Former n bowling coach Craig McDermott, once warned for sending down too many bouncers at the West Indies, has backed his former pupils in the n team amid a call for umpires to crack down on intimidating bowling to tailenders in the Ashes.
With the tourists’ lower-order batsmen having been successfully targeted with short-pitched bowling by Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, former England captain Mike Atherton triggered debate with a column in which he said umpires should use Law 41.6.1 to intervene.
The law allows for umpires to take into account a batsman’s skill when determining if the bowling is dangerous, but in the helmet era it has almost never been used at international level.
McDermott was one player who was warned under a previous code by umpire Steve Bucknor during the first Test between and the West Indies at Sabina Park in 1991, although not for his bowling at a tailender.
Instead, as David Fraser recounted in Cricket and the Law: The Man in White is Always Right, he was pulled up under what was then Law 42 for bowling short at Gus Logie, with one delivery flooring the pint-sized No.6 when it struck him on the helmet.
Logie had also been hurt earlier in the match.
“Many factors must have influenced umpire Bucknor’s decision, but the most important no doubt was the fact that Logie had been injured earlier in the match when a ball struck his helmet and squeaked through the grille,” Fraser wrote.
“Thus, while Logie was a batter of some ability, his ‘relative’ ability needed to be taken into account and that relative ability was, in the umpire’s view, affected by Logie’s experience of helmet ‘failure’.”
After retiring hurt on nine Logie came back with stitches above his eye and blazed an unbeaten 77.
McDermott himself had been hit above the eye by a ball from Courtney Walsh while batting in a warm-up match in Jamaica and taken to hospital. He was at the peak of his powers in the Caribbean, and bowled short during an acrimonious series knowing that he and the rest of Allan Border’s team would be peppered by a West Indies pace line-up that featured Curtly Ambrose, Patrick Patterson, Malcolm Marshall and Walsh.
“I reckon I was about 300 bouncers short of what they bowled at me in the West Indies,” said McDermott on Friday, recalling injuries to a finger, cheekbone and a toe on that tour.
“We just copped it left right and centre … all 11 of us did.”
A hostile McDermott’s determination to fight fire with fire was clearly not well received by the opposition, who knew he was ‘s most dangerous weapon. Having been rattled by the tour match blow he said in his book that he was “sometimes called a f—— white coward” as he reared away towards the leg side while facing up against short stuff.
He also claimed Ambrose had at one point bowled 15 bouncers in a row, by his count, during another leg of the series in Antigua.
He did not have a problem with that and does not have an issue with the approach being taken by the n fast bowlers, who he once mentored, against England’s tail.
“I thing it’s just part of the game,” McDermott said. “All our bowlers can bat, mate. That’s where the problem lies. And our blokes are bowling 140km/h plus and they’re bowling 132km/h.
“I don’t see any problem with it. I find it a bit bizarre that we’re arguing about that now. It’s been part of the game for years.”
McDermott stepped aside as the n team’s bowling coach last year, having played a major role in the emergence of the likes of Starc and Hazlewood as world-class quicks.
“I get a lot of delight out of watching them go well,” he said. “I keep in contact with most of them by text.”