The Ashes column: ‘Rodney Hogg told me it will be 6-0 to Australia’
Ryan Harris retires injured. It’s verbal sparring for David Warner and Joe Root, this time, rather than bar room punch ups. And apparently Steven Smith’s technique is as dodgy as Gary Ballance’s footwork and Michael Clarke’s back, combined. Despite all the international runs Smith has scored in the last year.
The run up to an Ashes series is like the prelude to England’s involvement in a major football championships.
For weeks, we’ve had the usual mixture of optimistic speculation and cynical pessimism, fuelled of course by the customary pre-Ashes cocktail of denial, cognitive dissonance, and collective amnesia.
Will Mitchell Johnson bowl like the champion of 2013-14, or the chump from 2009? Does new England coach, Trevor Bayliss, really have the inside story on half the Australian team, after coaching the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash? And can an England team that lost 5-0 just over a year ago, do anything other than lose, heavily, this time around?
To non-sports fans this is all self-indulgent rubbish. For them, cricket, like, any other sport, is a straightforward contest between two teams, and the best team usually wins. But until the story is actually written, English cricket fans will dare to dream.
Can Ben Stokes replace Kevin Pietersen as England’s talisman? Will Pietersen replace Ian Bell in the team, if England go two nil down and the Warwickshire man doesn’t get any runs? Will, leg spinner, Adil Rashid, do to Australia what Pakistan’s Yasir Shah did to them, in the UAE, last October?
When Australians dream, they call it predicting. For former fast bowling legend, Glenn McGrath, that’s a mandatory 5-0 to Australia. Had McGrath been around when Kerry Packer World Series Cricket was on, he would have probably still predicted a successful whitewash for the third string Australian team that faced up to Mike Brearley’s England in 1978-9.
To predict anything else would be un-Australian. Unless you’re, Rodney Hogg, that is. Tearaway fast bowler, Hogg, was in that 78-9 Australian side, which actually lost 5-1 to Brearley’s men. But he thinks McGrath is actually underestimating Australia’s chances, this time around. ‘What will the score be?’ Hogg recently told me: ‘Simple. Six nil to Australia.’
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