It’s one thing to spin a cricket ball out of the back of your hand at 2500 rpm but quite another to do it when you’re 44-years-old with your tongue poking out of your mouth. Brad Hogg’s longevity at cricket’s elite level is nothing short of astounding. He first stepped on to the pitch for WA in February 1994 as a middle order batsman, morphed into a left-arm wrist spinner and is now a key player for the Perth Scorchers, the back to back champions of the Big Bash League.
““It was a great win in the final against the Sydney Sixers and a big game like that always has ebbs and flows.
A break in concentration by one of their fieldsmen allowed Mitch Marsh to hit it for six but there’s never an easy road to winning big matches.
The limited-over form is highly strategic and my job is to take wickets and minimise the run rate in the middle part of the innings.”
“It’s a bit of a trademark for me now, bowling with the tip of my tongue sticking out but it’s never caused a problem. The only time I’ve bitten it is when I’m eating, and we all know how much that hurts.”
Injury-free secret to longevity
Brad’s career has been remarkably free of injury with only one brush with the surgeon’s scalpel.
“I’ve been very fortunate because I do have a tendency to train too hard and I just can’t seem to help it. Obviously every individual has a different physical make-up but the only surgery I’ve had is a bit of a meniscus scrape on my left knee.”
“Some spinners have finger and wrist problems, in fact there’s a really good up-and-coming youngster named James Muirhead and the ball comes out of his hand at nearly 3000 rpm. He’s had a few problems, unsurprisingly.”
“Dr Sandra Majak and the medical staff at the WACA do a great job of making sure we’re able to perform at a high level on the park.”
Brad also plays for the Rajastan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Cricket on the sub-continent can be pretty demanding, everything from the climate to a challenging curry. But, as Brad points out, sometimes the damage is self-inflicted.
Doc knew just what to do
“There was one incident involving a doctor in India. We had one final T20 game the next day and I wasn’t supposed to be playing so I went out with a couple of the coaching staff. It turned into an interesting evening and suddenly next morning they told me they wanted me in the side! I called the team doctor who put me on a drip for an hour. He’d been out with us the night before so he knew what the problem was.”
“Let’s call it food poisoning, shall we?”
“I’ve been travelling to the Subcontinent for nearly 20 years and you get used to the conditions. Nonetheless, it is quite confronting and I still remember my first trip. As the aeroplane began its descent into Delhi you could smell a distinct change in the air coming through the air-conditioning vents.”
“A couple of the boys who’d been there before said they wished they could turn the aircraft around then and there. It wasn’t a good trip, everyone was stressing out about getting sick and the medical staff were saying don’t eat this and don’t drink that!”
“You do have to be cautious but I’ve learnt to embrace the culture, including the food.”
“The other aspect of the IPL is the team culture. Some teams in other parts of the world tend to focus on big-name players and that can be detrimental to the overall feeling within a side. If the players don’t get along it can be a very long tour.
Too many big egos can lead to infighting within a squad.”
There must be something in the WACA water because State cricket at the top level is going from strength to strength [see Justin Langer, July edition).
“In the past two years the WA participation rate has increased by nearly 50% and the success of the Perth Scorchers is a big part of that due to the entertainment value. And our performance level isn’t down to any one individual because we’ve proved that it’s much more productive to have a healthy culture, particularly in tight games.”
Sport is, in many ways, a metaphor for life with wonderful moments and big disappointments along the way.
“Cricket at the top level is a highly artificial environment and it can camouflage a multitude of insecurities. I’ve seen a lot of former players struggle when their sporting days are over. There’s less stigma associated with depression but, I have to admit, until I saw it up close in a few other people I really didn’t understand it fully.”
“The former Test coach, John Buchanan was one of the best managers of players I’ve ever known. He was very good at sensing when a player had a serious issue that didn’t relate to cricket.”
“When I’ve bowled my last ball I’m hoping to combine media work with mentoring young, talented spinners. It’s always nice to give something back to the game and I’ve been very fortunate to do something I love for so long.”