Twenty20 vision: Brad Hodge, 39, cricketer
Holder of a raft of records in domestic cricket, Victorian batsman Brad Hodge appeared in just six international Test matches before being told he would not be selected again. Now reborn as a Twenty20 specialist, he is playing for Australia in the World Twenty20 tournament in Bangladesh.
RC You tweeted: “It took Jesus 3 days to rise after death ... Took me six years.” Does that make this tour a miracle?
Brad Hodge I thought that I’d never represent my country again and it’s probably taken a miracle for that to happen. It’s just a lighthearted comment to show that it’s a good time to be back, and miracles can happen if you believe and keep trying.
RC Even you can’t have imagined that if you did come back, you’d be opening the bowling for Australia.
BH It wasn’t on my script, I must say. Coach Darren Lehmann told me I was going to play at the MCG and then said, “The other thing is, you’re going to open the bowling.” I said to him, “Look, it’s great news that I’m playing, Daz. You’ve done a lot of really good things over the last six months in the Australian cricket side, but that could come crashing down if I open the bowling for Australia.” To be honest, I actually got a lot more nervous about the bowling aspect of the game than batting.
BH Yeah, absolutely. The one thing I’m confident about is my skills at batting, and being able to know exactly what I need to do when I bat. But bowling … It’s one of the aspects of my game that I haven’t concentrated on for a while, so I had to sharpen my skills pretty quickly.
RC Your career’s always talked about as being unfairly abbreviated. You’ve taken different approaches to dealing with it. One of them has been humour.
BH Well, you can’t change what’s in front of you, so for me it went in stages. You go through a denial period, you can go through a period where you’re upset, and then after that you laugh it off and have some fun with it. That’s the path that’s been given to you, that’s the path you’ve got to take. You can’t just walk into Cricket Australia and say, “Hang on, I think you got this one wrong.”
RC You enjoyed Twenty20 from early on.
BH It’s one of the things that we’ve talked about before – not all batsmen have mastered all three formats. It’s very hard to play Test match cricket, and one-day cricket and Twenty20s, and probably the only person who’s done it successfully around the world is A.B. de Villiers.
RC You share another very rare ability with A.B. de Villiers – you can both hit good balls for boundaries. What’s the secret?
BH I don’t know; I think it’s just pretty much skill. I think ever since I was a young kid my skill of hitting the cricket ball was a natural one to me. Rahul Dravid, when I was at Rajasthan Royals, moved me from a middle-order or a top-order player to number five or six. His theory was that in India, captains use their best bowlers to bowl the last two overs. He said, “Your ability to hit these bowlers is unique.” I think that’s just a talent that luckily hasn’t disappeared yet, and I guess that’s why I’m sitting here, because the management and the team know that that’s the skill that I possess.
RC Twenty20 is a game where older players seem to thrive, and not just because it’s easier on the body.
BH A young kid plays on instinct, and not a lot of digestion goes into the thought process of how they’re going to do it or why they’re going to do it. So as an older statesman you can work your way through it, you can mathematically dissect what you have to do. If you can calculate quite well while the game’s still going on, that’s the trick.
RC Speaking of older players, it must feel good to have Brad Hogg in the team. You’re a spring chicken next to him.
BH I tell you what, I’m very relieved that he got picked because it means that I’m not the oldest in the side. It gives me hope that I can enjoy my cricket and keep playing longer, that he’s still going there.
RC Does he get a hard time?
BH No, not at all. I think there’s a huge level of respect for what myself and Hoggie bring to the table. I don’t think it’s a mistake – well it’s not a mistake why we’re here – our records suggest why, our performances suggest why.
RC When people decide to retire it’s often because their enthusiasm for the game starts to wane.
BH I never really stopped enjoying cricket. I’ve always loved cricket and it’s been a huge part of my life and I think it’s going to continue that way for a long time – the one thing you do find difficult is just the mental challenge of it if things are not going your way. But that doesn’t mean you’re not still loving and enjoying cricket. I love batting and I love the challenges of batting. Even in the nets this morning, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Coulter-Nile had conditions in their favour and here I am slogging it out with them, the challenge of bat versus ball.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 22, 2014 as "Twenty20 vision". Subscribe here.