With the bumper India-Australia Test series a matter of days away, Australia pace sensation Glenn McGrath carries the confidence of a man who has seen many such battles.
McGrath was recently appointed as the Director of the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai. In an exclusive chat with NDTV from Chennai, McGrath hailed the caliber of India captain MS Dhoni on the cricket pitch.
"I didn't really watch the India-England Test series, but Dhoni has the respect of all other playing nations. I've found him to be a really strong leader. There will be an added pressure on Dhoni but he will be looking to make amends for the England defeat," said the 43-year-old Aussie great.
McGrath joined a long list of admirers who waxed lyrical about Sachin Tendulkar. Despite a recent slump in form, McGrath said, "Look, Sachin has earned the right to decide when to retire. He still has the passion for the game, and his performance for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy recently suggests he warrants his place in the side."
McGrath paid due credit to Sachin's undying commitment and passion for the game, adding that the Master-Blaster is key if India were to topple the Aussies.
Australia have a crucial 2013 in Test cricket, with back-to-back Ashes series later this year. With that in mind McGrath was wary when assessing his nations' chances of success in the subcontinent. "They're really looking forward to the tour. The top-order of the batting line-up is not confirmed with the injury to David Warner, but it's a great opportunity for the youngsters in the side."
McGrath however was rather more affirmative towards the Aussie pace attack. "I've been very impressed with our bowlers over the past twelve months. They have been looking forward to this tour, which could be a good lead-up to the Ashes," McGrath added putting faith in the likes of Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc.
In the two warm-up matches that Australia have played, their weakness against spin has come to the fore. "The retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey are a blow to the Baggy Greens'. The gaps they have left are hard to fill, but it opens the door to youngsters like Philip Hughes and Usman Khawaja. Whether they will be adept at playing spin, we'll have to wait and see," McGrath said with a wry smile.
Parallels can be drawn between the two teams led by MS Dhoni and Michael Clarke. Yet, the two individuals couldn't be further apart in terms of form in the Test arena, with Clarke blowing away opposition bowlers with ease. "Look Michael Clarke has much more responsibility now. He had a sensational past year but the onus is on him now," felt McGrath, while praising Clarke for being awarded the Allan Border medal.
McGrath was one of the 2012 inductees to the ICC Hall of Fame. He was obviously delighted with the honour but choose to see the lighter side of it. "It probably means I'm getting a bit older," he laughed. "In all seriousness, all my dreams have been fulfilled and I can look back with pride. It's very humbling to be placed alongside guys I admire and it's a great honour as well," McGrath signed off.