Still wearing the war paint
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Sunscreen like white war paint smeared across his face with aggression matching his flaming hair, a 22-year-old McDermott tore to the crease, launching his powerfully built 6'2'' frame side on, releasing an immaculately seaming delivery and often finishing on one knee demanding a decision from the umpire.
Plenty of times, the finger went up as Sidhu, Vengsarkar, Azharuddin and Shastri all fell, leaving India's chase short by one run. Twenty five years is obviously a long time.
At forty eight, McDermott's once red mop of hair is now white. The face without pale sunscreen is bright red. While his massive shoulders are still intact, he has obviously put on a fair bit of weight. It could be worse, he says, only half joking in conversation with The Indian Express.
From the sidelines of the ongoing four-nations tournament in Vizag (where, incidentally, McDermott finished his career during the 1996 World Cup), Australia Under-19's bowling coach speaks candidly about his playing days, to his time as Australia's bowling coach and also just why he would have liked to have coached Ishant Sharma eight years ago.
Welcome back to India and Visakhapatnam. Do you have happy memories here?
I love India. In fact, I was here earlier this year for a couple of weeks at the MRF Pace Academy. I love the curry and naan man. If I stayed here for a year, I probably would be weighing 200 kilograms.
Was it always such? Did the naan-curry affect your preparations for the two World Cups you played on Indian soil?
Ahead of the 1987 World Cup, I would bowl continously for hour-and-a-half stretches in training. It was sort of an acclimatisation to bowl when you got tired. I actually ran and did all my training in the steam room. I used to do a lot of outdoor running. I used to run with a raincoat on to acclimatise to the humidity. That got me a lot of strange looks back then.
Did you enjoy your stint as Australia's fast bowling coach in 2011? India lost 4-0 while you were in charge of the likes of Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus (the highest wicket-takers in the series).
And they had a few kinks going into the series, which we had to iron out. Siddle bowls very much front on. His bowling arm is very much perpendicular. Because of that his seam position went out of shape when he tried to swing the ball. So we had to get his arm a little sideways so that we could straighten the seam. And he was also dropping the ball too short. So we got him to bowl yorkers from wide of the popping crease. That way when he bowled at the batsman, his default length grew fuller. I got him pitching it from around seven metres in front of the batsmen to about five. And when you bowl a fuller length, guess what, it swings.
You mentioned Siddle's problems. What was troubling Hilfenhaus?
Even at the start of the the Boxing Day Test, Hilfenhaus's front foot was too close to the stumps. So every now and then when he released the ball it would keep sliding down leg and not swinging away. t about lunch in the first innings, I called Michael Clarke and Hilfenhaus and said this is what we need to do. Michael and Ben looked at the footmark quite closely for about an hour after the break. Then he got his front leg coming down correctly and we got our results.
Your fast bowlers in this series earned quite a reputation by keeping the likes of Sachin Tendulkar quiet and Rahul Dravid bowled very often. What was your plan to these batsmen?
My theory to Tendulkar was not to pitch it up on off stump or the fourth stump but on the fifth stump and try and take him wider. Each time he got wider, he opened his bat face and we got more nicks.
Rahul Dravid got out bowled a few times but that was because Hilfenhaus was getting his front leg positioned right and so he was getting the seam position correct. A couple of the clean-bowleds were played on and the others were going through the gate. That was a product of getting the seam in the right position and bowling well.
So do the bowlers pick up these plans quickly?
I had to stay on their back 24/7. Each time I saw the bowler going at off stump, fourth stump, I would get right back along the side and get them back at fifth stump.
Did they miss your services in India? What went wrong in the return series?
In Australia, the wickets are bouncier but India isn't unlike bowling in Adelaide. We bowled fuller in Adelaide. Compared to what you were bowling in Adelaide, you would bowl it a bit fuller at the Gabba and even fuller at Perth. The key is always to try and hit the batsman on the knee roll. And when I was coach we had six bowlers who could do that. This isn't something new, its been true since WG Grace.
If you pitch four out of six balls at a perfect length, you will roll over most sides. This isn't easy. Glen McGrath probably bowled at the right length five out of six times to get 500 wickets.
In the 2011 Ashes in Australia, I thought we hit that good length about 28 to 30 percent of the time. Against India we probably hit it 66 percent of the time. I think we bowled bloody good.
What are your thoughts on the Indian pace attack?
I really liked Umesh Yadav but I think he got injured. One bowler I really liked in Australia was Ishant Sharma. He had all the attributes that I want to see in fast bowlers. He has a great action. The way he ran in, you could see that he just wants to bowl fast. If anything, I really would have like to coach him eight years ago.