‘We just need to change our tactics’

“In these times we have competitions like the IPL, various Twenty20 and one-day tournaments. There is a lot of cricket around. You got to be adaptable,” says left-arm Chinaman bowler Brad Hogg, about Australia’s debacle in the ongoing Ashes series. S. Dinakar listens in.

Australia’s demoralising defeat in the ongoing Ashes has sent a shock through the proud cricketing nation’s system. Sportstar caught up with Australia’s left-arm Chinaman bowler Brad Hogg for his views on the subject. The 44-year-old Hogg, still influential with the ball, was honest with his views.

Question: The Australian batsmen, to put it simply, did not cope well with the moving ball. Their footwork was all over the place.

Answer: To play the moving ball, off the pitch or swing, you go forward to cover the movement. I think we played from the crease, we played away from our body a little too much. And we weren’t prepared to ‘leave’ the ball. It’s all right to say we have come here to play aggressive cricket. But you have to be aggressive in defence as well. That’s with solid footwork, getting to the pitch of the ball, giving the bowler the feeling that you are in control. That did not happen.

The reverse in the Ashes series marks a huge setback for Australian cricket. Can the side recover soon?

The thing is you are not going to dominate world cricket all the time. You are going to be challenged. It’s not just about how the team reacts but how the personnel in the team react. It’s a test of character. The test for us is how we play in the Ashes the next time we go back to England. Look at England. They thought they were not going to be that successful in this Ashes series. They got new personnel in their team, it worked. Players coming through got the opportunities and some made the most of them.

Where do you think the Ashes was won and lost?

Our batting let us down. As simple as that. The bowlers did a fair job, they weren’t the cause. We just did not make enough runs.

So the English ploy of preparing juicy wickets for the Edgbaston and the Nottingham Tests, the third and the fourth of the series, worked.

They found a weakness with Australia’s batting. That’s why they produced those pitches. It was a sort of gamble. It worked for them. It is not the end of the world for us. One team wins and another loses.

Do you think the Australian batsmen need to look at their strategy? Too many shots, often without settling down. In conditions and on pitches where the ball swings and seams, it is a recipe for disaster.

When you bat aggressively like the Australians do, something’s got to give. That is where England’s gameplan of producing those pitches in the last two Test matches comes in. We just need to change our tactics when we face similar conditions again.

Steven Smith could do no wrong with the bat some time back but now his technique is under intense scrutiny when the ball swings or seams. He moves around the crease too much.

When Smith first came in, people said his technique was not good enough. But he adapted to Tests, made tons of runs. Now he has been challenged by conditions in England. He has been shuffling around earlier too but made runs. I am sure he will turn things around the next time you see him in England. His batting is not under scrutiny. He made a double hundred in the series. There is no pressure on him.

The logical choice for captaincy after the Ashes, how would you look at Smith?

Definitely he is a good thinker of the game. He is a fine student of the game. The boys would love playing under Smith.

'I am sure Steve Smith (above) will turn things around the next time you see him in England. His batting is not under scrutiny. He made a double hundred in the series. There is no pressure on him.'-REUTERS

Your thoughts on Michael Clarke’s failures with the bat in the Ashes and his announcement to quit international cricket.

I don’t think he [Clarke] had any issue mentally. He still has the desire. I just think it might have been an injury that might have been plaguing him, otherwise you don’t pull out at 34. Some might say that if you are not fit, you should not be playing. But you want to keep playing for the country, you wouldn’t want to give the opportunity to someone else. You think you can still do the job. He [Clarke] thought he could do the job. All the greats have gone through periods of slumps. Nothing to be ashamed of.

How much is Clarke responsible for the Aussie debacle?

It’s just not him alone. It’s a team game. He is not the cause that we didn’t win the Ashes. We were not able to adjust to the conditions, prepared by England, in the last two Test matches.

There is this feeling that the Aussies hadn’t prepared long enough for the Ashes. There had been too much focus on the shorter duration matches.

Obviously we had not prepared well enough. Or we had prepared well enough but were not mentally up to the challenge. The schedule with more games in it can be difficult. You can simulate conditions like that in Australia, you know the conditions you are going to get, but the execution was not there. The next time we will be better prepared. In these times we have competitions like the IPL, various Twenty20 and one-day tournaments. There is a lot of cricket around. You got to be adaptable.

Your views on Clarke, the captain and the batsman?

I think he was a fantastic captain. He had a very good cricket brain. He knew when to attack, when to defend. He was creative. He was one of the captains who made the game go forward. You want captains like that. You don’t want captains playing for draws, you want captains playing for wins. It’s exciting cricket for the spectators. He has been wonderful with the bat. It is disappointing that he has been plagued by injuries. Otherwise, he would have wanted to carry on. From day one when he first came on the scene, we knew he was going to be something special. He was a leader from day one. He enjoyed representing the country. You can’t ask for more than that. His record speaks highly.

Some of the stats he has got are unbelievable, especially in the modern era. I was fortunate to bowl against him in shield cricket and one-day domestic cricket. When he wanted to take the game forward, his footwork really put you off as a spin bowler. He was able to hit straight, work you square, get to the pitch of the ball, and just punish you. He would just carve spinners. He wasn’t too bad with his spin either. He bowled Australia to victory with his left-arm spin in Mumbai some years ago and did the same against India at the SCG.