The fun-loving, free-spirited, living-legend continues to live the dream in the BBL
The KFC Big Bash League is only five years old but already it’s creating legacies. Class war may be the preserve of the English, but state snobbery runs true in Australia – and no more so than when it comes to sporting rivalries.
The Perth Scorchers, a three-hour flight away from their nearest rivals, is the singularly most successful club in the KFC Big Bash League’s short history, having contested every final to date and won the last two. Now the club has just become the first to sell out all home games in a season. Five years ago the prospect of this happening to a cricket club, in Perth or elsewhere, was unthinkable. The fact that it is Perth, however, provokes the ire of the rest of Australia.
An away trip now to the Scorchers’ home ground of the WACA – aka #TheFurnace during the BBL – is a daunting one for any visiting team. A BBL match here holds an atmosphere and occasion unrivalled across the country; jealousy, therefore, is perhaps just an automatic reaction to the unique allure of this fortress of orange fanatics.
Man of the people // Getty Images
Appropriate then that in such a fiery fortress, and just as one Australian sporting character once had his own set of Fanatics, another is garnering his own.
“Hogg-eeee, Hogg-eeee, Hogg-eeee!” The chant rings out. Started by a line of orange-clad, face-painted, fully-grown men bowing in waves in one corner of the stadium, it’s soon finding its way around the whole venue. In a Boxing Day BBL fixture that is fast becoming its own institution, when Hogg comes on to bowl, the roar is deafening. The crowd have got what they want.
After a single first ball, Hogg’s second is a dot. Another huge roar ensues. The third is a dot too – the noise resurfaces. With just three runs off his first over bowled, Hogg receives a near-standing ovation as he returns to his fielding position.
Warwick Capper. Monty Panesar. Richie Benaud. Goran Ivanisevic. And now Brad Hogg. It’s an unruly mob to be part of, a little unorthodox, but an esteemed pantheon of sporting greats. All extremely talented in their chosen fields – at times the best – but all with a little extra, a little je ne sais quoi, that places them firmly in the category of sporting cult figures.
So what’s it like to be a cult figure?
“I don’t know,” Hogg says shyly. “That question always gets to me.”
The question does indeed induce a rare occasion in which Hogg loses his unflustered exterior, as he writhes uncomfortably in his seat. “Words can’t describe it. Something is a… yeah.”
“Anyway,” he laughs. “Something about, as a kid growing up loving the game, and being able to grow-up with your hero, like Geoff Marsh, and then sign autographs with kids afterwards, and seeing the same look that you had… hmmm – cult figure, I wouldn’t call it that.”
Fans love the Hogg // Getty Images
The ‘Brad-Hog-is-a-cult-figure’ has been covered before, but with each year added to Hogg’s mounting age, his venerability becomes ever further entrenched. Hogg is an accomplished cricketer by any description. With 156 one-day international wickets at 26.84, seven Test caps, two World Cups and possessor of perhaps the best wrong ‘un in world cricket (despite Adil Rashid’s mounting claims), he’s had a career most can only dream of. Yet he’s still there. Nearing 45 years-old, Brad Hogg is not only playing, but dominating, in what has widely been acclaimed as “the premier tournament in the world”.
“Look, I wouldn’t say I dominate, no,” Hogg says deferentially. “I just think it’s great to be around a young team and a good bunch of young fellas that still want me down here.”
“At the end of the day it’s a team game and I’m just enjoying the camaraderie. That’s probably the one thing that I’ve missed when I retired for those couple of years, is just being involved with the team and also having that adrenaline rush of seeing if those skills are still up to it.”
Hogg’s longevity is a factor in his status, but only one of many attributes that make up this cult figure. It’s his tongue hanging out as he bowls. It’s his little rub of the nose whenever he’s being interviewed. It’s his ability to speak candidly about anything and everything. It’s also his cheeky grin at the cameras, or the crowd, whenever he turns in that direction. And more than anything else, it’s because he’s enjoying every single moment of the dream he’s living. Hogg is a man who can’t quite believe his luck.
Knows how to celebrate a wicket // Getty Images
A large part of Hogg’s allure, and even that of Shane Warne to an extent, is the relatability of their personas. For many of the crowd, long-term cricket-loving fathers along with young families – wives and children they’re enticing to a new game, Hogg is just like them. Or they like to think he is.
He’s a family man not just with his own young family, but as a father-figure to the young spinners in his team, the Ashton Agars and James Muirheads tentatively trying to tread in his footsteps. He loves his cricket, he enjoys a laugh, and above all he’s fulfilling that childhood dream all middle-aged men still desperately cling to.
Unlike Shane Warne however, it’s not always been an easy ride. He’s not a loveable rogue who can get away with murder simply for having a god-given talent. Nor is he the big ego of the Pietersens or the Gayles of this world. Hogg’s had to graft it out, he’s held down a normal job, suffered nagging regret (after his first retirement) and has questioned what he’s doing with his life more often than not – he’s a normal bloke who’s suffered only as normal blokes can.
One of the BBL’s greatest achievements to date is to create a following and atmosphere as though the league has been around for decades. In just five years turf wars have been created, rivalries born and derbies have split cities in half.
Always smiling // Getty Images
Brad Hogg’s cult status is an offshoot of that. He’s a character in the right time, right place and with all the attributes to match, who encompasses all the good things the BBL has to offer.
To have a cult figure in the first place, the pantheon in which that figure exists needs to be watched enough and interesting enough to catch the public’s imagination. The BBL, therefore, has reached that status. Perhaps now with the flier that the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League has got off to as well, we’ll soon see too a female equivalent emerge. There are enough characters certainly, and what an endorsement that would be.
Hogg is a figure of the game’s past reincarnated in the game’s future. He won’t be around for ever, but the longer he is, the more entrenched the status becomes.
If ever an opportunity arises to see the Scorchers, in their own back yard and with Hogg at the helm, then grab it with both hands. It’s an experience that’s hard to describe but one that is a modern great. And if anyone elsewhere says otherwise, they’re just jealous.