McGrath and Walsh proof that bowling more may extend careers

Glenn McGrath's worst injury came from stepping on a ball during a warm up.
Glenn McGrath's worst injury came from stepping on a ball during a warm up. CHRIS MCCORMACK/159333l

THERE are many reasons Glenn McGrath and Courtney Walsh are the two leading fast bowling Test wicket-takers.

Height, pace, bounce, unerring accuracy and competitive desire are among them.

So too is the fact they rarely got injured, enabling them to play in almost all the Test matches in which their countries competed.

If they played for Australia now, they wouldn't reach such milestones because Cricket Australia wouldn't let them under their bowler-management policy.

That is despite both of them proving that bowling thousands of overs didn't place them at any risk of injury. They believe the constant bowling that prevented injury.

"When I was playing, I got a hamstring injury but I only missed one Test match with it, when I was captain on the 1995-96 tour of Australia," Walsh told the Sydney Morning Herald in August.

"The way I grew up was I did a lot of bowling to remain fit, so the muscles were accustomed to a lot of bowling, but I used to pace myself along the way.

I know a conscious effort is made now to limit the amount of overs the youngsters bowl and I think that can be good and bad in a way because, if your body gets accustomed to bowling five overs, then that's what it's going to be (able) to do.

"That didn't work for me ... the bowling muscles for me needed to be well trained for the workload they needed to do."

Walsh played lots of first class cricket between Tests, so was able to keep bowling but at a lesser intensity, which kept his muscles tuned to the requirements without "over-cooking" himself.

There is no such luxury for today's internationals, especially those who play two or three forms of the game.

Mitchell Starc was rested from the Melbourne Test against Sri Lanka despite playing just two consecutive Tests.

But they followed a year full of T20 commitments, so CA decided he needed a rest to protect himself.

However Starc was pretty adamant the amount of physical conditioning he had done meant he was fit enough to keep going.

Evidence suggests young bowlers are more susceptible to injuries from high workloads that more mature bowlers.

So it is hard to argue they need to be managed, but every individual is different and that is where part of the problem seems to lie.

Why was Shane Watson not given a rest after bowling 47 overs in Hobart, given his recent calf injury and history of injuries?

Watson was pulled out of the T20 Champions League but got injured soon after anyway.

Since the management policy has come in, players are still getting injured left, right and centre.

I don't know the answer but it seems pretty clear Cricket Australia doesn't either.

Meanwhile they are playing Russian roulette with blokes' careers.

Can you imagine them telling Glenn McGrath not to play in a series decider against South Africa because of the chance he might get injured?

McGrath's worst injury came from stepping on a ball warming up.

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