Kim Hughes amazed at lack of respect for Clarke

Jan 14, 2012, 07:12 IST | Sai Mohan

In the concluding part of the Kim Hughes interview, Australia's former captain waxes eloquent on current leader Michael

In the concluding part of the Kim Hughes interview, Australia's former captain waxes eloquent on current leader Michael

Michael Clarke hasn't been the most popular captain in the dressing room. Do you see any similarity in your careers?
To be honest, I've been amazed at a large part of the public for not showing him the respect that he deserves. The cricket fraternity in Australia has been very judgmental of him. I think his public life being under scrutiny hasn't helped. Everyone is trying to attack him needlessly. 

Michael Clarke

I think that he's shown a lot of courage and flair as captain of Australia. He decided to skip the IPL and always put the country first. He's a very dedicated chap. He's an imaginative captain and is leading by example. I was floored by his triple century at the SCG. And I think the public too is finally opening their eyes to the birth of a great leader. I have the utmost respect for him. I do have some similarity with him. But, when I was captain, I was only 25, and later 27 and 28. Michael is already 30, and has the support of seniors Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. I hardly had the support of anyone. But, yes, there is lot of similarity there. I wasn't a popular captain too. Unfortunately, I never became one.

MS Dhoni has come under a scathing attack. Has he warranted it?
I used to be a big fan of Dhoni. I think he's creative and a good leader of men. Everything about him is fantastic. But of late, I am starting to have my doubts. I am not sure where he's headed. He's been waiting for things to happen, some of his field placements have been outrageous. He doesn't seem to have too many plans to get an opposition out. He's not able to think ahead of the game. But, I think he'll look to learn from these tough times. I hope he does, for the sake of Indian cricket.

Bob Merriman (the Australian team manager when you broke into tears at Brisbane in 1984) said that you have buried the hatchet with old teammate and nemesis Dennis Lillee �
Yes, that's absolutely true. In the earlier days, they (Lillee, Rod Marsh & Co) didn't want me as captain. It wasn't an easy time to captain Australia. They appointed Greg Chappell as captain for home Tests, but I was captain every time we toured overseas. It was really annoying - and not good for the players too. We could never build a team that away. It's like saying Ricky Ponting will captain in home Tests, and Michael Clarke in overseas Tests. But, we have moved on from those days. Dennis and I are good mates now.

Do you regret your tearful resignation as captain?
Not one bit. Obviously, it's not one of the things that I would mark in my book of anniversaries. It's done and dusted. It's been more than 27 years now. I've moved on and forgotten about it. I managed only four wins in 28 Tests as captain of Australia. At that stage in Brisbane, for the first time in my life, I wasn't enjoying cricket. I couldn't see light at the end of the tunnel. And AB (Allan Border) did a wonderful job as captain after I resigned. After that loss in West Indies (in March-May 1984 which Australia lost 0-3), I had totally stopped enjoying cricket. And the series that followed at home that summer was like an exclamation mark. I can never forget that summer of 1984-85. If I think back, it's still fresh in my memory. And yet, I have erased that part of my life.

Rod Marsh was another one who had major problems with you as captain. You know him really well being a fellow Western Australian. What does he bring to the table as a selector?
He has a very good eye for players - that's a very important characteristic for a selector. There are some players who can perform at the highest level and still not turn into something special. There are others who will take a while to reach that level on a consistent basis. Rod has the ability to spot that sort of talent. Even in his playing days, he was always involved in identifying young talent and backing them. Also, with his coaching sting in England, he's got a fair idea of what's needed to win. The good thing about him is that he's very practical. He won't feed bullshit to a player - and tell him that he will play 100 Tests for Australia. He will tell the player whatever he feels to his face. These are good times in Australia cricket - new selection panel, coach and captain. Marsh is going to try and instil that winning attitude again. He's a winner in every sense of the word.

You were a chirpy character at the crease. Does cricket miss characters? Can you talk about your gruelling battle with Bishan Singh Bedi at the SCG in 1977-78?
You could say that. Preparation in cricket is becoming regimented. There are certain processes for everything. I always let my bat do the talking. In Shield matches, I used to let a bowler know what I was thinking. And that too, only after I got to 30 or 40. But, in Test cricket, I didn't do much of that. I can never forget the time when I smashed Bedi over the grandstand for a huge six at the SCG. I was a brash youngster, about 23 or 24 at the time. The next ball though, I lost my off-stump. Those were younger days. Later, I developed a great relationship with Bedi and especially Erapalli Prasanna. I have to thank them for making me a better batsman. I always loved India and Indian people.

What's your view on Marsh, Lillee and Chappell not being able to make Test tours to India?
Oh, mate, too bad for them. I think it was their misfortune to have never visited India. It's one of the most beautiful places to play cricket. Those days, a lot people had their reservations about going to India. Sure, I was appointed captain in the late 70s because of World Series Cricket, but that was the best thing that ever happened to me. From a captain's perspective, I got to learn so much. The best things I learnt was how to implement field settings on flat tracks - that's something you will never learn here in Australia. If I was to ever groom a young Test cricketer today, I'd ask him to go and play in India in his younger days. You won't learn more about batsmanship anywhere else in the world.

After the rebel tours to South Africa, you returned to Shield cricket for Western Australia and scored a century. At that stage, you were still 33. Didn't you try to make an international comeback?
Absolutely not. My family was developing and my life was well balanced. When I walked out of that door in Brisbane in 1984, I had given up on my career. Though I did make a comeback later, I knew that I could never get back to my best.

Do you regret going on a rebel tour to South Africa?
Not at all. You see, religion and politics have always caused problems in the world. But, sport and music are great. When I went to South Africa, I just went to play cricket. But, after a few years, I realised what an important thing I had done. With political turmoil in South Africa, only sport kept something true alive. And I was glad to be a part of that. I would do it all over again if a country is in need for something so wonderful.

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