McGrath's final fling
April 29, 2007
I HAVE been invited for a beer at Mudgee by people I have never met - and I had one Test selector tell me he was disappointed he didn't get the chance to axe me.
It was all part of the fun of the last week of my cricket career.
In truth, leaving the game has not yet hit me. It may not be until Australia plays again, in the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in September, that it will finally hit home that I will never wear my country's colours again.
Physically and mentally I feel I could play for another two years. But it's time. There are other priorities in my life.
Test selector Merv Hughes, always the prankster, has a unique take on my retirement.
He told me that, as I effectively replaced him in the Test side in 1994, he was looking forward to getting square by sticking the knife in and ending my Test career.
He said he was disappointed I announced my retirement before he had the chance to swoop.
Merv, of course, was only joking, but I am pleased to be bowing out on my terms.
The first thing I want to do is get away from it for a while, unwind and see what options come up and what I want to do.
I do feel I have a role to play in the game, but I want to have six to 12 months away from it first.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper encouraged people to fax the team hotel to wish me all the best and I received some nice telegrams, including a couple from people I knew from my days growing up in Narromine. Another came from a cricket fan in Mudgee, who finished it by saying if I am ever calling through, please give him a bell and he will take me for a beer.
I might just get there.
It was terrific to get those sorts of messages because some time we are so focused on what we are doing, we forget that people outside our bubble are watching us closely and getting a lot of enjoyment from the game of cricket.
I feel pleased that I am leaving the game in good shape because there are a lot of young fast bowlers coming through.
My approach has always been simple. The less complex you make things, the less things can go wrong.
I always tell youngsters if you can bowl 99 balls out of 100 that can hit the top of off-stump, you will take wickets. They always seem disappointed by the simplicity of the advice, but it's the truth.
Finally, I've been privileged to have competed against some fine players in my career.
Here is my toughest XI to play against:
Mike Atherton (England): I respected him and he was one of themost successful opening batsmen of our era, even though Curtly Ambrose and myself had great records against him because he seemed to struggle with our extra bounce.
Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka): Others may have had better records but few were more dangerous. It is always a massive compliment to someone to say they changed the game, and his storming innings in the 1996 World Cup changed everyone's thinking about how to start one-day innings. Great natural flair.
Brian Lara (West Indies): I felt he was just in front of Sachin Tendulkar when at his peak. He was just a naturally gifted player with so much ability. Against spin, he was in a league of his own. No spinner ever had it over him and Muttiah Muralitharan always said he was the toughest he bowled to.
Sachin Tendulkar (India): More technically correct than Lara and on his day could really destroy attacks, but probably did not have as much natural flair as Lara. But who does?
Mentally strong enough to carry the hopes of a billion Indian cricket fans whenever he batted.
Aravinda de Silva (Sri Lanka): When he got a start on home soil in Sri Lanka you just felt you were never going to get him out. Was excellent for Sri Lanka in a tough era when they did not have the array of talent or experience that they have today.
Andrew Flintoff (England): Just pips Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock and Chris Cairns as an all-rounder because of his heroics against us on the 2005 Ashes tour. To swing the ball both ways at 145kmh throughout lengthy spells was pace bowling at its absolute best.
Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka): Averages in the high 40s with the bat in Test cricket and has also done some great work keeping to Muralitharan. If you have Murali in the team you would go for Kumar as keeper. He is an under-rated player with a great record. He pipped South Africa's Mark Boucher, a solid player for a long time.
Curtly Ambrose (West Indies): With his height, he could really get great bounce and he was one of those special bowlers who always had an extra gear. He barely had a bad day and he enhanced his aura by keeping his distance from opponents, including me.
Wasim Akram (Pakistan): Just a champion for what he could do with the ball. He could swing it at will both ways and the way he powered through the crease made him something to behold. He was on you before you knew it. He wasamazing.
Allan Donald (South Africa): Had great pace and a fine record for South Africa. I always got along well with him and for a long time our records were very similar.
Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka): Simply because of his incredible statistics, he has to go in here. But there were other spinners who I admired, Saqlain Mushtaq, Anil Kumble and Dan Vettori among them.
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