McGain on a mission to spin his way back from South African blues
Friday October 30, 2009
Bryce McGain is fired up for this season, writes, Chloe Saltau. BRYCE McGain has been waiting for seven months to put things right. His most recent experience on a cricket field, his Test debut against South Africa, would have made most IT professionals-turned cricketers yearn for the comfort of an office building.But when Victoria begins its Sheffield Shield defence in Adelaide today, McGain says he will be more determined than ever. He will be determined not only to show that he is much better than the bowler who was whacked for 0-149 by a rampant South Africa in March but that he can still command the spinner's position in the Bushrangers team ahead of the young left-arm orthodox bowler Jon Holland.A glance at the domestic and international schedule suggests McGain has three games €” one shield fixture and two Ford Ranger Cup contests €” to cement his position before Holland gets home from India, where he is effectively on work experience with the Australian one-day team.McGain insists he is not feeling any extra pressure with the 22-year-old Holland in the wings, just as the Victorian chairman of selectors John MacWhirter says he is not feeling any undue pressure to give Holland greater exposure in light of Cricket Australia's push for the states to promote youth, and especially to nurture young spinners.This does not change the fact that Victoria is unlikely to play two spinners in the Sheffield Shield given Cameron White, David Hussey and Brad Hodge can all provide spin support. When both McGain and Holland are in town, this will leave MacWhirter and his panel with a tough decision of the sort they confronted during the Champions League Twenty20 in India, where Holland was the preferred spinner."It was frustrating, I won't deny that, but there are only 11 people who can represent the state and there are tough decisions to be made, as cricketers we understand that," McGain says."I've got full confidence from the coaching staff that there's no reason I can't do this for a number of years yet, and that's what I intend to do."It might seem an ambitious goal for a 37-year-old, but McGain has reason to believe he still has much to contribute at first level, even if he never finds his way back into a baggy green. "I'm just as determined as ever to do really well and find my peak. If that finds me back in the Australian team, that's awesome. I still hold aspirations to do a role for Australia and perform well. If that doesn't occur there is nothing I can do about it other than perform well every time I have the ball in my hand for Victoria," he said."I guess it's difficult to be judged on one performance in one innings in one game, but as it's been told to me, sometimes you get a limited opportunity to do well and that's the way it is in my case. That's a challenge I have overcome. Mentally, I am completely over it now and I need to put up some good performances. It's just a shame there has been absolutely no cricket for me since March. I've had no opportunity to put up any figures and let everyone know that I'm still bowling really well. This is my chance."McGain has a strong relationship with Holland; they first met when Holland was 15 and they became club teammates at Prahran. Former Victorian captain Darren Berry later enticed Holland to Carlton, where Berry was coach, but McGain says the spinning brotherhood is strong enough to survive a change of clubs and strong enough to survive a common goal."I think the competition is really healthy," McGain says. "Every time I have represented Victoria the last two years I have bowled well, so I can't see that changing. In my last shield game I took five wickets, which got me picked on a tour of South Africa. I'm confident I can bowl well and win games for Victoria. The selectors will do their job and I will do mine."In the end it's good for Victorian cricket if there are two spinners doing well. While the rest of Australia is in crisis around spin, setting up incentives to bowl spin in under-age [cricket], Victoria are very fortunate. We've got a spinner . . . with the one-day side and my last game of cricket was in a Test match for Australia, so I guess Victorian spin stocks are looking quite healthy."Since missing out on Ashes selection to Nathan Hauritz, McGain has worked with Centre of Excellence spin coach John Davison and trained with the Australia A team, but nothing will work Cape Town out of his system like a successful return to first-class cricket.MacWhirter thinks both McGain and Holland will feature across the three forms of the game over the course of the season €” Holland was blooded with 11 games in various formats last summer €” but conceded the veteran has a point to prove."He will be very keen, especially not having played any games in India, which he was quite rightly disappointed with, that he is still up to the mark, which I'm sure he probably is," MacWhirter said. "We just try to treat [selection] as we normally would, in trying to look both to the future and to pick what we think are the most effective sides to put on the park and we are just going to continue doing that."