December 8, 2012

Australia

Why Australia turn to Hughes again

Andrew Hughes
Phillip Hughes ducks a short one, Australia v New Zealand, second Test, Hobart, 3rd day, December 11 2011
Phillip Hughes: treats the ball like it was the head of Medusa  © AFP
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Only three men with the noble surname of Hughes have ever played Test cricket, and all of them have been Australian. You might ask why the Hughes name is so popular in a former penal colony, but we Hugheses are a much misunderstood and sometimes wrongly convicted people.

The shelves of the talent supermarket are full of regular options: vanilla flavoured Clarkes, low-fat Lyons, diet-Watsons. But the Australian selectors, unlike their English equivalents, know that if they reach into the cabinet marked Hughes, they're going to pull out something a bit special.

Kim Hughes was a jealousy magnet, an artist with a full palette of shots, and some of the crinkliest hair ever seen on a cricket field. Mervyn Hughes was a zoological curiosity, combining the moustache of an Edwardian walrus, the midriff of a hippopotamus, and the attitude of a cranky baboon who has just woken up to find the galah from across the river has moved his favourite banana.

So it's no surprise that Inverarity and chums, in an effort to enliven the snoozeworthy chore of finding another batsman, have returned to scratch the Hughes itch and given Philip another bash, or more accurately, another slash, at Test cricket.

This is the third coming of Phil, and though by now we have all realised that he isn't the cricket messiah, some Australians retain a touching faith in his career resurrection, clutching at Sheffield Shield scores as though they were holy prophecies. I'm sure his 158 against Victoria was a splendid bit of batsmanship, and is roughly 158 more runs than I could score against Victoria, but does it really prove he's ready for another international adventure? The fact that he was hidden from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel as though he was the future of the human race and they were time-travelling Terminators in disguise*, suggests not.

And just to make things easier for Phil, he's only replacing a legend. For many years, opponents found the Australian batting order to be a series of unpleasant surprises, a kind of advent calendar for masochists. Get rid of Hayden, open the little pavilion door and who's next? Oh it's Ricky. Ponting, it was always wee Ponting, trudging glumly out to the wicket to turn defence into attack more effectively than a Tiger tank arriving at the siege of Troy.

He didn't always turn defence into attack. Sometimes his job was to turn attack into massacre or massacre into utter annihilation, but he was pretty good at that too. He may be the last of the hairy, gnarly, grumpy, leathery Australians who made Englishmen feel slightly inadequate because we couldn't survive for three weeks in the bush living off spiders and creek water and they probably could. One look from Ricky seemed to say it all:

"No mate, I don't moisturise."

* Although to be honest, in Morne's case, the disguise is not all that convincing.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Alexander Fleming on (February 11, 2013, 2:29 GMT)

"Clutching at Sheffield Shield scores as though they were holy prophecies. I’m sure his 158 against Victoria was a splendid bit of batsmanship, and is roughly 158 more runs than I could score against Victoria, but does it really prove he’s ready for another international adventure? The fact that he was hidden from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel as though he was the future of the human race and they were time-travelling Terminators in disguise suggests not."

Great piece of writing Hughes. Sums up the Hughes dichotomy Aus fans have wrestled with: on the one hand we want to see Phil late-cut, upper cut and generally blast everything through point and behind square to make a ton, but after those embarrassingly funny b Martin c Guptill days and since this article was published Phil has proven his shoulders can indeed move through the other 240 degrees where it previously seemed to either cause him great pain or was he simply unable to. It's good to see leg-side singles and cover drives now.

Posted by Going South on (December 12, 2012, 15:08 GMT)

Andrew, you are the real terminator. All those folks with last name Hughes all around the world are now hiding from you. ;)

Posted by Shankar on (December 12, 2012, 11:08 GMT)

Good article, from the one Hughes who WILL be at the Ashes for sure :). Am still trying to understand Inverarity's reasoning that Hughes wasnt good enough for SA but is good enough for SL. Extending that rationale, will batsman be soon considered good enough to bat at one end, or against certain bowlers? (Steyn, sure, says KP, but hides against Yuvraj?). Wot next?

Posted by MR on (December 9, 2012, 4:57 GMT)

Good article :) sarcastic :) loved the last part on Ricky,

For many years, opponents found the Australian batting order to be a series of unpleasant surprises, a kind of advent calendar for masochists. Get rid of Hayden, open the little pavilion door and who’s next? Oh it’s Ricky. Ponting, it was always wee Ponting, trudging glumly out to the wicket to turn defence into attack more effectively than a Tiger tank arriving at the siege of Troy.

He didn’t always turn defence into attack. Sometimes his job was to turn attack into massacre or massacre into utter annihilation, but he was pretty good at that too. He may be the last of the hairy, gnarly, grumpy, leathery Australians who made Englishmen feel slightly inadequate because we couldn’t survive for three weeks in the bush living off spiders and creek water and they probably could. One look from Ricky seemed to say it all:

“No mate, I don’t moisturise.”

And I am an Indian who loved his attitude and the way he batted :)

Posted by Anonymous on (December 9, 2012, 4:28 GMT)

let us hope this time he is back for good.

Posted by Rob Cotty on (December 9, 2012, 1:13 GMT)

Good humorous article!

Posted by alaithiran on (December 9, 2012, 0:57 GMT)

I'm interested in knowing which river has baboons on one side and galahs on the other. Note: the Indian Ocean is not a river...

Posted by Jeff on (December 8, 2012, 22:26 GMT)

"This is the third coming of Phil, and though by now we have all realised that he isn’t the cricket messiah..." Let's not forget about Matty Hayden's career. He suffered similar barbs from commentators and spectators alike. But the purists knew the truth. I think the same will apply to Hughes. (That said, I'd love to see more articles from Hughesy - the one with the pen, not the one with the bat; though they both use their blades quite well - and that's not a Freudian metaphor either.)

Posted by Owais Khan on (December 8, 2012, 20:41 GMT)

Word: “No mate, I don’t moisturise.”

Posted by shotorupa on (December 8, 2012, 19:59 GMT)

CA's handling of Hayden....Ponting. Add Simon Katich to that...

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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