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India, the best place to perfect the art of batting: Kim Hughes

Former Australia skipper Kim Hughes says India is the best place to perfect the art of batting

Former Australia captain Kim Hughes is best remembered for breaking down while announcing at a press conference in November, 1984 at Brisbane that he would not be able to continue as captain after yet another defeat to the West Indies.


Talking cricket: Kim Hughes

His international career coincided with a tumultuous period in Australian cricket. When he made his Test debut, Australia's best players had defected to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. When the star players returned, Hughes was rarely a full-time captain. Only once (vs Pakistan in 1983-84) did he get to lead a full strength Australian side. After that, he was left with the task of rebuilding the team caused by the retirements of Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh.

But, he could bat. His knocks in Madras in 1979-80, the Centenary Test in 1980 when his straight six landed in the top deck of the Lord's members' pavilion, and the unbeaten ton in the Boxing Day Test against West Indies in 1981-82 were some of his gems. Christian Ryan wrote in 'Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the bad old days of Australian Cricket', "He rarely built big innings and he often sacrificed starts with rash shots.

But on those occasions it came off - like at Lord's in 1980 and at the MCG in 1981 - he was an artist, an entertainer and played cricket for the love of it." Hughes' batting average of 37.41 (in 70 Tests) didn't do justice to his talent.

These days, Hughes is working with AFL commentator and former West Coast Eagles coach Ken Judge to help sporting teams and organisations in Perth, in what he describes 'a building industry'. He is now renowned a public speaker and motivator here, and considers himself "easily accessible."

Hughes spoke to MiD DAY yesterday:

You had a great record against India - 988 runs from 11 Tests. What was your finest hour against India?
Personally, my finest hour against India was the double century at Adelaide (in 1980-81). It was special because my wife had just given birth to twin boys just two weeks before that Test match. It was also on Australia Day - which is my birthday - and also India's Republic Day. Also, my tour to India in 1979-80 when some of the players had defected to World Series Cricket was special. I got a hundred at Madras in really hot and humid conditions against a top-class spin attack. I returned from that tour a better player of spin bowling. I still rate that hundred in Madras as one of my best.

You were a fine player of spin bowling and danced down the track a lot. But, you grew up playing on fast and bouncy pitches at the WACA ground. How did you learn the art of tackling spin?
I had a very good coach. I had absolutely no fear of leaving the crease. I used to tell myself, 'the wicketkeeper is just wasting his time by standing up'. I was arrogant at the crease against spinners. My philosophy was to use the crease as much as possible. But, it wasn't till I toured India in 1979-80 that I learnt to play spin bowling. In India, you learn to play the lap shot, the sweep shot, and how to use the crease.

As a young boy growing up in Australia, you are always taught to play right back. Playing in India was the best thing to happen to me because I learnt to absorb the conditions and play accordingly. Most of those spinners were turning a ball a yard, so for me, it was a great challenge to play them.

I feel modern-day Australian batsmen need to visit India during the off-season to practice against spin, develop that art which is sorely missing. If you see the Big Bash League, Brad Hogg, Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill are making a mockery of the young batsmen. They have absolutely no idea how to play spin. It's really shocking to learn.

You know what it's like to be a part of a rebuilding side. After Chappell, Lillee and Marsh retired, Australia failed to win a Test series for three-and-a-half years. India could be losing their Big Three soon. What would your advice be to them - to try and avoid a similar debacle?
Don't play the West Indies (laughs). We played the West Indies regularly, and kept getting battered. Fortunately, there's no side in the world today that's as strong. I think the Kohlis and Sharmas need to start batting alongside the Big Three before they retire. I am not saying that both must play at all times - but definitely one of them should start batting at No 3 or No 4 - definitely not at No 6. They are being wasted at No 6. They will never learn about tough conditions by batting that low down. I think Sachin Tendulkar could move down the order, it's not going to make a difference to him. If all three (Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman) suddenly leave, and if Rohit and Kohli are still inexperienced at the Test arena, that's going to prove nightmarish for India. India need to blood three or four good youngsters quickly. And they need to bat high up the order - just so they will be ready when Laxman, Dravid and Sachin retire.

Are you surprised with India's capitulation in the ongoing series (0-2 down)?
I've been very impressed with Umesh Yadav. I sense that he has a tremendous future. I saw him during the West Indies series and fell in love with his bowling. He has the seam upright and is a genuine fast bowler - something that's missing in today's times. Even Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan are good bowlers. India seems to have a great bowling stock at the moment. I've been very disappointed with the way they performed - especially after that competitive first Test. There was very little difference in the sides after that first Test. I think Australia's bowling is not better than India's. I think India made a huge blunder by opting to bat first at Sydney.

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