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McGrath career comes full circle

Barbados has happy memories for veteran paceman Glenn McGrath, who has reached the stage of his career when he can look backwards rather than forwards.

The Caribbean tour of 1995 is one of the most satisfying chapters of his journey. Mark Taylor's Australia regained the Worrell trophy for the first time in almost 20 years, effectively ending West Indies' dominance of the world game.

"That was a big tour and it started here in Barbados,'' McGrath recalled ahead of Australia's Super Eights match against Ireland on Saturday morning (AEST).

"We ended up winning the Test quite convincingly in three days, I got my first five-for in Test cricket and I knocked over Brian Lara for the first time.

"I guess taking your first five-wicket haul in Test cricket gives you a lot of confidence as well and since doing that I haven't really looked back.''

Now a peaceful veteran at 37 years of age, McGrath has left behind the anger that sometimes spilled over into his cricket, notably in the Caribbean.

In 2003 he threatened to tear out batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan's throat during an on-pitch altercation. Four years earlier, McGrath bowled Australia to victory in Antigua then was reprimanded and fined after Lara complained that the Australia bowler was spitting.

In the same match, a fired-up McGrath kicked an advertising hoarding so hard he spent the next over at fine leg unable to move, hoping the ball didn't come his way.

These days, McGrath is more likely to laugh than blow his top when a batsman gets a lucky boundary through slips, or a strong leg-before shout is turned down.

But that's not to say the competitive fire is gone. McGrath was still fiesty enough to punch through big-mouth England batsman Kevin Pietersen's defences and crack a rib in Australia last summer.

After a world fast bowler's record of 563 Test wickets, McGrath can afford to be mellow.

"You learn every game you play,'' added McGrath, who will retire after the World Cup final on April 28 in Barbados.

"With everything that has happened at home with Jane and having two kids, it does put a different perspective on things and you work out what's important in life.

"I think just natural progression has helped me there.''

His wife's battles with breast cancer have been at the heart of some of McGrath's biggest blow-ups, especially the Sarwan incident. Only he can know the stress he has been under, but his cricket hasn't suffered.

A star player until the end, McGrath's final World Cup campaign has been hitherto successful and he's added another record to the pile, passing Wasim Akram's mark off 55 tournament (all-time) wickets.

A record third World Cup triumph would be a final exclamation point on a glittering career.

"To me it's not a bowler versus batsman game. The biggest battle I'll have out in the middle is with myself and if you can win that battle, then you are 90 per cent of the way there.

"What the batsman does at the other end to me is probably 10 per cent of what I'm trying to achieve out in the middle.

"If you can win that internal battle, then you are going to be successful."

For all his heroics, McGrath knows that Shane Warne will grab most of the attention when historians review the Australia's achievements of the past 15 years.

"Cricket is a team sport. Warnie's success has helped me out a lot as well,'' McGrath said.

"Whether I would have been as good with our without Shane who knows? I feel he was a big part of my career and hopefully I helped his career out a little bit as well.

"I've been very lucky to have played with some awesome players and that has helped me out a lot.''

McGrath puts his success down to solid training. He worked himself into the ground in the pre-season leading up to the recent Ashes series.

"My consistency over the years, I've worked hard off the field so that when I play ... I feel like I'm actually having a break,'' he says.

"I know myself and my game very well. I don't try to do anything that I can't really do.

"I'm not a big swinger of the ball. I don't bowl express pace but what I do do is hit good areas and get good bounce and that has really served me well over the years.''

A lot has been said about the 47-day World Cup being too long, but McGrath is taking his final tour in his stride. Soon he will be back in the arms of his family, for good.

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