Infotainment Factory: How Boxing Day ruined Hodge's Test career

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Saturday, 22 December 2018

How Boxing Day ruined Hodge's Test career


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Brad Hodge has revealed how he cracked under the pressure in his only Boxing Day Test, bringing him to the brink of one of Australia’s most controversial Test axings.

The Victorian right-hander went into Boxing Day of 2005 in wonderful form, having made an unbeaten 203 against South Africa in Perth in the preceding Test.

Yet all was not well in his mind and he did not handle the occasion on his home turf at the MCG, making seven and 24 against the Proteas attack he’d just dominated at the WACA.

“It was a dream come true [playing a Boxing Day Test], but it’s also one of the biggest regrets I’ve had in cricket, if not the only one,” Hodge told SEN Radio.

“On that particular day, I didn’t really play or have the courage to play the way I wanted to play.

“The build-up to the Boxing Day Test was a really tough one for me and I hadn’t had that before. I was coming off a 200 in Perth, there was media attention, there was family attention, there were all sorts of things that distracted me from the game of cricket.

“I probably wasn’t in the right space to be able to combat that and when the game came around, I asked Ricky [Ponting] how he did it and basically, I tried to follow the recipe of which he had been successful at … and failed pretty miserably.

“One of the things I would have loved to have done was have another crack at the Boxing Day Test and play the way I knew how to play.”

It was the beginning of the end for Hodge. He made six and 27* in the Sydney Test and was dropped from the side.

He played just one more Test for Australia, filling in for an injured Michael Clarke more than two years later in the West Indies. He was then omitted again despite making a half-century.

Hodge’s ended his Test career with just six matches to his credit, for 503 runs and an exceptional average of 55.88. Having already made a mountain of Sheffield Shield runs before making a promising star to his Test career, it was a bitter fate.

“It hurts when people bring it up,” Hodge told The Howie Games podcast in 2016.

“I look back and I’ve digested it many times, and the one thing that kills me is I only ever got out below 23 three times ... that hurt.

“You feel when you get dropped that you’re under pressure, playing the game when you feel like you’re out of form. I just never felt that.

“One of the things that hurts is if you read those numbers out, I thought that’s what Australian cricket wanted from me, and I don’t think I could be any better.”

Hodge made his Test debut after Damien Martyn was dropped, and was replaced by the West Australian when axed himself, despite Martyn being in modest form in the Sheffield Shield. Martyn was sent on a Test series in South Africa in March 2006, making a half-century in the second Test and a match-winning 101 in the second innings of the third Test as Australia completed a 3-0 whitewash.

While Martyn justified his selection, he abruptly quit Test cricket that year during a home Ashes series. Hodge was a bewildered man, wondering how things had gone so wrong.

He got an explanation eventually – though it was one that only added to his pain.

“David Boon, it was about a year down the track, it was after (playing for) Australia A. We were in Cairns in the Qantas Club or somewhere around there, and I sat with him and I just had to ask. I said, ‘Mate, what happened? Why did I actually get dropped?’” Hodge said.

“‘Was it because I nicked one or was it that ball I should have hooked in Sydney where it was the last ball of the day when I got caught at bat pad?’

“After a while he said, ‘You know what, we just chose Damien Martyn over you’. Simple as that, for no reason, and that probably hurt even more.

“At the time Damien Martyn was averaging 14 in Shield cricket, but he’s such a wonderful player.

“The one thing I always tell people personally which I struggle with is the selectors didn’t have the courage to say, ‘You know what, we know Marto’s a legend of the game but this guy’s come in for us and got 500 runs, and we have to give that guy another chance’. And that never happened. It breaks your heart, really.”

Forever prolific in domestic cricket, Hodge said he had been left disillusioned with Australian cricket and the hollow words of Test selectors. The Victorian scored an incredible 17,084 first-class runs in his career at an average of 48.81, with 51 centuries and a best of 302*.

What the Australian team would not give for a player of his calibre in the current era, where the Test batting line-up features several players with first-class averages in the thirties.

“You’d say to a young kid, ‘If you want to play cricket for Australia and stay in the team, go get yourself 500 runs in five games and I’m pretty sure that’ll be on track’,” Hodge said.

“That’s what I said to the selectors. I said, ‘I’m on track for 1,000 runs in a season and only the legends do that’. That’s what I couldn’t understand at the time, and I never have actually.

“Keep going and make runs ... after a while you just get sick of hearing that crap. It’s a load of rubbish.”

Brad Hodge has revealed how he cracked under the pressure in his only Boxing Day Test, bringing him to the brink of one of Australia’s most controversial Test axings.

The Victorian right-hander went into Boxing Day of 2005 in wonderful form, having made an unbeaten 203 against South Africa in Perth in the preceding Test.

Yet all was not well in his mind and he did not handle the occasion on his home turf at the MCG, making seven and 24 against the Proteas attack he’d just dominated at the WACA.

“It was a dream come true [playing a Boxing Day Test], but it’s also one of the biggest regrets I’ve had in cricket, if not the only one,” Hodge told SEN Radio.

“On that particular day, I didn’t really play or have the courage to play the way I wanted to play.

“The build-up to the Boxing Day Test was a really tough one for me and I hadn’t had that before. I was coming off a 200 in Perth, there was media attention, there was family attention, there were all sorts of things that distracted me from the game of cricket.

“I probably wasn’t in the right space to be able to combat that and when the game came around, I asked Ricky [Ponting] how he did it and basically, I tried to follow the recipe of which he had been successful at … and failed pretty miserably.

“One of the things I would have loved to have done was have another crack at the Boxing Day Test and play the way I knew how to play.”

It was the beginning of the end for Hodge. He made six and 27* in the Sydney Test and was dropped from the side.

He played just one more Test for Australia, filling in for an injured Michael Clarke more than two years later in the West Indies. He was then omitted again despite making a half-century.

Hodge’s ended his Test career with just six matches to his credit, for 503 runs and an exceptional average of 55.88. Having already made a mountain of Sheffield Shield runs before making a promising star to his Test career, it was a bitter fate.

“It hurts when people bring it up,” Hodge told The Howie Games podcast in 2016.

“I look back and I’ve digested it many times, and the one thing that kills me is I only ever got out below 23 three times ... that hurt.

“You feel when you get dropped that you’re under pressure, playing the game when you feel like you’re out of form. I just never felt that.

“One of the things that hurts is if you read those numbers out, I thought that’s what Australian cricket wanted from me, and I don’t think I could be any better.”

Hodge made his Test debut after Damien Martyn was dropped, and was replaced by the West Australian when axed himself, despite Martyn being in modest form in the Sheffield Shield. Martyn was sent on a Test series in South Africa in March 2006, making a half-century in the second Test and a match-winning 101 in the second innings of the third Test as Australia completed a 3-0 whitewash.

While Martyn justified his selection, he abruptly quit Test cricket that year during a home Ashes series. Hodge was a bewildered man, wondering how things had gone so wrong.

He got an explanation eventually – though it was one that only added to his pain.

“David Boon, it was about a year down the track, it was after (playing for) Australia A. We were in Cairns in the Qantas Club or somewhere around there, and I sat with him and I just had to ask. I said, ‘Mate, what happened? Why did I actually get dropped?’” Hodge said.

“‘Was it because I nicked one or was it that ball I should have hooked in Sydney where it was the last ball of the day when I got caught at bat pad?’

“After a while he said, ‘You know what, we just chose Damien Martyn over you’. Simple as that, for no reason, and that probably hurt even more.

“At the time Damien Martyn was averaging 14 in Shield cricket, but he’s such a wonderful player.

“The one thing I always tell people personally which I struggle with is the selectors didn’t have the courage to say, ‘You know what, we know Marto’s a legend of the game but this guy’s come in for us and got 500 runs, and we have to give that guy another chance’. And that never happened. It breaks your heart, really.”

Forever prolific in domestic cricket, Hodge said he had been left disillusioned with Australian cricket and the hollow words of Test selectors. The Victorian scored an incredible 17,084 first-class runs in his career at an average of 48.81, with 51 centuries and a best of 302*.

What the Australian team would not give for a player of his calibre in the current era, where the Test batting line-up features several players with first-class averages in the thirties.

“You’d say to a young kid, ‘If you want to play cricket for Australia and stay in the team, go get yourself 500 runs in five games and I’m pretty sure that’ll be on track’,” Hodge said.

“That’s what I said to the selectors. I said, ‘I’m on track for 1,000 runs in a season and only the legends do that’. That’s what I couldn’t understand at the time, and I never have actually.

“Keep going and make runs ... after a while you just get sick of hearing that crap. It’s a load of rubbish.”

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