Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Big Bash can thank Brad Hogg for its success

The explosive success of Cricket Australia’s domestic Tewnty20 competition – the Big Bash League – can be attributed to a broad selection of reasons, but would its success have been driven so high without the evergreen veteran Brad Hogg?

Hogg during BBL06 with the Melbourne Renegades.

In its sixth season for the summer of 2016/17, the BBL has grown year-on-year regularly outstripping popularity – amongst the youthful cricketing audience at-least – from the traditional test and one-day forms of the game.

Building on the Indian Premier League revolution of the mid-2000s, the BBL brought the buzz, bang and colour of the new party-themed version of the game to the grounds and screens around Australia.

Having the benefit of being able to start a truly national competition from scratch, the organisers built where the people were, with the two most-populated states being handed a derby with two city sides each.

Crucially, they boosted these sides with a number of ex-legends who had retired or where near the end of their careers from both overseas and Australia. Names like Warne, Gilchrist and Hayden adorned the opening years’ line-ups, pulling in both existing and new fans to the competition.

Amongst this era was the then 39-year-old West Australian, George Bradley Hogg, who had finished a creditable first-class and international career in early 2008.

Hogg signed on for the Perth Scorchers for BBL01 and after a poor start to their season, they led a charge all the way to the final, finishing the regular season in first place.

The bouncing and buzzing Hogg showed he had lost nothing in retirement, eventually finishing as the best spinner of the tournament with 12 wickets at an average of 13.5.

In fact, like a fine bottle of red, it appeared as though Hogg had become better with age, earning a recall to the Australian Twenty20 squad.

Hogg destroyed his competition whilst playing for the Perth Scorchers. 

For the opening three seasons in the west, Hogg was the ironically youthful member of their team, providing spark, energy and decisiveness when they needed it.

When the Scorchers finally claimed the title in their third-straight final, Hogg was named the man of the match and earnt a place in Australian side for the 2014 ICC World Twenty20.

What stood Hogg apart was his style of play and approach to the game. It won him legions of fans right across the country, and right across the ages. Dads and grandads were pleased to see an old-timer still had it, and younger fans enjoyed his theatrics.

Hogg’s on and off-field charisma has charmed the cricketing public, with his cheeky attitude keeping families entertained.

But it is his form in the competition that should warrant most respect, across four seasons at the Scorchers he took 55 wickets in 42 appearances.

After five seasons in the west in which he claimed two consecutive titles, Hogg decided to head to Melbourne and play BBL06 with the Melbourne Renegades.

Citing a desire to continue playing in full capacity and the opportunity to play on the East Coast in front of the biggest crowds, Hogg dismissed Scorchers’ coach Justin Langer’s suggestion he should ‘retire on a high’ and took on a fresh challenge at the Renegades at the ripe age of 45.

He certainly didn’t disappoint, playing eight games and taking as many wickets. While the Renegades didn’t make the playoffs, Hogg’s economy rate of 7.22 and his ability to take key wickets at critical moments in the match, solidified his place as one of the best in the League.

While the BBL has come along in leaps and bounds with the emergence of some new talents, it is hard to imagine its first six-years without Brad Hogg. When he finally leaves the game – quite possibly at the retirement age of 67 – it will be a sad day for cricket.

One of Australian sport's best characters. 

But the thing about Hogg is, he gets it. He understands he’s there to entertain, to keep people interested, to keep them smiling, to keep it what it’s all about – having fun.

One things for sure, he’s going to leave an enduring legacy for being one of the goofiest veteran sportsmen Australia has ever seen.

Long live the Hogg.