So Shane Warne and (it is rumored that) Glenn McGrath will announce their retirement at the end of this Ashes series. Warne is probably the best bowler I have seen in my lifetime (tied at #1 with Curtly Ambrose). He is the quintessential leg spinner. I dont think anyone has better defined the art of leg spin bowling than Warne. Whats more awesome about Warne is that he was a complete entertainer. Every time he started his mini-famous-run up of his, he gave a feeling that he could weave magic into the game and turn around any situation. It was a delight to watch him because he had the agression of a fast bowler, the grace and beauty of a classic leg spinner and the tactical ability of a military general. He is the best spinner this world has ever seen and it is really sad that in sometime the despicable 'chuck'dharan will go on to hold the test wicket record. On the whole, it is our fortune to have lived during the playing time of Warne and Mcgrath, especially Warne. His stuff against the Windies is the best he has bowled so far. He was really at his peak in the 1990s especially between 92-97 seasons until his 96/97 injury breakdown. It is unfortunate that India never played tests against Austalia for close to 7 years (91/92 - 97/98) and in Australia (91/92 - 99/00) for close to a decade - especially during Warne's peak.
Here is an excellent video of Warne's best 8 wickets. I remember watching most of these games. Especially the one against West Indies. WI were playing poorly and I guess this was the first time in many years they lost a series to Australia. Chanderpaul and Lara were really defying Warne. Chanderpaul scored against Warne by mainly cutting against the spin. He kept on rocking back and cutting Warne against the tremendous spin that Warne was generating. It was almost incredible because Warne was turning the ball square and this fellow was purely surviving on luck. And then Warne bowled a beast which didn't allow Chanderpaul to go back and cut at all. It was one of my favorite series because all Windies had to do was put some runs on the board and Ambrose would have won the game for them. They just couldnt do it. It was a complete contrast to the 92/93 series where Ambrose could take 7/1 and win the series against Australia. (Note: Listen to the great Richie Benaud's comments on the background. It is so fortunate that Benaud happened to comment when Warne bowled the 'ball of the century' - while a buffoon like Sidhu would have screamed and slobbered like a fool - all Ritchie says after a silence is "he's done it". Also listen to what Benaud has to say after the Basit Ali dismissal and compare it with how Warne introduced us to that wicket. Man! what a commentator :-). )
And who will forget his duels against Cullinan, his biggest bunny ever. I have never enjoyed cricket like the way I have enjoyed when Australia bullied and mauled South Africa. And Cullinan was a joke against Warne. The taps, the familiar drumming by the corwd, and the baying-for-blood that began everytime Warne bowled to Cullinan was simply awesome. It was a classic case of psychological Vodoo that Warne did. His wicket of Herschille Gibbs in the WC 99 Semi Finals was much better than that Gatting ball. It just pumped up the team like crazy and got every Australian fired up. I never cared for his off-field antics, or his multiple women issues. I thought he wouldnt be warne if he didnt do all those. The part of his psyche that made him the best bowler was the same part that made him sledge, and behave like a casanova. He was a package set. If he were dour, disciplined and straight, he'd be Venktapathy Raju and not Shane Warne. (Next Video: Warne's Hatrick - the last days of David Boon doing his thing at Forward Shortleg. The 3rd wicket was so similar to harbhajan's 3rd wicket in Eden Gardens)
ooh - aah Glen Mcgrath
oohAah Glenn Mcgrath.
He comes in does his famous excercise routine, while fans sing the 'ooh aah Glenn McGrath' song. The same elbow stretch, leg pull and then he would run in and bowl the first ball of a test match right in the 'corridor of uncertainity' as if he were bowling his 20th over. Seam up, high bounce and just mean.
Anybody who has, among his bunnies - Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Mike Atherton has to be awesome. Tendulkar has never been so technically incapable and struggle so poorly against any bowler - except McGrath. McGrath can be clearly declared as the winner of that battle. The one day tri-series that India played down under in 99/2000 was a joke. Sachin couldn't middle a single McGrath delivery. The Mumbai test of 2001, which I believe is one of Sachin's best innings, was the closest he came to defy McGrath but he never dominated McGrath the way McGrath dominated him.
This whole sequence of Sachin nibbling the ball behind has happened so many times.
Lara has at times dominated McGrath (more than what Tendulkar has done) but the reverse has been true more number of times. He simply got out too many time against Mcgrath and only very few of them were to poor strokes. McGrath, to me, was the quintessiantial fast bowler. Full of confidence. No conversation on Mcgrath or Warne would be complete if we didnt talk about their sleding ways. Their approach cricket was awesome and same cant be said about the wusses who complained against them. Whats thrilling about Mcgrath was he would put himself on the firing line and predict that he would get someone out. And he has not embarassed himself that many times. His success rate in acheiiving this is probably the highest anyone can imagine to acheive. My special McGrath-predictions were those involving Lara, Tendulkar (in 1999) and his 299, 300, 301st wicket and his 500th wicket (he said before the series began as to who he thought would be his respective victims). Listen to the commentary when he gets his 300th wicket. When I was watching the match 'live' - Channel 9 had the common sense to show his interview (taken the day before where he spelt out how he had visualized his 299, 300, 301st victims) and the wickets side-by-side (the wickets fell the same order in which he spelt it out) for that 'aha' effect.
Mcgrath's destruction of England, especially his 8-for-something in a rain-washed Lords test was just awesome, and it is the closest comparison to Ambrose getting England for 42. On top of it he was really mean to the English. And I loved that. Ambrose was mean (and really scary) when he played England (both McGrath and Ambrose pretty much destroyed England) but you tended to like Ambrose for some reason (its amazing why Ambrose is liked so much) but Mcgrath was just verbally, physically and systematically mean. The opponents just hated him but couldnt deny that he was good.
Here is Ambrose's classic 7 wickets for 1 run. Awesome isn't it.
Australia will ofcourse overcome these 2 retirements and come up with another set of bowlers who will help them continue their 2 decade dominance of cricket. But these 2 will always be special. Their approach to cricket, their off field antics and their personalities have a lot to do with it as much as their talent.
Meanwhile here are some remixed videos of Shatakumaran Sreeshanth doing his thing. He is quite a character. I am simply taken in by his antics. I hope people don't read some stupid Gandhi book to him and spoil the agression in him. We need mean people like Mcgrath and Warne. He is much better off being a firebrand dude than 'i the only to be happi to bend over backwards for you' indian fast (medium) bowlers that we so famously keep churning out.