Matthew Hoggard: Tests lasting two-three days not good advertisement for the game

In this interview for Sportstar, Matthew Hoggard talks about the pitch controversy, the way forward for ICC World Test Championships and more.

England crumbled under tough pitch conditions in the third Test match in Ahmedabad.   -  Sportzpics

One of the lethal pacers during his time, Matthew Hoggard has fond memories of India. When England toured India in the summer of 2006, Hoggard's six-wicket haul in the first innings, earned him the Man of the Match award and helped the touring side draw the first Test in Nagpur.

The 44-year-old - who was once a force to reckon with, along with the likes of Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff - is back in India again as part of the England Legends team, which will feature in the Unacademy Road Safety World Series - beginning in Raipur from March 5.

While he is getting used to life inside the bio-bubble, Hoggard did manage to watch the Pink ball Test between India and England in Ahmedabad and the former pace ace admits that the surface was ‘not a very good one’.

In a chat with Sportstar, Hoggard talks about the pitch controversy, the way forward for ICC World Test Championships and more…

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How does it feel to be back in action with some of your former team-mates after so long?

It’s (Road Safety World Series) going to be fantastic. I have not been on the big stage for a long time, so to be able to get to meet up with your old team-mates, to get that buzz, that excitement back and to come to India is just unbelievable.

In a career spanning eight years, Matthew Hoggard snapped up 248 wickets in 67 Tests at an economy rate of 3.26, flourishing as the senior bowler of an England side that went unbeaten in 2004. - Getty Images

 

In the times of new normal, bio-bubble has become an integral part of any sporting event. You guys are currently in a bubble in Raipur, how’s the experience so far?

We have only been here for the past two days. The flight was long. The wait in Delhi was draining, but we’ve only been here two days. In the hotel, we have a balcony for fresh air, so at the moment it’s not too bad. What I have seen, there’s a lot of safety precautions around the hotel. I think when we are allowed out of our rooms and allowed around the hotel, things will get a lot easier.

Did you have the opportunity to watch the ongoing Test series between India and England?  

I have been watching bits and the highlights. Obviously, fantastic performance from England in the first Test match. We have come across two very testing wickets and pitches. India has fared better on home conditions than England.  

A lot has been spoken about the wicket in Ahmedabad - which hosted the pink ball Test. How challenging does it get for an overseas bowler to bowl in Indian conditions?

Very challenging. The fantastic game of Test cricket, you have different conditions and you have to have different style and different awareness of how to bowl in these conditions - whether its a flat wicket or a turner. You have to adapt to those conditions. You also have to have the firepower in your team to take 20 wickets, that’s what Test cricket is all about.

READ | Ahmedabad pitch likely to be spin-friendly in fourth England Test

Even though the pink ball Test has been there for six years now, most players still struggle to adapt to the format. How should the teams approach the pink ball format? How much of a role does the pitch play?

I think the pitch in the last two matches have been a massive factor, with the ball going through and turning from Day One. Let’s not forget, India has played better in those pitches. But you want to see a fair contest between the bat and the ball and with the ball spinning and going to the top from day one, I don’t think it's conducive for a great spectacle of Test cricket. For Joe Root to get five wickets for eight runs in the first innings on the second day is an indication of a poor pitch for my liking.

The ICC has been trying to ensure that the boards prepare sporting wickets in the bilateral series. Going forward should the ICC be stricter?

Yeah, it’s a tricky situation. In England, they have pitch inspectors and match liaison officers. The teams can get docked points for inferior pitches - whether it is too green and it seams too much on the first two days or if it is dry and turns too much or goes up and down. Maybe, it is the way forward. Now, with the World Test championships, there could be points deductions or bans on the players and the captain.

Hoggard claimed seven wickets in the drawn Nagpur Test in 2006. - S. Subramanium

 

This being the first edition of the World Test Championships, time and again, there were issues with the wicket. How should that be handled to ensure a fair play?

The surface that we play Test cricket on is very important. We all know Test cricket is struggling and the popularity of T20 is rising. So, to have a Test match last for two or three days isn’t a very good advertisement for the glamours of Test cricket. The surfaces need to have an independent panel to look at them and if they are deemed not suitable for Test match cricket, there should be repercussions whether that is actual points docked in the World Test Championships or whether it is a suspension for the captain and the players. I don’t think the monetary fines would work.

To be honest, it’s a very tough one. What is a poor pitch is very subjective - people can take one pitch and can give two different opinions. Let’s not beat around the bush, India has played a lot better in the last two matches on helpful wickets. England’s frailties and the top-order has been an issue for a long time and their play against spin is also highlighted. But I don’t think the surface that they played the last match on (in Ahmedabad), was a very good one.

READ | Last two Tests were the hardest tracks I have kept on: Ben Foakes

Let’s talk a bit about England’s pace battery. With Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Jofra Archer in a team - is this England’s best ever pace attack?

Broad and Anderson are absolutely superb with over 1000 wickets between them - absolute unbelievable service for English cricket. They are very good - you look at their economy rates and how many wickets they take, it’s absolutely superb. They are very skilful bowlers, and yes, they are the best pair to play together for England. Unfortunately, we might be seeing them in their twilight, but long may they continue because together they are so important and great servants to English cricket.

Over the last few years, world cricket has seen the emergence of some solid fast bowlers - including Jasprit Bumrah, Pat Cummins and Archer. What are your thoughts about them?

Bumrah, Cummins, Archer, well that’s the three players you would pay to watch and like in your team. All three are fantastic bowlers and they challenge the batsman’s technique and take wickets. It’s a very interesting time to have such a wealth of fast bowlers in world cricket. Everybody likes to watch a fast bowler bowl - and if you ask batters if they like genuine pace, nobody really likes facing genuine pace, so it is exciting to see them play and it would be beautiful to watch them in the same team.

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