Brad Hodge: 'Analytical Ashwin right choice for Kings XI captaincy'

In a freewheeling chat with Sportstar, Hodge talks about making Ashwin the captain, working with Sehwag and the evolving nature of T20 cricket among other things. 

Brad Hodge is the head coach of Kings XI Punjab this year.   -  GETTY IMAGES

A prolific run-scorer in Australia's domestic game, Brad Hodge played his maiden T20 match for Leicestershire in the inaugural edition of ECB's Twenty20 Cup on June 16, 2003. 

(The first official T20 match was held on June 13, 2003 between Hampshire and Sussex)

Having hammered 7406 runs from 277 T20s (Internationals not included) at a strike-rate of 131.28, it is safe to say the 43-year-old is a T20 pioneer.

His exploits in the shortest format include stints with IPL teams Kolkata Knight Riders, Rajasthan Royals and now defunct Kochi Tuskers Kerala. And last year, Kings XI Punjab named the Victorian batsman its head coach for the upcoming edition of the T20 league. 

In a freewheeling chat with Sportstar, Hodge talks about making Ashwin the captain, working with Sehwag and the evolving nature of T20 cricket among other things. 
  
Chris Gayle almost went unsold before Kings XI signed him in the dying moments on Day 2 of the IPL auction. Why such a last-minute call?


It wasn't a plan. For us, it was an opportunity to acquire a player who has been dynamic in the Twenty20 format over a period of time. We've got a nice mix of junior and senior group and we thought with his experience, he might be able to contribute to the team. It's an important thing to be able to have.

"We've seen some cricket shots that are unbelievable, the fielding standards have gone up, the bowling plans are changing as well. Also, the sheer amount of data analytics that goes into the game now, it was something that wasn't quite there when T20 started. For me, the IPL is the pinnacle to be involved in."

 

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Most teams in the IPL have paid astronomical sums to acquire the services of Australian cricketers. Since the start of IPL in 2008, the Aussies have always been the most sought after. What makes them so special?

The window gives you a chance to play every game of the IPL. Australians usually don't have any international matches scheduled during that time, so there's no clash per se. That's one critical thing; teams like to have one settled unit for as long as they possibly can.

You were one of the earliest exponents of T20 cricket - from being a player to donning the coach's hat, just how much has the shortest format evolved according to you?

T20 has evolved dramatically. One of the things which I loved about the format was its ability to expand the game outside the four-day and Test arena. We've seen some cricket shots that are unbelievable, the fielding standards have gone up, the bowling plans are changing as well. Also, the sheer amount of data analytics that goes into the game now, it was something that wasn't quite there when T20 started. For me, the IPL is the pinnacle to be involved in.

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"We wanted someone who could carry the franchise forward for 2-5 years - something similar to what Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir have done with Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders respectively. We felt Ashwin was the right choice. He's passionate and aggressive. He's also a very analytical guy and a good leader of men on the field."

 

R. Ashwin has ramped up his efforts to remain relevant in the shorter formats by trying leg spin during the IPL. Your thoughts?

I was pleased when I first heard about it. It's wonderful thinking from Ashwin to even consider that. The other thing is he's actually skillful enough to be able to do it and do it well. We all know how good an off-spinner he is and as a cricketer, I encourage him to develop and continue to develop.

Considering you had the likes of Aaron Finch and Yuvraj Singh in the squad, any specific reason for choosing Ashwin as the leader?

We wanted a leader who was a local talent, someone who could carry the franchise forward for 2-5 years - something similar to what Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir have done with Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders respectively. We felt Ashwin was the right choice. He's passionate and aggressive. He's also a very analytical guy and a good leader of men on the field.

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Yuvraj Singh will be plying his trade with Kings XI. Considering the flamboyant all-rounder is in the twilight of his career, what role do you expect Yuvi to play?

I expect Yuvraj to play a huge role. I can only bring my own experience to share with him. At 43, I was still playing the Big Bash League and contributing well. So for me, it's all about the attitude and the skill set. Yuvraj will enjoy coming back and playing in front of the Punjab crowd. That'll inspire him. That said, he's also a senior member of the Indian team. He knows how to prepare and how to get the best out of himself. I just want him to have fun.


You'll be working alongside Virender Sehwag in the Kings XI setup. How do you see this association working?

We've played together before - Viru and me - for Leicestershire. And worked with him for a fair amount of time leading into the auction. Look, I'm super excited to work alongside Virender. I think his attitude to batting will really help our group. That's the kind of approach we wish to instill in the Kings XI side.

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