shot he attempted I just mentioned to him ‘make sure you pick the right one to have a go at’ and he had a go at me for not bowling at the stumps,” McGrath said. “I said ‘Why should I bowl straight, you always smash them when I bowl at the stumps’.
“We get on well off the field but generally there is not a great deal said between us on the ground. “For him to have a go at me for not bowling straight meant I was frustrating him and doing my job well,” he added.
Australia’s ability to frustrate the leading run-scorer in World Cup history, restricting Tendulkar to 36 in more than two hours at the crease, typified the effective way Ricky Ponting’s men have gone about their business.
A major reason for their fast start to the tournament, in which they have beaten Pakistan by 82 runs and India by nine wickets, has been McGrath’s return to form and fitness. The 33-year-old, Australia’s second most successful bowler in ODIs behind Shane Warne, suffered a side strain in late December and missed most of the triangular series against England and Sri Lanka.
“The idea was always to ensure I was back to full fitness for the World Cup and be keen to go and that is exactly how it has turned out,” he said. I got to spend some extra time with my family, which was a bonus, and now I am fresh coming over here after not a great deal of cricket.”
That freshness means that although Ponting has hinted his top pace bowlers may be rested before the Super Sixes and the knock-out stages of the tournament, that is not McGrath’s preferred option.
“I would like to play in every game of this World Cup,” he said. If it is in the best interests of the side for one of the quicks, myself included, to rest then that is fine by me.
“But I have just come off a month of not much cricket, I am fresh, keen and ready to go and with three or four days between each match there is plenty of time to recover.
“It is only about bowling 10 overs every game, even though it is a bit more intense than say a Test match, and I have been pulling up really well. If I played in every game and bowled 10 overs straight in every game I would be happy with that.”
I can be dropped: Symonds
Meanwhile, Andrew Symonds admits he would not be surprised to be dropped by Australia despite his brilliant unbeaten 143 against Pakistan.
Symonds’ maiden ODI hundred ensured he retained his place for Saturday’s nine-wicket win over India, despite the return to the side of batsmen Michael Bevan and Darren Lehmann.
“The players who have come back in, Bevan and Lehmann, have done it many more times than I have so we will just have to wait and see,” Symonds said.
“But at some stage we might have one too many batsmen in the side, someone is going to have to miss out and it would not be a surprise if it was me.
“For the time being, though, I am just glad to have contributed and it really does help your confidence,” he added.
After his 125-ball innings at the Wanderers the next question mark hanging over Symonds is whether he can do it again, but the expectation he has created appears to sit easily with the laid-back Queenslander.
“I feel relieved I’ve shown people I can play good cricket,” he said.
“I’m not feeling pressure any more, not like I was feeling it before, because I thought I was very lucky to be picked for this trip in the first place.
“Because of that, to reward the selectors and the people who have believed in me is a very good feeling.”
For Symonds it was a genuine breakthrough effort as it was only the third time he had passed 50 in 55 ODIs. Figures like that beg the question why it took such a gifted player so long to arrive.
“Rather than feeling pressure, it has all been about confidence I think,” he said. “It can be the slightest thing, the slightest hesitation. You want to hit the ball over the top and then you think at the last minute that maybe it’s not right, you check the shot and end up chipping it to mid-off.
“That sort of thing has gone now and I hope I’ve got more of the killer instinct at contact with the ball.
Symonds has also pinpointed two other factors in his emergence as a player of genuine international ability — keeping it simple, and his captain Ricky Ponting.
“Ricky has been a great supporter of mine, we get on really well and have formed a bit of a bond,” he said.
“He gives me confidence because I know he is not worried about me but then he breeds confidence throughout the whole side.” For now, Symonds knows he will only be as good as his next innings and he is out to make that as memorable as his last one.