Tim Paine has lauded the well-rounded Australian attack and reckons that the overall system of fast bowlers in the context of the domestic system is running rather smoothly, like a well-oiled machine.
“We’ve got some other guys coming through the ranks, there’s some exciting young bowlers around the country as well,” Paine said ahead of the third and final Test against New Zealand. “I think it’s pretty exciting that we can continually put three or four big strong fast bowlers on the park. Again, it’s not something we can take for granted, we’ve got to keep working away and I’m sure Cricket Australia are behind the scenes, trying to develop more.
“I think at the moment the three or four we’re able to get on the park consistently are as a group of bowlers, (they) are right up there with as good as we’ve had.”
When asked if this Australian attack was headed for greatness, Paine was unapologetically optimistic in his response: “I think they’re well on their way and they are still relatively young as well.”
The Test skipper denied having any role whatsoever in the prolific performance of his bowling attack, insisting that he got finished products to work with – independent thinkers and executors, laid on a silver platter.
“I don’t think that’s me (who’s responsible for the bowlers’ performances),” claimed Paine. “I think I’m pretty lucky to have those guys and Nathan Lyon. It’s a bit of a luxury as a captain. They know where they want to bowl, and they know where they want to set their fields. They don’t just roll up on a Test, send it down and hope for the best. We talk a lot about the fields we want to set and opposition batsmen’s weaknesses.
“I’m just lucky I’ve got some guys who can do it regularly and at high speeds. There’s no doubt walking out to bat against our attack right now is a difficult prospect for even the best players in the world.”
Keeping the larger picture in perspective, Paine seems assured of a smooth system, whereby the senior bowlers have passed on their collective wisdom onto the rookie bowlers, thereby helping develop the next generation of fast bowlers.
“We’ve just lost Peter Siddle who has been a great influence on that bowling group, again we’re lucky that you’ve got your Hazlewoods and your James Pattinsons, Mitchell Starcs, that have played a lot of Tests, taken nearly 200 wickets. So they’ve got some great insights and information for the young guys coming through.”
Keeping in perspective the inheritance of knowledge, Glenn McGrath, Australia’s most successful fast bowler in Test cricket, has heaped praise on the predatorial Australian attack, and their ability to hunt in packs.
“That spell on the second [third] day with Pat Cummins and James pattinson, the way they bowled in tandem was as good a fast bowling as you’ll see anywhere in the world,” said McGrath, picking out his most conspicuously sharp spell from the Boxing Day Test. “To have Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, four quality bowlers; throw in Nathan Lyon as well, it’s as good a bowling attack as we’ve had and the way they work together is pretty good.
“A lot people say New Zealand has been disappointing but I think a lot of that has been because of the way our bowlers have bowled. In Australian conditions they are tough to face, they will be tough to face anywhere in the world but especially at home.”
McGrath resorted to the cliche of “good headache to have” when asked about the combination for the New Year Test and likely selection dilemmas.
“It’s going to be tough for the selectors and that’s not a bad thing plus there are plenty of other young guys coming through the ranks. These days it’s not a team of 11, it’s a squad of 12, 13, 14 and we’ve come to terms with that. “
Finally, faced with the inevitable comparison between the great Australian team of the late ’90s and the early 2000s, most of it coinciding with McGrath’s career, the former pacer was confident about his response.
“They’re right up there, without a doubt. Their stats prove that: Nathan Lyon 350-plus wickets. I know we had Warney and he did okay in our team. Era on era, I was lucky to play with so many amazing players, they are forming a pretty decent attack that can compete with any era of Australian cricket. They are definitely up there.”
The New Year Test at Sydney against New Zealand starts on Friday (January 3). Australia have already won the three-Test series 2-0, and will be eager to claim their forty Test Championship points in the final Test.
And Glenn McGrath will be watching.