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Select Hodge and Hogg for T20 World Cup

Brad Hogg was one of Australia's last Test Chinamen. (AAP Image/Lincoln Baker).
Expert
14th January, 2014
138
1954 Reads

Should Australia take a 43-year-old spinner and a 39-year-old batsman to the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in March?

If they are serious about finally making a mark on the shortest format of the game, the answer is “Yes”.

Not only are both players still in fine form, but they offer an enormous amount of experience and composure, which are key commodities in any World Cup.

While the reflexes of most batsmen have eroded significantly by the time they reach the age of 39, Hodge appears to be striking the ball as cleanly as ever.

Among the many mysteries attached to his career, it is puzzling that Hodge has not been a key component of the Aussie T20 side for the past five or six years.

Nobody in history has scored more T20 runs than his 5771 at 37.

There is a wide-open spot in Australia’s middle order which Hodge could fill nicely.

The top four of David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson and George Bailey is cast in concrete.

Glenn Maxwell seems to have the number six spot on lockdown. That leaves the five position up for grabs.

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The likes of Queensland youngster Chris Lynn and Victorian veteran Cameron White also have strong claims for that spot.

Lynn has scored 194 runs at 39 in the Big Bash this summer, while White has clubbed 197 runs at 39.

Both players have also had fine campaigns in the Ryobi Cup and Sheffield Shield this season, further emphasising their good form.

Hodge, meanwhile, is tailor made for batting at five in a pressure-soaked tournament.

He has the capacity to come to the crease and ram home the advantage should Australia be well on top or, alternatively, stabilise the innings and guide the side home after an early collapse.

Crucially, Hodge is intimately familiar with T20 cricket in subcontinental conditions, having played 62 games in the Indian Premier League and a further 22 matches in the Bangladesh Premier League.

The dry surfaces expected in Bangladesh also mean that Australia will very likely bring two specialist spinners in a probable 15-man squad for the World Cup.

Tasmanian tweaker Xavier Doherty is the incumbent in the side.

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But his position in both of Australia’s limited overs teams appears uncertain due to continued unconvincing displays.

In his four Big Bash games the past few weeks he has averaged 50 with the ball to go with 10 wickets at 30 in his T20 outings for Australia.

Old timer Hogg has been the standout Australian spinner in this summer’s Big Bash League, albeit in a season dominated by pace bowlers.

He has snared six wickets at 22 while displaying commendable control and guile, conceding only 5.5 runs per over.

This frugality would be a great counterpoint to the hostility of Australia’s strong pace attack.

Hogg has shown during his domestic T20 performances, and in his fantastic ODI career for Australia, that he has the temperament to deal with marauding batsmen.

Granted, his T20 international record – five wickets at 62 – does not inspire confidence.

But Australia have few other options, let alone alternatives with a similar level of experience in T20 and at international limited overs level.

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Hogg was an influential member of Australia’s triumphant side at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, snaring 13 wickets at 24.

He built on that four years later in the West Indies, where he reaped 21 wickets at 16 to be one of the players of the tournament as Australia achieved back-to-back-to-back World Cup titles.

Hogg and Hodge could well help Australia enjoy some belated success in the T20 format.

Both would be worthy inclusions in the squad to go to Bangladesh in two months’ time.