Bradley John Hodge
December 29, 1974, Sandringham, Victoria
Right hand Bat
Right arm Offbreak
Top order Batter
Brad Hodge will go down as one of the unluckiest nearly-men in Australian cricket. When he was dropped with an average of 58.42 only five matches into his Test career in 2005-06, he vowed to win back his place. He added only one Test, as a fill-in during a tour of the West Indies two years later, before his tally was permanently stalled at six matches in the baggy green. It was not an adequate reward for one of the most prolific run scorers in the modern era of Australia's domestic game.
By the time the 2009-10 season arrived, Hodge's heart was no longer in first-class cricket. He began the summer with 195 against South Australia but had an epiphany when he had reached his century, stumps was near and he launched the new ball over the bowler's head for six. Hodge said it signified he no longer had the drive to play the longer format and he soon retired, although he announced he would stay on in Victoria's limited-overs teams for another two seasons. And why not? He comfortably topped the FR Cup tally in 2009-10 with 622 runs at 69.11, including four centuries, and remained one of the world's best Twenty20 batsmen.
In 2006-07 he had forced his way into the ODI side when Ricky Ponting rested, and a 97 and 99 not out won him a place in the World Cup squad. In the Caribbean, he finally reached three figures with 123 off 89 balls against the Netherlands, but it was his last bat in the tournament and he watched the final from the dressing room. It had become an all-too familiar viewing platform. Hodge was Australia's unluckiest casualty of the 2005-06 season of batting change. Picked for his first Test in November after being the reserve on tours to India, New Zealand and England, he opened with a fluent 60 and by the end of the home summer had 409 runs at an envious average.
Still it wasn't enough to earn a spot on the South Africa trip as the selectors returned to Damien Martyn and Michael Clarke. Included in his five outings was an unbeaten 203 against South Africa in Perth, where he joined his boyhood idol Dean Jones as one of five Australians to make their maiden century a double. Two Tests later, Hodge, a tiny right-hander who is more quiet and laid back than Jones, was dropped amid whispers of a technical flaw against fast bowling, a short drought in the Pura Cup and a selection "judgment call". He picked himself up with a century in the domestic final loss to Queensland but remained on the fringes of the national side, making occasional one-day and Twenty20 appearances. He held on to his Cricket Australia contract until 2009-10, but was never viewed by the selectors as anything but a back-up plan.
A regular and consistent performer for his state and counties, Hodge's Victorian debut came in 1993-94 as an 18-year-old and he almost compiled 1000 runs in the season as he settled quickly at No. 4. The following years were more difficult, but he returned from the dips as a more complete player, carrying a classical technique and the ability to direct shots to all parts of the ground. Around consistently impressive one-day returns, Hodge passed the 1000 barrier in the 2000-01 first-class summer when he was a key player in the Bushrangers' march to a second successive Pura Cup final. More of the same output was revealed in 2001-02, when he shared the domestic Player-of-the-Season award with Queensland's Jimmy Maher, and his consistency pushed him towards international honours.
After a brief spell with Durham in 2002, Hodge spent two productive summers at Leicestershire, leading them to a domestic one-day trophy in 2004 and making the county's highest individual score of 302 not out against Nottinghamshire the season before, but moved to Lancashire in 2005. Rewarded with his first Cricket Australia contract in 2004, he was picked for the India tour and considered for the opening Test, but narrowly missed a place taken spectacularly by Clarke.
Cricinfo staff August 2010
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