Glenn Donald McGrath AM (/mr/; born 9 February 1970) is an Australian former international cricketer, who played all formats of the game for 14 years. He was a fast-medium pace bowler and is considered one of the greatest bowlers of all time, and a leading contributor to Australia’s domination of world cricket from the mid-1990s to the mid 2000s.
Known throughout his career for maintaining an accurate line and length, McGrath displayed a consistency that enabled him to be one of the most economical and successful fast bowlers of his time. In terms of total career wickets taken, McGrath is the second most successful fast bowler of all time behind James Anderson and is fifth on the all-time list, with the top three wicket takers Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble all spin bowlers. He has also taken the seventh-highest number of one day international wickets (381) and holds the record for most wickets (71) in the Cricket World Cup. McGrath announced his retirement from Test cricket on 23 December 2006, with his Test career coming to an end after the fifth Ashes Test in Sydney in January 2007, while the 2007 World Cup, which marked the end of his one-day career, saw him win the man-of-the-tournament award for his outstanding bowling, which was instrumental in Australia winning the tournament.
McGrath later played for the Indian Premier League team of the Delhi DareDevils and was one of the competition’s most economical bowlers during its first season, but he saw no action in the second season, ultimately having his contract bought out.
McGrath is the director of MRF Pace Foundation, Chennai, replacing Dennis Lillee, who served for 25 years. He currently serves as president of the McGrath Foundation, a breast cancer support and education charity he founded with his deceased first wife, Jane.
McGrath was honoured during the seventh annual Bradman Awards in Sydney on 1 November 2012. He was inducted into the ICC Hall of fame in January 2013.
McGrath was born in Dubbo to Beverly and Kevin McGrath. He grew up in Narromine, New South Wales (NSW), where he first played cricket, and his potential was spotted by Doug Walters. He moved to Sydney to play grade cricket for Sutherland and made his debut for NSW during the 1992-93 season. McGrath capped his rapid rise in the next Australian summer with selection in the Test team after only eight first-class matches.
McGrath’s Test debut was against New Zealand at Perth in 1993-1994. In Australia’s 1995 Test series victory McGrath took the approach of bouncing the West Indies team, including the bowlers, which had not happened before. In McGrath’s biography, Ricky Ponting is quoted as saying:
I remember thinking Glenn’s decision to take on the West Indies bowlers sent out a positive message to the West Indies that the Australian side was really up for it. Ambrose, Walsh, Kenny Benjamin had never been treated like that before. It made the West Indies sit back and think, ‘This Australian team is fair dinkumthey’re really up for it.’ Even if you aren’t the murder boys of cricket, you can show little things to let the opposition know you are serious. It might be the way you warm up, how you dress to go to the ground. Perception can be enormous. If you can give off the right signals to (a) bluffing them or (b) showing them what you’re all about. McGrath, at that stage of his career, showed them what he was all about. His body language and the way he looked at their batsman the wry smile it sent a signal to the batsman and his own team-mates that he knew what he was doing.
County cricket in England
McGrath played for Worcestershire in the 2000 English County Championship, proving both successful on the field and popular with the county’s supporters. In 14 first-class games he took 80 wickets at 13.21, including an outstanding innings return of 8-41 against Northamptonshire, as well as making his first-ever first-class half-century (55 against Nottinghamshire). He also played a few games for Middlesex in 2004; although accurate, he could manage only nine wickets in four first-class appearances for the county.
Against England (Ashes 2005 and 2006/07)
For his performances in 2005, he was named in the World ODI XI by the ICC.[circular reference]
During the first Test at Lord’s in the 2005 Ashes series McGrath became the fourth bowler in history to take 500 Test wickets with the dismissal of Marcus Trescothick. This wicket was also the start of a productive spell of 5-2 that led to England being bowled out for 155. McGrath took 4-29 in the second innings and was named man of the match in a comprehensive Australian victory.
McGrath at a Test match at the SCG in 2007
McGrath trod on a cricket ball and injured his ankle the morning before the start of the second Test at Edgbaston and was unable to play in the match, in which England amassed 407 runs in one day against the McGrath-less bowling attack to win by two runs. He was rushed back when not fully fit for the third Test at Old Trafford, where he earned another five-wicket haul in the second innings of a drawn game, batting in a last-wicket partnership with Brett Lee in the last hour of the Test to deny an English victory. He then missed the fourth Test at Trent Bridge, which England won by three wickets, with an elbow injury. McGrath returned for the final Test at The Oval but he and the rest of the Australian team were unable to force a result and the match was drawn, giving England the series win. McGrath’s injury problems are seen as a key factor in England regaining the Ashes, as their victories came in matches in which he was absent.
For his performances in 2005, he was named in the World Test XI by ICC[circular reference]. Australia hosted England in the 2006-07 Ashes series and regained the Ashes, beating England 5-0, only the second 5-0 series whitewash in Ashes history (the first time was by the Australian team during the 1920-1921 Ashes Series, and the later 2013-14 Ashes series). Having taken a break from cricket since April 2006, McGrath used the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy to reclaim his spot in Australia’s Test XI. He took a six-wicket haul in his comeback innings in the first test at the Gabba to set the tone for the rest of the series, with Australia winning back the Ashes in a record-breaking 15 days of play. McGrath took 21 wickets in the series at an average of 23.90, and scored 10 runs and took a catch in what would be his final test series.
In his biography McGrath wrote:
There was an incredible sense of emotion and elation as I walked around the Sydney Cricket Ground with my team-mates, holding hands with my children, James and Holly. I didn’t feel the slightest sense of sadness about retiring. I knew I’d reached the end; my body told me that. And even more importantly, I’d realised that those special moments I was missing in the life and times of my family were too great … the moments had become weeks at a time, and I didn’t like it.
For his performances in 2006, he was named in the World Test XI by ICC[circular reference].
McGrath in his final test series – the 2006-07 Ashes series
On 23 December 2006, McGrath announced his retirement from Tests. His last Test was the fifth Ashes Test against England in Sydney in January 2007, where he took a wicket with the last ball of his Test career. He retired from all forms of international cricket following the successful 2007 Cricket World Cup, at which he became the leading wicket taker in the history of the World Cup, while also being the tournament’s top wicket taker with 26 and being named player of the tournament. He was named in the ‘Team of the Tournament’ by ESPNCricinfo for the 2007 World Cup. His spell of 3-18 against South Africa was named as the fifth-best ODI bowling performance of the year by ESPNCricinfo voters.
For his performances in 2007, he was named in the World ODI XI by the ICC and ESPNCricinfo.[circular reference]
Indian Premier League
McGrath was signed by the Delhi DareDevils for the first season of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket competition in 2008, for a sum of US$350,000 (INR 1.4 crore). His team shirt bore the name “Pidge”, short for his nickname “Pigeon”. The 2009 IPL was played in South Africa owing to safety concerns but McGrath was used only to increase the bench strength of the Delhi Daredevils for whole of the tournament; in spite of being the most economic bowler for Delhi in the previous season, he did not play a single match. On 5 January 2010 the franchise announced that it had bought out the remaining year of McGrath’s contract for $350,000, effectively bringing his cricketing career to an end.
McGrath bowling a wicket-taking ball to Kevin Pietersen at the SCG in 2007
McGrath’s bowling was not of express pace. Rather, he relied on unerring accuracy and subtle seam movement, which he derived from his high wrist action and lengthy follow-through. His height (195 cm), combined with a high arm action, allowed him to extract extra bounce, which often surprised batsmen. In the later years of his career he developed as a swing bowler.
His uncomplicated method and natural physical fitness were significant factors in the longevity of McGrath’s career. In 2004, he became the first Australian fast bowler to play 100 Tests. In the first innings of the ICC Super Series Test match in 2005, McGrath passed Courtney Walsh to become the greatest wicket-taker among fast bowlers in Test history.
A graph showing McGrath’s test career bowling statistics and how they have varied over time
McGrath was regarded as one of the best fast bowlers in the world and has had success against every opposition team, in both Test and one-day cricket. He deliberately (and publicly) targeted the opposition’s best batsmen prior to a series in an attempt to distract them, a ploy that regularly worked. At the beginning of the Frank Worrell series against the West Indies he stated in interviews before the match that he would dismiss Sherwin Campbell for his 299th wicket, then remove star batsman Brian Lara for his 300th wicket the very next ball. This happened as planned, and he followed this with the dismissal of captain Jimmy Adams to complete a memorable hat trick. The targeting of opposition batsmen was generally successful; he dismissed Mike Atherton of England 19 times – the most times any batsman has been dismissed by one bowler in cricket history. On the other hand, he targeted Michael Vaughan prior to the 2002/03 Ashes series in Australia, with Vaughan going on to score three centuries at an average greater than 60. He targeted Andrew Strauss in the 2005 series in England, who went on to score two centuries.
He also tended to engage in sledging of opposition batsmen and teams, though it didn’t always pay off. Before the 2005 Ashes series he predicted a 5-0 whitewash for Australia, and even said that if England won the Ashes he would return to Australia by boat, but England prevailed 2-1. However, this did not dissuade him from making a similar 5-0 prediction for the next Ashes series, in Australia in 2006/07, which turned out to be true. He finished his career as the most successful Test fast bowler and third-highest Test wicket taker.
Glenn McGrath’s Test career batting performance
McGrath was not known as a competent outfielder but he had a strong and accurate throwing arm; while not known for his athleticism, he took an exceptional outfield catch on one memorable occasion in 2002 at the Adelaide Oval against England, dismissing English batsman Michael Vaughan from the bowling of Shane Warne, running many metres before leaping into the air and catching the ball with arms outstretched and body horizontal. His captain, Steve Waugh, described the famous catch as “a miracle” and “one of the great catches in history”.
McGrath’s batting prowess, in the early phases of his career, was poor; in fact, he scored first-ball ducks (zero runs) on both his Test and One-Day International debuts, and his batting average hovered below 4 for the first few years of his career. Years of patient tutelage from captain and friend Steve Waugh improved this aspect of his game to the point where he scored a Test half-century, which came on 20 November 2004 against New Zealand Full Scorecard of Australia vs New Zealand 1st Test 2004 – Score Report | ESPNcricinfo.com at the Gabba. His final score in that innings was 61, sharing a last wicket stand of 114 with Jason Gillespie (54*) to hilarity and the acclaim of their team-mates. Nevertheless, McGrath was, for the duration of his career, regarded as a batting ‘bunny‘, although he pushed his average above 7.00 runs/dismissal by the end of his career. In the first World Cricket Tsunami Appeal charity match, he was promoted to bat at number 6 ahead of specialist batsmen Stephen Fleming and Matthew Hayden, but was dismissed first ball trying to slog Muttiah Muralitharan. Towards the end of his international career McGrath, while not scoring many runs himself, became rather more difficult for opposing bowlers to dismiss, being dismissed only once during the 2005 Ashes series. With a contribution of 11 runs in the first innings of the MCG 2005 Boxing Day Test versus South Africa Full Scorecard of Australia vs South Africa 2nd Test 2005 – Score Report | ESPNcricinfo.com, he stood his ground for 53 deliveries, helping Michael Hussey push the Australian tail to a record tenth-wicket stand against South Africa of 107 runs.
Career best performances
Glenn’s first wife, Jane Louise (ne Steele), was born in the United Kingdom and had worked as a flight attendant before their marriage. Glenn and Jane met at a Hong Kong nightclub called “Joe Bananas” in 1995, and married in 2001. They had two children, James and Holly. Jane McGrath fought recurrent battles with metastatic breast cancer, having been first diagnosed in 1997. On 26 January 2008 (Australia Day) Glenn and Jane McGrath were both made Members of the Order of Australia. Jane McGrath died, aged 42, on 22 June 2008 from complications following cancer surgery.
Glenn McGrath met Sara Leonardi, an interior designer, during the 2009 Indian Premier League. They married at home in Cronulla on 18 November 2010. In April 2011 McGrath put his home on the market for $6 million. Their daughter, Madison Mary Harper McGrath, was born on 4 September 2015
In 2015 McGrath received widespread criticism when it was revealed he had killed a variety of animals during a hunting safari in South Africa. Photographs of McGrath appeared on the website of Chipitani Safaris, a game park, showing him crouched beside what looked to be a dead buffalo, two hyenas and the tusks of an elephant. He subsequently expressed his regret. McGrath had earlier told Australian Shooter magazine that “Im keen to get into trophy hunting, no animal in particular, but a big safari in Africa would be great.”
In 2002 Glenn and Jane founded the McGrath Foundation, a breast cancer support and education charity in Australia, which raises money to fund McGrath Breast Care Nurses in communities right across Australia and increase breast awareness in young women. Since 2007, the third day of the first Test held in Sydney Cricket Ground is named Jane McGrath Day, even if the day is washed out. Following the death of Jane in June 2008, Glenn accepted the voluntary role of Chairman of the Board of the McGrath Foundation, and he participates in many activities in support of the Foundation to ensure the fulfilment of its vision. As of April 2016, the McGrath Foundation has placed 110 McGrath Breast Care Nurses around Australia, who have helped support more than 33,000 Australian families.
In 2001, McGrath was one of just twenty-one Australian athletes inducted into the Australian Institute of Sport Best of the Best list.
He was awarded the Allan Border Medal and the Men’s Test Player of the Year by CA in 2000. He was also awarded the Men’s ODI Player of the Year in 2001.
McGrath was named a Member of the Order of Australia on 26 January (Australia Day) in 2008 for “service to cricket as a player”, and along with his wife for “service to the community through the establishment of the McGrath Foundation.” In 2008 McGrath was named the NSW Australian of the Year.
McGrath was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2011, and the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame in January 2013. He was also inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame by the CA in 2013.
He was named as a bowler in Australia‘s “greatest ever ODI team.”In a fan poll conducted by the CA in 2017, he was named in the country’s best Ashes XI in the last 40 years.
A statue of McGrath by artist Brett “Mon” Garling was installed at McGrath’s home town of Narromine in 2009.
McGrath holds seven highest tenth wicket partnerships, and two tenth wicket partnerships of 100 plus.
McGrath held the record for conceding the fewest runs in a test best 5-wicket haul (until Stuart Broad’s 8/15), and the best 10-wicket haul in a test match (Broad never bowled in the second innings). At the time of his retirement he held the record for most runs scored as a number eleven batsman (603). This record has since been surpassed by Muttiah Muralitharan.
After his dismissal for a duck in the fourth test of the 2006-2007 Ashes series, McGrath claimed the record of having scored more ducks in test cricket than any other Australian cricketer (35 – one more than Shane Warne).
McGrath holds the record for dismissing the most batsmen for ducks in test cricket (104).
His win-loss record at World Cup tournaments is impressive; he’s been in four tournaments (1996, 1999, 2003 and 2007), two less than the record. Australia won three of those (1999, 2003 and 2007) and were runners-up in 1996 to Sri Lanka. He holds most bowling records in ICC Cricket World Cup, including most wickets, most wickets in a single tournament, best bowling figures, bowling average and most maiden overs.
McGrath holds the unique record of taking a wicket with his last ball in his Test career, with his last ball in his ODI career and with his last ball in his T20 career.