Brad Hogg's return no joke
Brad Hogg is adamant he will be more than a 40-year-old sideshow in Australia's Twenty20 plans, starting with two matches against India in Sydney and Melbourne.
Having earned his spot in the national Twenty20 side via a startling return to the game in the Big Bash League, Hogg now intends to prove his worth for a second time in international cricket, having carved out a successful ODI career before his retirement in 2008.
While his selection has provoked some debate about the state of Australia's spin stocks, Hogg said he had grown immeasurably in his confidence since turning heads with the Perth Scorchers.
"I'm not here for anything other than helping Australia prepare for a Twenty20 World Cup," Hogg said in Sydney where the Australian Twenty20 team convened. "I've been out of it for three and a half years and to get selected after what's happened with the Perth Scorchers [losing BBL finalists] has been fantastic. I've got a lot of pride in myself and I want to make sure I do what I did three and a half years ago - and that was work hard and do my best out on the field.
"Hopefully I can get two or three more years out of it but we'll just see how it plays out. Am I going to embarrass myself? Those sort of thoughts were going through my mind when I signed up [for the BBL], but once I got over those initial thoughts I thought, 'no stuff it. I've been out of it three and a half years, I'm feeling good, go and give it a go. Life's all about opportunities and this opportunity won't come again.
"Mickey Arthur [then the Scorchers coach] rang me up and he said 'are you interested?' I'd been playing a bit of grade cricket up until then and I sat there and had a look at a few things, I thought am I good enough to play first-class cricket again?
"The first ball I bowled in the BBL wasn't too flash and I thought 'what the hell have I done here', and I got run out in that particular game as well, but after that first ball the nerves went away and I was fine it felt like I hadn't been out of the game really, I just felt like I was home again."
Hogg's place in Australia's plans is geared heavily towards the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September, and he has already been told a place on the Twenty20 leg of the West Indies tour in March is unlikely. A pair of decent displays against India will go close to assuring Hogg of his spot at the global event, while also strengthening his chance of being picked up in this year's IPL auction.
"I've spoken to the selectors, they've got a plan for it," he said. "I've told them my interest is to play a couple of tournaments around the world and to make sure my form is up to it leading into selection for the Twenty20 World Cup. I've been told I probably won't be going to the West Indies because it's probably a waste of resources and I'm getting enough cricket around other competitions.
"I'm hoping to get picked up [in the IPL] because when I made the comeback to the Perth Scorchers I thought stuff it, I'm fit enough to play and I want to make the most of my playing days, I've probably only got two or three more minutes to be able to play cricket, I've been commentating over in India for the last two or three years, and I thought I haven't played IPL, I want to go out and experience it."
The Hogg story is the latest chapter in spin bowling's Twenty20 renaissance, the flurry of slow bowlers encouraged by aggressive batsmen and shrewd captaincy to tempt their opponents into error. Hogg admitted he had held grave fears for the place of spin bowling in Twenty20 when it first began.
"I must admit when Twenty20 cricket came out I thought oh no, that game's not for spinners and all of a sudden it is," he said. "Because you take the pace off the ball and batsmen are trying to hit you out of the park, so you're there as a wicket-taking option but you've also got to have the ability to try and dry up runs when things aren't going well. So spinners do play their part and most teams are playing two frontline spinners and you wouldn't expect that in 50-over cricket four or five years ago, and opening the bowling too."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here