Mumbai: Will Virat Kohli surpass Sachin Tendulkar’s records? Is the Delhi batsman better than the Little Master? While a section of cricket fans loves to indulge in such comparisons, Brad Hogg, who has had his shares of ups and downs against the man who scored 100 international hundreds, makes it clear that he is not fond of comparing past and present cricketers.
“I hope Virat Kohli, at the end of his career, can say he has done something for the game of cricket, bettered the game of cricket and that’s what Sachin Tendulkar did,” says Hogg, who was recently in India as ESPNcricinfo Match Day’s expert panellist during Indian Premier League 2017.
Former Australian all-rounder and chinaman bowler, who played his last competitive match in January this year at the age of 45, in an exclusive interview with this correspondent shared his views on a number of topics including the Steve Smith and Virat Kohli batsmanship, the argy-bargy that took place in the recently concluded India-Australia Test series, Kolkata Knight Riders, what the future holds for Kuldeep Yadav and much more.
Here are the excerpts:
Q) How do you see Kuldeep Yadav’s future in India colours?
He is a sensational prospect for India. He has done extremely well. In his first Test for India, he got a four-fer and seemed to have improved on his game (from the first time I saw him). He came onto the scene in a Twenty20 competition which we had a couple of years ago ahead of the IPL. I think he has all attributes to have a long international career.
Q) How was your KKR experience playing under Gautam Gambhir?
Gautam Gambhir is attacking sort of a captain and playing under him at KKR was a great experience. He makes clear what he wants from his team. He knows when to attack and when to defend. He puts the fielders in place (attacking field set up) and makes the batsmen think and that’s why KKR has been a successful team.
The only move he could have done in the last year or two; and which he has done this year; is to send Sunil Narine at the start. You have to use someone who is not going to waste too many balls very early and that’s what Narine has done. He has either got out early or gave KKR good starts and they have won three times out of four. The other thing is he has a great coaching staff as well who work behind the scenes and make sure all the players know their role.
Q) There was no shortage of argy-bargy during the recently concluded India-Australia Test series. How do you see sledging being a part of the game?
I thought it was a very competitive series. The wickets (pitches) that were prepared were competitive and it was great Test cricket. We go around and see some very flat tracks, but the wickets prepared were very sporting, very competitive and the players upheld it very well as India won the series 2-1. But each contest was a close contest between two strong teams. It was very competitive out in the middle and I just enjoyed the way both the teams being passionate for their countries. There was not anything untoward in the middle. We have to remember that we want the players to give their 100 per cent while feeling the pressure out there.
When you talk about sledging kind of things, you don’t wanna go too far on a personal note. But once you cross the white line after the close of play, all that happened on the field should be forgotten and just move on because each player will want to get as much as the mental and physical edge to get runs on the board for their team. I feel it was a great Test cricket and very enjoyable to watch.
Q) Virat Kohli and Steve Smith are two of the best modern day batsmen. How do see them?
Steve Smith is very unconventional and that shows that you don’t have to be technically correct to succeed. It does not matter whether you get an edge for four and you hit a straight drive for four, it is still four runs on the scoreboard. You have to grow the technique that suits you. You have to know your strengths and weaknesses and that’s the sign of a quality player and that’s what Steve Smith is. Virat Kohli is a bit more correct (technically) than what we see Steve Smith is. And they are two completely different techniques and they are delivering results and same quality of the runs for runs for their teams. We have to realise that one shoe does not fit all. There are different ways. We have to look at player’s natural ability and turning their natural ability into something special. You don’t have to change someone’s technique completely to make them world-class cricketers whether that’s bowling or batting.
Q) Quite often Virat Kohli is compared with Sachin Tendulkar. Do you think those comparisons are justified?
I don’t like comparing past players with present players. I think Sachin is something special for the cricket world and each generation change personnel for the team. We want someone coming through and shine and make the game a pleasure and exciting to watch. I think that’s what both players brought to the party for their generations. I don’t like comparing past players with the present generation. I think cricket is evolving, cricket moves on and Virat Kohli is playing in a different era than Sachin Tendulkar was. I think they are class players and I hope Virat Kohli, at the end of his career, can say he has done something for the game of cricket, bettered the game of cricket and that’s what Tendulkar did. Tendulkar made the game better by his presence.
Q) IPL, BBL; what’s your take on different T20 leagues?
They are different types of competitions. It is not so much about the style of cricket that’s played in them but it is more about the wickets. The wickets here in India are a bit different to those in Australia. So, that’s why the game is different. The main thing about these leagues is to make sure the players are playing the game for the right reasons. They are making the game more exciting and entertaining.
Q) Who, according to you, is one of the top spinners from current lot?
R Ashwin is probably the best spinner in all forms of the game. He is probably the spinner that I rate highly and the one who is most versatile. You have some spinners who are good in certain types of the game and in a certain period of the game, but on a consistent basis, someone who you can use in any part of the game is Ashwin.
Q) Any favourites to win the Champions Trophy 2017?
There are a number of teams. I can’t pick the winner. But I think Bangladesh are going to struggle in those conditions over there (in England). I think Australia have the team to take it out (to win). India are gonna be really competitive. South Africa are coming of age, they have a good team all across the board.