An aggressive leg spinner who could turn the ball extravagantly both ways, Stuart Charles Glyndwr MacGill was a genuine wicket-taker whose only drawback was to be playing in the same era as the legendary Shane Warne. What Rangana Herath was to Sri Lanka, Stuart MacGill was to Australia, backup to one of the most prolific spinner in the world. The difference is that Herath had some years left in him after retirement of Muralitharan, and MacGill retired with Warne due to his injuries issues.
MacGill made his debut for Australia at the age of 27 in 1998. For most of his career, MacGill played as a second fiddle to Shane Warne whose dominance needs no introduction. As a result, MacGill could only manage to play 44 test matches and 3 ODIs for Australia in a career spanning for over 10 years. However, he managed to take 208 wickets (Warne has exactly 500 more) in those matches with a brilliant average of 29.
From his Test debut in January 1998, MacGill actually had a superior record in home Tests to Warne – MacGill took 135 wickets at 27.68 against Warne’s 30.42. While this is partly down to the fact that MacGill was regularly called upon on surfaces that offered more help than usual for spinners.
Is it true that Stuart MacGill has outbowled Shane Warne in the matches they have played together? Well the Anwer is yes, although there isn’t an awful lot in it. The two legspinners have played together in 16 Tests – five of them at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), which coincidentally is MacGill’s middle name initials and MacGill has taken 82 wickets at 22.11 in those matches. Shane Warne has taken 74 wickets at 29.57 in the same games. MacGill shades Warne on strike rate, too – a wicket every 41.7 balls in those matches, while Warne struck once every 56.6 balls. MacGill’s best bowling is 8 for 108 against Bangladesh at Fatullah in 2005-06, while Warne’s best return when MacGill has been on the same side is 6 for 80 against West Indies at Adelaide, also in 2005-06. In 2003, when Shane Warne was suspended for an year for doping, Stuart MacGill was made the first choice spinner and he bagged 53 wickets in that year. In terms of deliveries bowled, MacGill is the quickest spinner to reach 150 test wickets. He took is 8312 deliveries to reach this feat. He is also a first-class cricket legend with 774 wickets to his name.
If you go by overall stats, Shane Warne is obviously a class apart from any leg-spinner and for a long time dominated over the opposition batting with his mixed bag of variations. However, MacGill’s average and strike rate in addition to the economy rate was almost similar to Warne’s. Unfortunately for MacGill, his position in the team was always in jeopardy ever since Warne was introduced into the national team. MacGill as seen through his 18 matches was always an attacking bowlers and always bowled a nagging line and length and in my opinion had a better wrong’un when compared to Warne’s. Having said that, Warne has tremendous experience under his belt and I feel the number of chances he got over MacGill made him one of the world’s greatest leg-spinners of all time.
MacGill retired from international cricket in 2008. However, he returned to cricket in 2011 at the age of 40 in the inaugural season of the Big Bash League. MacGill was also known for his passion for reading and wine. He owned a degree in viticulture, and once read 17 novels during a tour of Pakistan.
It has to be said for MacGill that he is one of the most underrated and unlucky cricket players of his generation and if he had been born in another era, or perhaps played for another team, he was destined for a legendary status.