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Peter English and Brydon Coverdale
February 27, 2008
Brad Hogg has joined the retirement epidemic sweeping Australia's mid-30s players and will step down less than a year after many rated him the world's most effective limited-overs spinner. In a climate where internationals are dropping like slips catches in the national cordon, Hogg has decided to exit at the age of 37.
The timing is surprising as Australia's spin stocks are currently severely depleted and Stuart MacGill, who was expected to be the No. 1 following Shane Warne's retirement, is still not playing for New South Wales after wrist surgery. Despite Hogg's below-par performance in three Tests against India, he was expected to be a contender for the tours of Pakistan, which is scheduled for late next month, and the West Indies.
When asked if he had been offered a place in the Indian Cricket League, Hogg said it was not something he had considered, although personal issues had played a part in his decision. "I haven't even thought about that," Hogg said. "I'm out of here for a couple of months. I've got things that I want to sort out at home and get my new chapter in my life organised and on the go.
"It's an exciting time and a sad time. There are just a few personal issues that are probably the main reason for this decision. I'm going to take a good couple of months off, really decide what I want to do. I've got a number of things on the go at the moment - I won't go into that."
Dan Cullen, the South Australia offspinner, and Bryce McGain, a legspinner from Victoria, have taken another step up the pecking order with Hogg's departure and the relatively unknown pair could both play a part in Pakistan if the trip goes ahead and MacGill is unfit. The slow-bowling options have not been this thin since Warne was catapulted into the team in the early 1990s.
Australia will miss Hogg's frugal mid-innings overs in the one-dayers, but his removal from the Test scene offers the selectors a chance to gamble on fast-tracking another player with potential. His powers in the limited-overs arena have not waned noticeably - his eight games in Australia this season earned 10 wickets at 26.30, slightly below his career mark - but he has started to look his age in the field and will depart after the CB Series finals, which start in Sydney on Sunday.
He will have a maximum of three matches to add to his 121 games and 154 victims that make him the sixth-most successful Australian bowler. A man without the power of his batting team-mates or dazzling turn of his legspinning partners, Hogg did well to hang on for so long.
In the lead-up to the 2007 World Cup he was used sparingly and went five games without a wicket before springing to life in the Caribbean like the Energizer bunny he was often compared with. For much of the tournament he was unplayable as batsmen guessed - usually incorrectly - at his wrong'un and he stormed to 21 wickets at 15.80. Of the slow bowlers only Muttiah Muralitharan could claim more impact at the tournament, but Hogg gained greater notice because of the potency of his seemingly unpickable googly.
It was an incredible performance and he deserved as much credit for Australia's success as any of the squad's big names. Not many people have been part of two World Cup triumphs, the first coming when he stepped in for Warne after his pre-tournament drugs ban in 2003. After the second success he considered stepping down, but with Warne gone he wanted to have a final go in Tests and decided to stay for another summer.
"My career started against India and I thought, well, if I can play Test cricket against India that would be fantastic," he said. "I've had a real bloody good run at it and I'm really happy with what I've achieved. I'm going out on a high with my team-mates in my home country."
Hogg said his career highlights included being part of Australia's record-equalling 16 consecutive Test wins, playing in two World Cups where the team was undefeated, and "playing alongside legends" such as Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting. His ultimate high, however, was being seen as Warne's peer.
"If someone could have ripped Shane Warne's right arm off I might have had more of a crack," Hogg said. "When I did play in '96 I said I'd never make it unless I played with Warney in an international match. I think it was 2003 we played two games together and I think that's probably the highlight of my career as a spinner, I actually deserved that spot getting in there with Warney."
He was not particularly comfortable in front of large off-field crowds and was happier bobbing around the field or bouncing in to bowl with his tongue hanging out. Nobody looked happier to be playing and when he was picked in the squad for his first Boxing Day Test last December he fulfilled a childhood dream.
Hogg's Test debut came in India in 1996 and he had to wait seven years and 78 games for a second chance. Three matches came in 2003 before another long break until his final recall against India, but he was unable to qualify as a slow bowler of international quality in the format.
Eight wickets arrived at the average of 60.12 this season and the numbers would have been much worse if he had not had a hex over Sourav Ganguly, who he removed four times. Hogg's biggest failing was his inability to trouble the batsmen on the fifth day and his best result of the series was an essential 79 to save Australia's first innings in Sydney. He finished with 17 wickets in a career of seven Tests.
Hogg has a couple of children and another on the way and has been preparing for his future by studying for a business degree in Western Australia. He joins Adam Gilchrist, Michael Kasprowicz, Matthew Elliott and Jimmy Maher in announcing their retirements over the past four weeks - although Hogg is undecided whether to play on for Western Australia - while Jason Gillespie is expected to join the parade on Friday.
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