Hogg-ing the spotlight

Rertired in 2008, back in 2012, and how. Here's the story of the man with the most famous tongue in cricket.

Hogg celebrates a wicket in IPL5. In the ongoing IPL where match after match passes by in a blur, this will be one of the standout moments. Against Rajasthan in Jaipur, Chris Gayle — arguably the most dangerous T20 batsman of all — was indisposed and was scheduled to bat at No. 4 instead of his usual opening slot.  

On the field, Rajasthan’s Brad Hogg had been wired to speak to the commentators on air. One told Hogg there was a good chance he would bowl to Gayle in the middle overs. Hogg, 41, said he was up for the challenge. Remember: this was a semi-retired bowler trying to defeat a destructive batsman in his prime. “But how would he plan to get Gayle out?” Hogg was asked.

Hogg said, “I’ll push him back, try to get him LBW or bowled with the wrong ‘un.” With his third ball to Gayle, Hogg had him on the backfoot. The ball turned in. It hit Gayle in front of leg-stump. Asad Rauf gave it out. Hogg ran what may have been the quickest 50 metres anyone has covered while celebrating a wicket (barring, perhaps, Sourav Ganguly after dismissing Kevin Pietersen). It was just another tale in his eye-catching comeback to top-level cricket.


SOMEDAY, WHEN the history of T20 cricket is being summarised, Hogg’s case must get a special mention. It was in 2008 that he retired from all cricket. He cited “a few personal issues” as the reason for his retirement at a time he was considered the best exponent of his art. Left-arm chinaman bowlers are a rare breed in international cricket — as rare as reputed cricketers of Chinese origin — and it had barely been a year since Hogg played a big hand of 21 wickets in helping Australia win the 2007 World Cup.

After the Australian summer of 2008 where he fared poorly against India and Sri Lanka, Hogg retired and played no competitive cricket till late 2009. He then returned to play a Western Australia state T20 league for his club site Willeton. The seriousness of the competition can be gauged from a quip by former WA wicketkeeper Ryan Campbell: “The beauty of training for us now is it's mostly done in the bar and talking about the old times. I haven't had a hit for ages. I'm just thinking to go in fresh and see what happens.”

Still, Hogg Hoog’s performances in the league whetted his competitive appetite enough for him to consider playing two-day cricket in 2011.  Later that year, he was in the spotlight again when he was picked by the Perth Scorchers for the Big Bash League. Hogg took 13 wickets (just two less than the topper, Rana Naved-ul Hasan), but what stood out was his standout economy rate of 5.61, a statistic rarely seen in T20 cricket.


THE HOGG story continued. The Scorchers were coached by Mickey Arthur, now Australia’s coach. It all seemed to fit. Less than a week before his 41st birthday in February, Hogg made his Australia comeback in the T20 series against India. Australia have struggled to zoom in on a spinner who can take wickets and contain batsmen in equal measure, and now Hogg is in line to play the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka later this year.

One of the elements of Hogg’s incredible comeback is, no doubt, his chinaman. Batsmen have struggled to read it, prompting even the great Muttiah Muralitharan to testify this. Sunil Gavaskar said in jest that the key to reading Hogg is checking his tongue that’s perennially hanging out. If it points left, it may be the chinaman, Gavaskar said.

"Am I going to embarrass myself?” was one thought that crossed Hogg’s mind when he signed up for the Big Bash League. So far he’s done just fine. His fans in Jaipur would attest to it.