Monday, 20 April 2009

The Ballad of Matthew Hoggard

We'll be seeing a lot of Matthew Hoggard over the next few weeks: he has a book out, a serialisation in the Times and a column at Cricinfo. Come the Ashes, he'll join the noble ranks of the Fallen of 2005 - Tresco, Gilo, Simon Jones, Geraint Jones, maybe Harmi, perhaps Vaughany - as ghosts on the sidelines, young men who know that the best moments of their sporting lives have already been and gone.

Hoggy's end has been the most sudden. No second chances for him. That seems harsher because he was the stoutest of yeoman, as ingenuous as his haystack of hair. No-one worked harder for his wickets, no-one celebrated them with more childlike delight, and no man hit a better off drive than the one he hit at Trent Bridge on that deathless summer evening. The best eight not out of all time. 

His book throws the suddenness of his dropping into sharp relief. His wife had post-natal depression, he and she weren't getting on. He was getting depressed himself, 'doing a Tres, going cuckoo' as he told Vaughan, mid-over.  One bad game and it was over. It was more than a dropping, because it came with a tolling bell. They said he'd lost his zip, that indefinable thing. Here one day, gone the next. 

The cruelest thing of all is that it was fair, and that can be hard to accept. Hoggy needs a villain, and it seems like it's the ECB. 'We've had the same problems with the ECB since I started international cricket,' he says. 'There were people slagging them off when I first came in and there are people still slagging them off. And it's not the ECB who pick the side anyway. See if you can find a player with a good word to say about the ECB. What are they going to do, sue me for telling the truth?'

So Hoggy's bad guys are not his captain or his coach or the selectors, or even the time and circumstance that robbed him of his form, but the ECB, who can legitimately argue that they provide a stupendous lifestyle with awesome perks while it lasts. 

Sadly, it's blame displacement. It's a soft-landing for the mind. The real bad guy here is sport, where one day you're in, and the next day you're out. Twas ever thus. It's hard, even harder when it's a good man like Hoggy, but it's what makes it great. 

4 comments:

Brit said...

Wasn't Sidebottom's unexpected flowering a main reason for Hoggy's demise? And now that Sidebottom's rubbish again it's too late?

Leg Break said...

It was actually Jimmy Anderson getting a game for Auckland mid-season and bowling himself into form.

Broad was always going to replace Harmy and perhaps Hoggard thought he had that safety net.

But Sidebotty was never in form; we just made it look that way. All left-arm seamers do well against NZ; even that guy from Bangladesh whose name I can’t remember.

12th Man said...

/*That indefinable thing called zip*/

With wickets becoming increasingly batsmen-friendly, the bowlers are expected to include newer deliveries to their armoury for survival. Murali was successful in doing that. Anil Kumble never quite managed to do that in the twilight of his career.

The problem with Hoggy is he relies too much on swing. There is hardly any movement for him outside England, New Zealand and South Africa. If he had been given a chance in the recently-concluded WI test series, I am sure Hoggy couldn't have done anything different to what Jimmy, Harmy and broad did.

Cricket is a real cruel game! It doesn't allow you to be content with what you have.

Damith S. said...

Hoggy did incredibly well in India recently. I have always felt him being dropped was incredibly cruel. They never game him a chance to regain his form after being such a good servant to English cricket. Its not like they have better bowlers to replace him right now either. Shame. One of my fav cricketers