Legendary Australian paceman Glenn McGrath is fond of predicting Ashes whitewashes for his compatriots over England - but this time round he is not so sure. The 47-year-old, who brought the curtain down on his stellar Test career 10 years ago with a 5-0 cleansweep of England, told Saturday’s Daily Mail newspaper everyone is expecting him to say 5-0.
“Well, it would be rude of me not to, wouldn’t it?” jested McGrath. “If our bowlers can stay on the park and bowl well there could be a good chance of that again. It’s always up to the batsmen. Bowlers will win matches as long as the batsmen score enough runs. That’s coming from a bowler.”
However McGrath – who took 563 Test wickets in 124 Tests over a 14 year period – admits that prediction could be tempered by a couple of personnel issues the Aussies are facing.
“I think it will be a fascinating series and I don’t think there’s a real stand-out winner,” said McGrath, not just a Test bowler but an integral part of the Australian side that won three successive One Day World Cups, “Both teams have got issues, there’s no doubt about that, and looking at the England squad, half the guys I haven’t really seen play before to be honest. I don’t think the Australians have settled on their team. The No 6 position and the keeper are up in the air at the moment so we’ll see what happens. It’s still special. It’s still the ultimate.”
McGrath says the Ben Stokes affair has obviously affected the balance of power between the two sides. Talismanic all-rounder Stokes has had to remain in England as he awaits the outcome of a police investigation into an incident in Bristol in September
“Being vice-captain you do have to set the standards both on and off the field and what happened there was not good, you can’t say anything but that,” said McGrath. “The great shame of it is that he has the world at his feet. He’s such a good player. He’s two players in one so it’s a big blow to England. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not here for the entire series. If he did come out here it will be interesting to see how the fans warm to him but there’s a lot to happen first before we see whether that can happen. It could be a distraction. Of course it’s a blow to the series. You want to play against the best players. For Australia to win you want the opposition to be at full strength and that’s the way it’s always been.”
McGrath was speaking ahead of taking part in the New York Marathon on Sunday. He is running for The McGrath Foundation which raises money for cancer, an illness that claimed his first wife Jane.