ICC World Twenty20 2012 September 13, 2012

Hogg comfortable in second coming

Brad Hogg, Australia's veteran spinner, looks at his career record of two World Cups and one Champions Trophy win and states quite simply that he would love to complete the set at the World Twenty20

Brad Hogg, the unlikely elder statesman of World Twenty20, remembers how he reacted when an Australian selector raised the prospect of him returning to international cricket when his 41st birthday was already spent: he went home and got out his bike.

"It was during the Perth Test against India in January," Hogg said. "One of the selectors came up and asked me if I was interested in playing for Australia again. I definitely wasn't going to knock that back. I went straight back home that night after the Test match and went for a bike ride. I wanted to make sure I was in peak condition.

"I went down by the Swan River; it's beautiful down there. I felt strong, going into the city with the wind behind me, and then I realised how strong the wind was when I was going back."

No matter that he slowed a bit. He will have reminded himself that he was still very much alive simply by feeling the wind aginst his face.

Considering that this is the month when Australia's T20 ranking officially fell - albeit briefly - below that of Ireland, Hogg is a good man to have around. Others can agonise about whether the rating is deserved or whether Australia has still not much of an affinity for the short form. Hogg simply looks at his career record of two World Cups and one Champions Trophy win and states quite simply that he would love to complete the set.

Life has been unpredictable since he announced his retirement from Australian cricket four years ago. He has a new fiancée, Cheryl Bresland, who doubles up as his manager and who encouraged him to give cricket another shot if retirement was a pain he could do without, and so it is that World Twenty20 - the format that was once assumed to be harsh on both age and spin bowling - has a 41-year-old Chinaman bowler vying for attention.

Hogg alluded to changes in his professional and personal life when he said: "There are a few things that have happened over past few years I didn't expect to happen. There are a lot of surprises in life. Work hard, stick at it and take the opportunities when they come."

Sri Lanka has good memories for Hogg. He made his Australia debut here, against Zimbabwe in August 1996 at the R Premadasa Stadium. That Australian team is long retired, all bar Hogg and Ricky Ponting who is still bent upon extending his Test career.

Michael Slater and Ian Healy took up commentating, his first victim, Ali Shah, also had a stint in the commentary box, but the career move was not successful for Hogg who tried it when Australia toured India in 2010 and revealed an excitable, shouty, occasionally hard-to-fathom style.

As a cricketer, though, there are few smarter. Few play T20 with more nous than Hogg, whose subtle changes of approach are likely to be challenging whatever pitches Sri Lanka delivers. If there is no turn, he will hope instead for a two-paced surface to add more unpredictability. "There is no doubt that Brad is going to play a huge role," his team-mate, Shane Watson, said. "As a high-quality bowler, he can bowl on any surface with the deception that he has got."

Even after all this time they say that many players still cannot unravel Hogg's googly. "I think the Australian guys are still trying to work me out on a personal level as well," Hogg said. He delights in playing for Australia and sees no need to try to be sophisticated about its pleasures. To be presented with an unexpected opportunity has turned the dial up to maximum.

Australia's T20 tournament - the Big Bash League - is not helped by the fact that it clashes with the international season, but the selectors took it seriously enough and, perhaps, the absence of the established stars worked to Hogg's advantage.

His form was a revelation after the Perth Scorchers came looking. Rajasthan Royals also called him up for the IPL. He takes pride in his fitness levels and as he chatted about his return on a typically sultry day in Colombo he cheerfully invited one journalist of more tender years, who had wondered if he was struggling to keep up these days, to look to his own waistline and join him for a gym session.

Injuries have, so far, stayed away. "Everything is still working fine," he said. "I still think I'm fairly quick around the field when I'm fielding, but I look at some footage and I start to realise that I am a little bit slower than I think.

"Some of my team-mates are probably old enough to be my sons. But it's just a normal changing room. It only took two minutes on the team bus for me to feel part of it again. Nothing had changed. They were still taking the mickey out of me.

"The music is a little bit better than the last couple of years I was playing. They have a good concoction, I might get my iPod out and put a bit of Blues on and see how we go."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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