McKay reflects on 11 years at the top

02 April 2016

McKay finishes his career with 97 wickets in 59 ODIs, including a hat-trick // Getty

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Recently retired quick looks back on his career with Australia, Victoria, the Stars and the Thunder

About the Writer:

Louis Cameron is a Melbourne-based journalist. A former Victorian Bushrangers fast bowler, Louis joined the team with assistance from the Australian Cricketers' Association's Internship Program in 2016.

After announcing his retirement from Australian first-class and international cricket, former ODI fast-bowler Clint McKay spoke to's Louis Cameron - McKay's teammate for seven seasons at Melbourne club side Essendon - to discuss the highs and lows from his 11-year career in Australian cricket.

LC: You've been involved Victorian cricket for over a decade - how are you feeling?

CM: Good. Relieved! It’s been 11 years and it was going come to an end at some stage.

Eleven years is a long time; is it hard to say goodbye to something that’s been such a big part of your life?

It's always going to be a bit tough but the time was right and everything fits in quite well doing it now. It was the right time for it. It works out quite well now and gives me a bit of time to figure out what I’m going to do with my life after cricket.

Tell us a bit your early days with Victoria; you lost your contract with them in the early days before you came back and made your first-class debut in 2006. What do you recall about those ups and downs?

The first year was probably the toughest one. Losing my contract after my first year was a kick in the guts but in some respects, it was probably the best thing that could have happened.

Clint McKay
McKay was at the Bushrangers for a decade // Getty Images

It meant I had to go away and actually learn to be a professional athlete. I trained hard and worked out what I needed to do to play cricket at the top level.

Looking back, it was a tough time but it probably set everything up for the rest of my career.

So it was toughest time (of my career) but it was probably the most rewarding after coming back, fighting my way back to a contract and then making my debut (for Victoria) the next year.

You picked up Gautam Gambhir, MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar (who was on 175) on ODI debut for Australia in Hyderabad in 2009. How different was that to playing for Victoria?

It was amazing. We’d just had the Champions League T20 beforehand in India and Victoria did well (losing to NSW in the semi-finals). The Aussies then had a couple of injuries during their one-day series and I got called up.

I remember walking out on to the ground and Cameron White was fielding about ten metres from where I was at the time and we both couldn’t hear each other talk – that’s how loud it was. So it was a bit of a daunting task.

Clint McKay
McKay celebrates his first wicket on debut in India // Getty Images

But it was great to get that first game out of the way and to have a great win in such a memorable game.

It was great to get a couple key wickets, especially the one of Sachin who was on 175 and looked like he was going to take them to victory. To get him out at that time helped us win the game.

Can anything prepare you for that moment?

I don’t think so. You’re so excited and so thrilled just to be a part of it. It is quite daunting but once you get out there, you’ve done all your training and you know you’ve done all the work to deserve to be out there.

The whole thing for me was to not try anything new and just doing what I’d been doing for Victoria for the last couple of years. That stood up well in domestic cricket in Australia so I knew it should stand up well in international cricket.

So for me it was about keeping it simple and staying within my own game-plan.

You had an amazing record over your time in Australia’s one-day side; you finished with 97 wickets in 59 games at 24 and was second only to Mitchell Johnson in terms of wickets taken during that period. But as you’ve said before, you don’t bowl super fast and you don’t swing around corners, so why do you think you were so successful?

Ah, I don’t really know (laughs). Maybe a bit of luck?

Clint McKay
McKay celebrates an ODI hat-trick against England // Getty Images

Look, I think it’s all about keeping it as simple as possible and just bowling my best ball. If the batsman is good enough to hit your best ball for four or six, good luck to them.

What that does do is create opportunities and more often than not it worked quite well.

Was losing your spot then in the ODI team in 2014 difficult to take considering your record?

Yeah it was difficult to take, but at the end of the day, that’s sometimes how things pan out.

I didn’t have a great series of India (in 2013) just before that and that was the beginning of the end (of my international career). I came back to Australia and had a good summer; I only played three games but I did quite well in two of those three games.

Clint McKay
McKay and James Faulkner celebrate a memorable win at the Gabba // Getty Images

It was a little disappointing to lose my spot, but it’s one of those things that it is what it is.

The young generation coming through have got some superstars in the making. They were performing quite well and it was great for them to get their opportunity.

It was disappointing that it came at my expense, but it’s just one of those things in the pressure of sport.

Was it difficult knowing you were only one bad game away from losing your spot with the likes of young quicks Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins nipping at your heels?

No I don’t think so. I had that pressure all the way through (my career).

As I said, I’ve never been the fastest bowler going around, so I always felt that I was never cemented in my spot. Even when I won the ODI Player of the Year (in 2013), I still didn’t feel that comfortable that I’d be picked week in and week out.

Clint McKay
McKay is named ODI Player of the Year in 2013 // Getty Images

There was always pressure to go out and do your best. I know everyone says that and everyone wants to do that when you go out and represent your country, but there’s always that little bit of pressure in the background.

But the only pressure you have is the pressure you put on yourself. I knew I’d done all the work and done all the training in the past, so it was just about going out and doing my job consistently week in and week out that was going to give me the chance to play for Australia.

There's a big emphasis in Australian cricket now to find bowlers who bowl over 140kph - what are your thoughts on that?

I think you always need some sort of pace in the side, for sure. But I think when you look over time, some of the greatest fast-bowlers in international cricket haven’t bowled any quicker than 135 (kph).

Glenn McGrath is a prime example of that (and) he’s arguably the best fast-bowler Australia has ever produced. He didn’t have super pace, but what he lacked in pace, his consistency and accuracy was second to none.

Clint McKay
McKay during an ODI at the SCG // Getty Images

I think you definitely need all different types of bowlers in your attack. You do need one or two bowlers with a bit of pace to win the game when you get on to flat wickets.

But I don’t think (pace) is the be-all and end-all.

Did Australia miss a trick in the last Ashes series in that regard, by picking the fastest bowlers rather than the best bowlers?

Conditions around the world are always going to be different (to Australia) and especially England is a prime example of that.

In those conditions, you see Stuart Broad and James Anderson – yeah, they do have enough pace but they’re not super quick. They are just able to continually hit the seam and get some movement off the wicket and also in the air, which really makes it difficult (for batsmen).

Clint McKay
McKay played his one and only Test against the West Indies in 2009 // Getty Images

Yeah, we might have missed a trick but they were probably the best three bowlers (Hazlewood, Starc, and Mitch Johnson) to be selected. It was one of those series where they outplayed us but (Australia) will learn and get better for the next Ashes series over there.

Has it been difficult to take a back-seat in the last couple of years while the Bushrangers have claimed back-to-back Sheffield Shield titles?

Yeah it’s had its moments. You’re trying to do everything you can to make sure you’re at your best for when you get that opportunity.

We've seen how successful Victoria’s been, especially the last couple of years, but also over the last 10-12 years, we’ve won five Shield finals in that time.

If the team hadn’t been so successful, it would have been a lot harder to take, but we’ve got some great young guys coming through and also some senior heads, so it’s actually a quite a hard side to cement your spot in.

Clint McKay
McKay during a Shield match at the Gabba // Getty Images

You look at the guys who’ve played in the last two Shield finals; you’ve got James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and John Hastings, who are Australian bowlers, and this year you’ve seen the younger guys in Scott Boland and Chris Tremain step up.

So the (Bushrangers') attack has been amazing and when one goes down (through national duties or injury), there’s another there to take their place.

So while it has been a little bit difficult, in some respects helping out the younger guys coming through and seeing them forge their own careers is quite a good feeling as well.

You were the leading wicket taker in the KFC Big Bash League last season with the title-winning Sydney Thunder. How satisfying was that considering you’d crossed from the Melbourne Stars, where you probably hadn’t played as much as you would have liked?

Yeah it was good just to get out there and play some consistent cricket again. I loved the Melbourne Stars and everything they did for me in the first four years but it was time for a change.

The Sydney Thunder, they gave me an opportunity and I loved every minute of it. All the people involved there from Nick Cummins, the CEO, to Mike Hussey the captain, down to some of the rookie players – it was a great group.

(To win the title) was great reward for a lot of hard work done by everyone.

Was it a different atmosphere at the Thunder compared to the Stars?

Yeah I think it was. For me, the biggest thing was being able to get out of Melbourne and actually see how another state operates. That was the most exciting thing for me.

Being in the one place (Victoria) for 11 years, regardless of whether it was the Melbourne Stars or Cricket Victoria, it’s all the same people involved.

Clint McKay
McKay was crucial in the Thunder's BBL triumph // Getty Images

So, it was a great opportunity to get away and freshen up a bit and it was a really good time in my career to see something different. Not necessarily better or worse, but just different.

It was great to get that feeling back and to get some opportunities to play.

We know you're going back to English County side Leicestershire for another season and will continue to play in the BBL. Aside from that, what are your plans for the future?

That’s something I’ve got to sit down and work out, along with my wife, and work out what I want to do (after cricket).

I’ve still a got a lot of cricket to play over the next couple of years but I’ll have a lot more time now to implement a few things so when my career does fully end, I’ll be able to walk straight into another occupation.

I've still got to work for another 30-odd years!

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