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May 6, 2009

Samir Chopra

Reviewing Kim Hughes

Samir Chopra



I've just finished reading Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the Bad Old Days of Australian Cricket , Christian Ryan's biography of Kim Hughes and have a few thoughts to offer (to add to Michael Jeh's piece). First off, this is a good read. Ryan writes fluently, and conveys the sheer physicality of cricketing action remarkably well. There are many colorful turns of phrase, and they are all needed when describing a) a cricketer as interesting as Hughes and b) a cricketing culture as hard-boiled as the Aussie one. Ryan's English is unmistakably Australian, with its directness and verve, and he has done well to construct the book as a kind of oral history, based on extensive interviews with many of the participants--players, coaches, journalists--in the Hughes saga.

I've always wondered whether my unbridled admiration of Hughes's dazzling, fleet-footed strokeplay was an aberration and I'm glad to find out that other kids (including some that went on to become Test cricketers) thought just as highly of his dancing down the pitch, his cover driving on bended knee, and his luscious pulling and hooking of the world's best fast bowlers. It's a pleasure to read about the three Test innings played by Hughes that have entered cricketing lore as all-time classics: the 213 at Adelaide vs India in the 1980-81 series, the 100* at Melbourne against the West Indies during the 1981-82 series, and the 84 against England during the 1980 Centenary Test at Lords. If you like extravagant strokeplay, you should buy the book just for the photographs of Hughes batting in the Centenary Test. There is one photograph in particular, that will leave you breathless, and wondering "How the hell does someone play that?" (If you are curious, go to Patrick Eagar's website, search for Kim Hughes, and browse; you'll know when you hit it).

When it comes to describing the bad old days of Australian cricket, the Chappell-Lillee-Marsh saga of relentless conspiracy and non-cooperation is depressing but in the end, it is just one component of a larger dysfunctionality in Aussie cricket at the time. Ryans most salutary contribution to Australian cricket writing is debunk some persistent Aussie myths about the cricketing scene (besides mateship). No one who reads this book will ever again believe that when it comes to sledging, what happens on the ground stays on the ground, and that folks just shake hands after a game and make up (at the least, such feelings about on-ground conflicts don't seem to be universally held amongst Australians). At times, in Ryan's telling, Australian cricket seemed to have as much factionalism as Indian cricket, and that's saying something. But it is no surprise to find out just how badly cricketers were treated by administrators. At times, one marvels at the sheer feudalism of crickets managers.

As I wrote to Christian earlier today, there is an interesting book waiting to be written about the relentless image construction of Australian cricketing lore and history, as conducted by CA/ACB/PBL/NineMSN et al over the last 20-25 years. The souvenirs hawked on Channel 9 are just one part of it. Christian has already contributed to this process with his revelatory article on the singing of Under the Southern Cross and it's place in dressing-room post-match rituals. Next in line should be a piece on the mythology of the baggy green, which Ryan alludes to in the book, which Ian Chappell has already sought to dispel, and which might, in many ways, be by far the hardest to do.

Kim Hughes was not a simple man; he had many personal and cricketing faults. But in full flight, he was a sight to behold, and brought pleasure to many cricket spectators, including a young Indian schoolboy in India in 1979, who intends to write a blog post describing that obsession in the next couple of days. Ryan has written a book as only a fan of Hughes the batsman could, as one who struggles to understand why the glory of a an epic innings is not consonant with the considerably less glamorous facts of the politics of cricket. I'm glad he has written this book; I hope he has others in store.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by Graham Thomas on (June 20, 2010, 0:21 GMT)

I have read the book , and it endorsed my thoughts , feelings and admiration of Kim Hughes . Like most gifted people , and us mere mortals, Kim had his flaws . But , he was a great cricketer and we will never know how great he may have become had Iron Gloves Marsh and his betting partner D K Lillie had good intentions to assist him as opposed to their selfish actions of trying to belittle him all through his Captaincy of both the WACA state team and Australia's Test side . Kim is a man to respect and applaud for the attitude he displayed when never yielding to blame someone else for team errors or losses . Marsh and Lillie were great cricketers in their own right , but Kim had a kindness that those two never had . Nowadays his commentary on the game is enlightening and a pleasure to hear .

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Posted by Michael Fahey on (March 5, 2010, 5:31 GMT)

I agree Golden Boy a wonderful read, long oveerdue a critical look at this era and as mentioned quite sad. To answer a question posed by Samir the 'Mythology of the Baggy Green' was recently exlored. Mike Coawrd (Journalist with The Australia) and myself have exlored the History of the Cap, but more importantly we have explosed the various feeeling towards the cap held by 50 former and current test players. The responses are many and varied. For more information see www.thebaggygreen.com.au

Posted by Vic Nicholas on (September 26, 2009, 11:44 GMT)

A breath taking batsman who would play innings of rare artistry. In Australia we long suspected that Hughes was undermined by Lillee and Marsh...but after reading this book, I was saddened to find that it was much worse than anyone could have imagined. I feel greater respect Kim Hughes and I have taken other leading lights of Australian off the pedestal they once occupied. Sad, sad times.

Posted by Chris de Silva on (June 4, 2009, 21:11 GMT)

Ever since I first met Kim Hughes as a boy I have been a fan. He had time for every one and boy could he bat. Even to this day I have arguments with people about his talent and sometimes you do wonder if you imagined his genius with the bat. It is nice to see others share my admiration for his skill. I think Kim was born 25 to 30 years to early. He would be sensational in todays game. No detractors saying he was to attacking and brash and he should bat slower. I think he made a mistake pursuing the captaincy but what young man would refuse the opportunity to lead his country. I have ordered Christian Ryans book and can't wait to read it. This is a long awaited publication and it is a shame Kim did not tell his own story.

Posted by Javed Munir Dar on (May 20, 2009, 9:13 GMT)

I have the honour to see the batting of Hughes, he was really a dashing and stylist batsman, i know people like Benaud, Chappell, Lillee & Marsh never supported him which is a shame because such things never suits to such great people, they should have shown mignanimaty as per their stature,

Posted by shayne forster on (May 18, 2009, 3:09 GMT)

No doubt about Kim Hughes ability to play.He was fearless but unfortunatley did not get the credit he deserved.Imagine having to put up with the antics of Lillee and Marsh both of whom where from his home state and gave little or no support for his leadership.He was much muligned but he let the bat do his talking. I remember when he resigned in tears after the West Indies series it was a shame.He had a lot more to offer world cricket.

Posted by Kim Van Wyk on (May 17, 2009, 3:36 GMT)

Kim Hughes is a legend such a ledgend that my dad named me after him. i read the golden boy article and really enjoyed it, Kim was a great player with alot of heart and for him it was only about the game and the skill!! The world needs more players with that type of heart!!!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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