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41-year-oldBrad Hogg came out of retirement to play the shortest format of cricket. He was keen to play the IPL, and is glad to be a part of the Rajasthan Royals. The all-rounder started his journey back to cricket from the commentary box by first playing for the Perth Scorchers. This led to a call-up to the Australian team and then to the IPL.
He has been bowling consistently well in IPL 2012 so far. And although the Royals lost at home for the first time this season against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Hogg contributed by taking wickets of the dangerous Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal. Glad to be back on the field, the veteran cricketer reflected on today’s loss to RCB. He also talked about regrouping and making a comeback in a chat with iplt20.com.
Did RR have the confidence of chasing down 190-odd runs after having done it before?
We did have the confidence of chasing the total. I think when we look back on the game, we are very disappointed with our last five overs with the ball; myself included. It wasn’t of a professional nature. We are going to go back to the drawing board and have a look at that. At the end of the day, the five overs cost us.
Is the RR batting depending too much on Ajinkya Rahane and Owais Shah?
We have got a good top order. We have got Brad Hodge as well; [and Rahul] Dravid. So the top order has done extremely well over last seven games. If they are in-form, we can go with an extra all-rounder. As a bowling group, we didn’t do well [today], and we fielded poorly. [...]
RR was in control till about the 12th over of the RCB innings and then Ab de Villiers took the game the game away from you.
It was a fantastic innings [by de Villiers]. We fielded poorly, and when he came to the crease, we had a misfield off his first shot, which went [for] three and another misfield went for another three runs in space of four or five balls . You can’t do that with quality players. You have got to make sure you put the pressure on them. [...]
What about your performance in the match?
I have had a good run. Although I got two wickets today and getting Chris Gayle was special, at the end of the day, I would have preferred having none for 24 rather than two for 39. After opting to field first, up to what total did you want to restrict RCB?
We feel 160 was gettable on that wicket. The way we were batting, [even] 190 was gettable. But we put ourselves under a bit of pressure and [with the] big outfield here [it was difficult]. There spinners bowled extremely well; they slowed it [the run-rate] down [...]. We weren’t good enough tonight. We just have to move on and go to the drawing board and make sure that we get our plans right [in the next game]. The good thing about our team is we want to make sure we have got the right eleven players out there [...]. Whenever we sit and decide our team, we make sure that there are key senior players that are making that decision. So last few games, we probably got it wrong but that’s the way it goes.
You wanted to play in the IPL. Now that you are playing in it, how has it been for you?
It’s been fantastic. I have really enjoyed my time with the Rajasthan Royals. I am glad I got picked up by them. I have got a really good young group, and to be actually in the thick of the action rather than being in the commentary box, it is fantastic. It’s a different perspective of it and I am thoroughly enjoying it. We have got fantastic owners [...]. They have got a lot of support for us. And at the end of the day, it is disappointing that we haven’t won on our home turf. And that’s one thing that the Rajasthan Royals have been pretty strong with over the last five years, [that] is winning on their own turf. So we have got to make it right here at some stage.
What is it like to play cricket again?
I have been out for about three-and-half years actually. [When] I got the opportunity to go back and play Twenty20 cricket for my home state Perth, and I wasn’t going to knock that back. I am just glad that I have had a good run so far. And tonight was a little bit disappointing. [It was the] two balls [that] have cost me [heavily]; a no ball and wide, both went for [runs]. Two balls went for ten, which probably cost the team as well. [...] Other than that you have got to look at the positives. In the IPL, I have been bowling well and when you look back at it, the two balls have cost me tonight, [but] you sort of [have to] get on with that.
How does it feel when the crowd here is yelling “Hoggie, Hoggie”?
The Indian crowd has been fantastic, and if it wasn’t for the crowd we wouldn’t have a great spectacle and it would be quite boring for the players in the middle. And that’s one thing that the players are going to look out to when they are playing and performing out in the middle. It is not just about runs and wickets; it is also about entertaining the fans out there. So if you had bad day, you make sure you are still enjoying the fans because tomorrow is a different day and it will be your day tomorrow. [...]
Are you are enjoying being on the field more than being off it?
Yes, the atmosphere is one of those things. Being away from the game for three-and-half years and coming back you realise how special it is. And for all those players that are playing now, we do play seriously on the field. But you got to make sure you cherish and enjoy every moment, because once it is gone, those three-and-half-years [the time when you are not playing] are pretty ordinary. I wake up in the middle of the night still dreaming about the crowd here in the IPL, the cheering, the atmosphere and what not. I must have had nightmares where I woke up and thought I wish I was still playing; and it is great that am back here [on the field].
He may not have the raw pace of Dale Steyn or the ability to extract bounce like Morne Morkel, but Zaheer Khan has trapped batsmen across the world with his ability to decode a situation. The left-arm paceman has mastered the art of controlling the ball and extracting swing with years of hard work and application.
Whether as India’s lead bowler or bowling spearhead of his IPL team, Zaheer Khan has been instrumental in grooming youngsters and shaping victories. An important cog in the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s bowling line-up, the formidable bowler spoke to iplt20.com about bowling in the T20 format and how teams have evolved over IPL’s five seasons.
RCB has one of the stronger bowling line-ups with Daniel Vettori, Dirk Nannes, M Muralitharan and you in the team. How do you all complement each other?
Depending on the wicket, we play the required combination. As far as bowling is concerned, in this format of the game it is very important to pick wickets at any stage. In T20, the way the batters are coming after the bowlers, [it is only] if you pick up wickets that you can restrict your opponents from scoring at a good rate. That’s what we always look to do.
How do you and Daniel Vettori work with the youngsters in the unit?
Dan has kind of put the responsibility on me in terms of communicating with, and guiding, the young Indian fast bowlers [...]. We have set plans for set batters and that’s the way we go about it in matches. Knowing Dan’s leadership, it’s very important that he takes the responsibility to bowl at certain batters first up if they are not comfortable against spin. Do you agree with the perception that bowlers can cope better in the shortest format?
Its different – that’s the way I look at it. You prepare differently for T20 games. In terms of bowling, the workload is less, but in terms of intensity it’s probably on the higher side because you have to be there right from ball one. You have to really warm up well and get into the aggressive mode as quickly as possible.
How, do you think, has T20 cricket impacted bowling in general?
You see lots of variations [in bowling]. As a bowler you have 24 deliveries to bowl but the importance of each delivery increases depending on what stage of the game you are bowling at; your variations also become crucial [in this format]. Picking up early wickets becomes even more important because of the Powerplay [as] the batters are coming at you; if you can get early wickets, it definitely restricts the opponents. The basics remain the same. As I said earlier, in terms of preparation and awareness, and in terms of knowing exactly what situation of the game is, and how the batters are going to react to it or what they are actually thinking, it is different. What are your thoughts on AB de Villiers, the finisher?
We have had a bit of a slow start but everything is falling into place. It’s a long tournament so it is important that we peak at the right time. That’s how everyone is approaching the matches [...] It’s good to see AB finishing off matches in style. He is a great batsman; he has plenty of time when he is batting. The kind of shots he is playing, it is just amazing to watch the way he has been improvising and playing those reverse sweeps to fast bowlers and hitting them for six. It is not something that you see normally, but that’s the beauty of T20 cricket and that’s the way it is going. You are seeing a lot of innovative shots and that’s the way it is headed.
Your thoughts on Virat Kohli, the leader?
He is a great lad; he has a tremendous temperament. The way he prepares for a game, the hunger to do well is very visible. He is a quick learner. He is flourishing with the new responsibilities; he’s taking [the added responsibilities] well, which is a great sign considering he is just 23 years old. He has achieved quite a lot and I hope he continues the same way [and makes the] same [kind of] progress in the years to come.
What do you make of IPL’s evolution over the last five years?
This is the fifth year of IPL and you are already seeing that a lot of teams have improved. More importance is being given to fielding. You are seeing different innovative shots [being played]. Teams prepare differently. They more or less know how the season is going to [pan out and] how they should be preparing for games in terms of [team] combination and in terms of knowing exactly what they want for the team. They have a better understanding of these [aspects about the opposition] and of their own team.