Brad Hogg © Getty Images
Brad Hogg was a part of two World Cup winning Australian teams; 2003 and 2007 © Getty Images

Brad Hogg, born on February 6, 1971, was a vital cog in Australia’s world beating unit in the 2000s. He made it into the 2003 World Cup squad and made an impact in the absence of Shane Warne. Four years down the line, he was a part of another World Cup winning side. Nishad Pai Vaidya caught up with Hogg and spoke to him about the two triumphs.

CricketCountry (CC): You had just returned to the Australian side during the VB series before the World Cup. In that tournament, you put in some good performances, which included an all-round outing in the final at Melbourne. But, in the months before the tournament, did you imagine you would play the World Cup?

Brad Hogg (BH): I had a feeling that they wanted to play two spinners. Nathan Hauritz and myself were the two spinners chosen for an Australia A tour to replicate the World Cup in 2002. So, we went to South Africa replicating the World Cup. We both did reasonably well for Australia A. Then we got back to Australia and played for the A side against England in Sydney and Brisbane. Hauri was 12th man in Sydney and I was to be the same in Brisbane. I had a inkling then that it was between Hauritz and I. Then Warnie (Shane Warne) did his shoulder just before the 15 was announced. We were playing Sri Lanka at the WACA. I knew it was my big opportunity to force my way into the selection. I knew then that if I did my stuff, I would get selected. So, about two months I knew I had a chance.

CC: You travelled to South Africa as an understudy to Shane Warne. Once he was suspended, the spotlight was on you. Now, you were the go-to man. What was the pressure on you and on the team, considering that you had lost a player of Warne’s stature?

BH: To be honest with you, I had no idea what was going through everyone else’s mind when Warnie got suspended. The thing was that both of us were selected to play the first game against Pakistan at Johannesburg. I wasn’t really there as an understudy. I felt I had earned my right in the ranks in international cricket after I got selected alongside Shane Warne in the same game. I didn’t feel like an understudy then.

CC: Australia beat Pakistan thanks to Andrew Symonds’ brilliant ton and then you steamrolled India, getting them all-out for a paltry score. However, you lost Jason Gillespie then. A premier fast bowler, who had just won the Man of the Match award.

BH: The squad that we had there was perhaps the best I have been a part of in my cricket career. There was that belief from Day One that we were going to win it. It was an unbelievable feeling. We knew the only team that would lose it was us if we got too far ahead of ourselves. We had the camaraderie amongst each other that things were going to go well for us. We knew that when we lost Shane Warne, we won a game or two and then we lost Jason Gillespie, we had that belief in the players that were on the bench to come in and do the job. Back then we had a strong Shield competition as well. There was depth around Australia. We had all basses covered in all departments if someone was down injured. We were very lucky in that regard. It is easier to say after the event, but I still remember Jason Gillespie going down and the whole team feeling bad as he was leaving. We were training in Centurion and he was told that he was going home. Everyone was sad for him. I cannot exactly remember what Dizzy said, but he said something along the lines, “Come on guys! You can still do it. I’ll be watching you back home and following you. Make sure we get over the line as we have worked hard to get here to achieve success.”

Brad Hogg  © Getty Images
In 2003 World Cup, Brad Hogg emerged as Australia’s premier spinner after the ban on Shane Warne © Getty Images

CC: Throughout the World Cup, you were dominant. However, you were challenged in two games — the one against England the other against New Zealand. Which game was the tougher one according to you and why?

BH: Both games were pretty tough. We were in trouble while chasing against England. (Andy) Bichel and (Michael) Bevan got us over the line. It was always hard batting second. I’d say the England game was the hardest. Against New Zealand, we batted first and made 208 I think. We knew how hard it was to bat second on that Port Elizabeth track and knew that if we got early wickets, New Zealand were going to be on the backfoot. We felt we were always going to win that game. But (going back to the) England game, I remember I got out and Ian Harvey was following me. Not quite sure though! Jimmy Maher was in the changing room and I keep saying Maher because he is one of the funniest players I have come across. Bichs (Bichel) was going out there and Maher said not to worry and that he would get us there. We had the belief in our players no matter what position we were in. We had the never-say-die attitude.

CC: You said the Port Elizabeth wicket was difficult to chase on. Hence, the decision to bat first in the semi-final against Sri Lanka…

BH: Yes. Any final you play in, we’ve always been brought up with the saying, “If it is a green surface, you look out, think twice about whether to bat or bow. At the end of the day, most times you bat first and get the runs on the board.” You know that if you get a couple of early wickets (against the opposition batting second), the pressure is on the lower order. We find it easier to bowl rather than chase down a score.

CC: There was that big moment when Adam Gilchrist walked off in that semi-final. Were you all surprised when it happened?

BH: We were all pretty surprised when he walked off, especially in such a big tournament. It was a big game for us — the semi-final. We needed to make runs. At the end of the day, he walked off. It made things a little difficult. If Gilly stood there, the umpires weren’t going to give him out in the future because once he had done it, he couldn’t turn his back around and nick one down the track and not walk. He got that persona around him that he always walked if he nicked one. We were surprised, but to each his own. Full credit went to Gilly and I think that started his career in business after that. He became a board member of our sponsor for his honesty.

CC: The final was almost hopeless for the Indians once the Australian batting got going. Was it a conscious plan to destroy the Indian bowling from the outset?

BH: I didn’t really sit in the batting meeting but we had our meetings and we went out there with a positive mindset to put the bowlers on the backfoot. When you’ve got that momentum, it is up to the opposition to work their way back into the contest. India couldn’t get back with their bowling. Ricky Ponting played a magnificent innings. Brett Lee and I were at the back having a knock. We stayed there and kept hitting. We didn’t really watch a ball, but when we came back Matthew Hayden got out. So we were superstitious and did not watch much of the batting. It was a great display of batting by Ponting, Damien Martyn, Hayden and Gilchrist to help us get to the formidable total. I was surprised that (Sourav) Ganguly bowled first and that showed us that they were a little bit worried about our pace on a quick Jo’burg wicket. I remember the rain coming down and Darren Lehmann and I were brought on early to bowl a few overs quickly and get in 25 overs so that we do not come back the next day. (Virender) Sehwag quickly put an end to that. When the rain came down, we felt we cannot come back the next day and play after we had batted so well then.

CC: Describe the moment Lehmann took that catch that gave you the World Cup, your first ever big tournament.

BH: It is probably one of the best moments in my cricket career. Getting my Baggy Green cap for the first time and the 2003 World Cup win are at the same level. As a young kid, I always knew that I wanted to play cricket for Australia. I remember watching the West Indies annihilating the Australian batsmen back in the 1970s. All I could think was that I wanted to play for Australia and beat the West Indies and turn things around. I had that goal as a junior. To represent your country in such a big tournament and go through undefeated, let alone win it, the emotions are unbelievable. Kids are asking me what it is like to play for your country; I ask them what their favourite food is. Most of them say it is chocolate and I say, multiply that by about 500 and that’s what it feels like. That is the feeling you get while playing for Australia when you are winning.

CC: You just spoke about beating the West Indies. Four years down the line, you were on your way to the Caribbean for the big event. This time it was different as Australia had lost five consecutive ODIs before that. Did the belief get dented? It was still one of the strongest side the world has seen.

BH: We had a lot of trouble. Brett Lee didn’t play in that tournament. We had Shaun Tait with Nathan Bracken and Glenn McGrath. We had a different batting line-up. We had lost those five games as well. I remember landing in the West Indies and training. My confidence wasn’t as high as it should have been. In those five games, I think I went at about six and a half an over and did not get a wicket. I didn’t even look like getting a wicket. I wouldn’t say form, but my confidence was down. As a team, I think it was good that we lost those five games going into the World Cup. We had a good record going into this tournament from 1999. There was a bit of pressure on us. I felt that everyone was still confident and wanted to turn things around. We played England in the warm-up match and the batsmen got runs and the bowlers got wickets. I remember bowling to Ian Bell and I brought the mid-on up. He tried to charge me and I had him stumped on the wrong-un. That changed my confidence from diabolical to back to where it should be to play international cricket. Things can turn quickly if you have a positive attitude and that’s what we had.

CC: Talking of dismissing Ian Bell, you have had this knack of getting the big wickets. That World Cup was another good one, but there were two wickets that stood out. One was of Mahela Jayawardene and the other of Brian Lara. Can you tell us about that?

BH: It was a long time ago. I cannot remember exactly the lead ups to it. I remember the training session before the West Indies game. I used to bowl some slower deliveries. Every time I bowled the slower deliveries, the batsmen would try and belt that as far as possible. They would tell me, “Don’t bowl those out in the middle because you are going to get pumped.” I was bowling to Brian Lara and someone dropped a chance at deep mid-off. I had one dropped at cover as well. Both those deliveries were the slower ones. I finally had Lara out leg-before and there was a bit of tongue and cheek in the middle as I told the boys, “If you’re not going to catch it, I’ll have to get him bowled or lbw.” It’s always nice to get the best players in the world out — Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar — players who were quite difficult to get out.

We’ve always had tough contests with Mahela. Along with Kumar Sangakkara, he has been one of the best batsmen in the Sri Lankan team. When you get those prized wickets in the opposition, it’s always a good feeling.

CC: You were a dominant force in the World Cup, blowing the opposition in all games. South Africa came up with a counterattacking strategy that backfired. Did you expect that in the semi-final?

BH: They surprised us. It was ANZAC Day at home. It is a very special occasion for Australians and New Zealanders, where we honour soldiers who went to war for the country. Billy Bowden was the umpire there. We all got in a circle and I actually can feel it right now. It got quite emotional in that minute of silence. There were tears amongst the group. We have a lot of pride in our history and we’ve always felt Australian cricket is the role model for Australian society and we pride ourselves on that. We have high values within our group and one of those is respecting our past — respecting those who lost their lives fighting for our country. After we had our minute silence, someone in the crowd was playing the bugle — which they used in the war to alert the troops. The bugle went off and after we had that minute silence, we knew nothing could beat us on that particular day.

South Africa came out, trying to play all shots in the book and I think that was the most pumped and most switched on I have seen an Australian team. It all came back to the minute silence we had celebrating ANZAC Day.

CC: Then you came on and bowled a spell of 10 overs for only 28 runs. Can you tell us about that spell, where you kept it tight after the pacers had blown the opposition away?

BH: The fast bowlers did their job. It is one of those scenarios where the fast bowlers set it up for me. The pressure was on the South African batsmen to not lose any more wickets. The ball was in my court. All I had to do was keep it tight. The fast bowlers set the game up. It wasn’t my bowling that won the game, but the fast bowlers as they are the ones who got the wickets. I was lucky enough to be a part of the team, to be able to bowl such a spell at the back of everyone’s success.

CC: Adam Gilchrist smashed 149 in the final. How would you rate that knock when compared to Ricky Ponting’s 140 not out in the 2003 final?

BH: It is an extremely tough question and I am not going to rate either of them. Both were fantastic innings, both came under pressure and both were extremely great feats. Ponting played that excellent innings in 2003 as captain. He’d taken over as captain from Steve Waugh. People were asking whether he should have taken over or Waugh should have still been there. Under that immense pressure, he led from the front and got that fantastic century to take us to a formidable score against India.

Then Gilly came out (in 2007), and we were worried about (Muttiah) Muralitharan’s impact in that match. From ball one, Gilly took on him and put him on the backfoot. He sort of broke the spine for Sri Lanka as their number one bowler was not making inroads. You cannot compare those knocks, both were great.

CC: Did you see it this time though? During Ponting’s ton you weren’t watching as you said.

BH: I watched most of GIlly’s innings. The amazing thing was that he went in with the squash ball in his glove to loosen the bottom hand of his grip. I don’t think he had that good a tournament leading into that final. How can you go out there and annihilate an attack with a squash ball in your glove? You’ve got a lump in your glove and surely it’s going to put you off. It was a remarkable innings by Gilly.

CC: What are your thoughts on the end of the tournament? Did it dampen your celebrations when you had to come back and bowl in the darkness again?

BH: It was full credit to Jayawardene because he came out and spoke to Ponting and said, “Let’s get over and done with this. No point in coming back tomorrow.” Sri Lanka had thrown the white flag in a sense. We were in the box seat there. It was extremely dark out there. (Chaminda) Vaas was batting and Symo (Andrew Symonds) was bowling. He cut it through point and I was chasing it. I bent over thinking it was the ball but it was a moth. I had to keep running and search the ball. The light out there was probably the worst you could get in any cricket fixture.

CC: Being a part of that supremely successful side in 2003 and 2007, how would you describe the core ethos and values of that unit? Having talent is one thing, but to perform day in and day out is a reflection of the team’s psyche isn’t it?

BH: It does. You can have all your values and ethos written down on a piece of paper but if one player does not believe in that, it is never going to work because he can create a cancer. So, everyone in the Australian setup, not only in the World Cup squad but also those who had played one-day cricket, they weren’t handed a sheet of paper with the values. They were shown what was expected of them by the demeanour and the leadership of our group. Everyone in the team was leader, everyone took responsibility for their game, but if they saw someone else down or if someone wasn’t pulling their weight, we had the respect amongst each other to say, “Mate! You’re not doing the right thing here. You are letting yourself down and your teammates down.” We had that honesty, trust and great leadership. We had Ponting, Gilchrist and McGrath leading from the front. Everyone else became leaders themselves. Just because you are the 15th man in the squad doesn’t mean you cannot be a leader. You can step up and show everyone that you are setting the example as well.

CC: So it was a system rather than anything that was taught?

BH: I wouldn’t say it was a system. The coaches and the support staff also had it. Everyone in the team held those values from management to players. At the end of the day, we were brought up to play positive cricket, we were brought up to believe in our ability. If you don’t have that self belief, you are going to fail at the top level. You have a bit of an ego about yourself, but it is a humble ego. You’ve got to believe in yourself, but also realise that you are playing with a team. Everyone in Australian cricket lived up to the values and ethos. All the Shield teams also followed it.

CC: Ricky Ponting said in his last press conference that he will miss the ‘mateship’ and the camaraderie. How would you tell us about the friendship and the bond in the group?

BH: We play sport because we love it. We all grew up playing cricket for the love of it and do as well as we can. But, we are entertainers. And being that you got to enjoy what you are doing. What better way to enjoy life than being at the highest level of a sport you grew up absolutely loving! I agree with Ponting. The things that I miss with my international career, when I retired in 2008 and I will definitely miss when I finally pull up the boots, is the change-room. It isn’t about the middle, but being in the change-room with your mates. It is probably a good lesson for everyone in all walks of life. If you are working in a team environment, you got to get along with your colleagues. If you don’t then you will have a miserable time. Any successful organisation or team in the world, always starts off with a great culture. If you start with a great culture, everyone goes on well.

CC: You are easily the most successful chinaman in World Cup cricket. Why do you think it is such a rare art?

BH: I don’t know why it is such a rare art in cricket. When I was asked to bowl it first, they had a bowler from New South Wales. He hadn’t played for Australia and I had no idea that they had a chinaman until someone told me a day before the game. I hadn’t even bowled chinaman in my first Shield game. My first exposure to it was in my first Shield game in 1994. If you don’t see it on TV, the likelihood of kids bowling it in the junior ranks is minimal. Now we have started to see some of them. Kuldeep Yadav is there, who is an exceptional talent. I’ve got a young kid in Perth who bowls that. We saw him bowl it and he seems to be a talent. It is something that hasn’t been seen a lot. But, we are seeing more of them now.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)