When will Australia’s greatest ever fast
bowler learn that sportspeople do their best talking on the field with the ball
in their hand, not in front of a microphone or TV camera?

McGrath’s old team-mate Steve Waugh knows
better than anyone that reputation counts for nothing when your performances
over a period don’t stack up. It’s OK for Michael Clarke to have a bad run –
he’s got ten years of international cricket ahead of him. It’s less OK when
you’re well into your thirties and your next axing from the team means the end
of your international career. Ask Jason Gillespie.

Nobody could blame McGrath for fighting
back. He has had to withstand a barrage of comments from former greats about
his impending demise, the latest from Terry Alderman,
who suggested McGrath will struggle playing all five Ashes tests in the next
series.

Like a belligerent old champion, McGrath is
rising to every challenge. And that’s the problem. Alderman is not the enemy,
opposition batsmen are. Fighting the likes of Alderman, Rodney Hogg and Jeff
Thomson, McGrath is making himself a bigger target. If he continues along that
path, the only winners will be the newspapers, the TV news, and the fringe commentators
who are in search of some free publicity.

McGrath can keep arguing the point in the
press because the press will give him all the time he wants: he’s a star and
indignant stars make good copy. The only way he’s going to make these questions
go away is by getting more batsmen out. The louder he yells “I’ve still got
it,” the more obvious his lack of wickets becomes.

What’s surprising about McGrath’s response
is that he should know better. He’s coped reasonably well with the media over
his career and watched as colleagues, as recently as this season, have been
criticised over performances and questioned about their futures. The stridency
of his responses leads this writer to ask, who is he trying convince with his
grumpy protestations: us or himself?