ESPNcricinfo-James Anderson, who surpassed Glenn McGrath’s tally of 563 Test wickets at The Oval to become the most prolific seamer in Tests, has rated the Australian as a “much better bowler” than himself.
“I’ll tell you something about Glenn McGrath – he was a much better bowler than me. This is not false modesty,” Anderson wrote in a column on Fox Sports.
Anderson attributed McGrath’s superiority to various factors that he felt made the Australian a complete bowler.
“I may have gone past his wicket tally but I honestly believe McGrath’s bounce, relentless accuracy, aggression and ability to move the ball made him superior. He had everything. And it is not a random, top-of-the-head assessment, either. I’ve been studying all of the great fast bowlers since I was about eight years old.”
While the top two wicket-takers among seamers have tormented batsmen with different skill sets, Anderson drew similarities between his attitude and McGrath’s.
“I also loved McGrath’s attitude,” Anderson said. “He had plenty of a snarl on the field – a bit like me, I suppose – and was super-competitive. He hated giving away runs or not taking wickets.”
Describing McGrath as a “cracking fellow” with whom he had shared the occasional beer, Anderson said listening to the Australian talk about the way he prepared for games had helped him. One of McGrath’s training methods that Anderson incorporated into his own preparations was bowling with an old ball, in order to equip himself to be able to succeed in unfavourable conditions.
“I heard him say once that he practised for when the ball didn’t swing,” Anderson said. “So if it did swing, it was a bonus. That philosophy has been a big part of my development. You so often see bowlers pick out a lovely new ball from the bag at nets and it looks great when it swings in the air and nips off the seam with batsmen playing and missing. What about when the ball is 60 overs old, the sun is blazing down, the pitch is flat and there’s not a hint of movement? So, at practice, I often take an old ball that looks like it’s been chewed by a dog and work on variations and aiming for the top of off stump. That’s the quickest way to improve your skills.”
At 36, Anderson is still eager to learn from his contemporaries and among the modern seamers, he felt Dale Steyn was better than him as well.
“I’ve spent most of my life watching fast bowlers – initially as a kid on TV and later in the flesh when I started playing top-level cricket. Even now, on a day off, I’ll sit at home with the cricket on TV analysing the quick boys and trying to learn. How are they gripping the ball? What are they thinking? Why did they bowl a bouncer or yorker or slower ball? I don’t think I’ll ever stop being fascinated.
“Of the modern era, I’d happily tip my hat towards Dale Steyn. With his express pace, control and swing, he’s better than me, too.”