'Opening batsmen and bowlers are key'

'Opening batsmen and bowlers are key'

Kim Hughes had an eventful international career. He was appointed captain at 25 when the big players in the Australian team signed up for the Packer Series.

After just four wins in 28 Tests, however, he tendered a tearful resignation in 1984 and, ironically, led an Australian ‘rebel’ team to South Africa for the World Series. The 61-year-old Hughes doesn’t like talking about the controversies during his captaincy period but opens up about World Cup, India’s turn-around and India’s first World Cup win in 1983 during a chat with Deccan Herald.

What are your impressions of the World Cup so far? Do you feel like it’s being played in the sub-continent given the high totals the teams have been stacking up?
The wickets have been really good and some of the oppositions are just learning. The wickets here are quicker than in the sub-continent and the balls come nicely on to the bat. I think the key is going to be, and I said this at the start, the opening batsmen and the opening bowlers. Against top sides, if you don’t get early wickets, they will get 300. Because of T20, they bat all the way down pretty well, they clear the boundaries… There are no more rabbits. Even 10-11 bat quite well. They can hit the ball over the boundaries, so if you don’t get through early, the opposition is going to get 300.  

Do you think there is no balance between bat and ball?
If you see the game in New Zealand, two of the strongest sides (Australia and New Zealand) got 150 (each)! I am not sure but there are pretty average bowlers around at the moment. And when you have better bowlers, there’s a pretty average batting. New Zealand and Australia’s batting was pretty average (in the Auckland game). You can’t sort of compare that with Bangladesh or Afghanistan… Even the West Indies are a very average side now. So you have got three or four good sides and the rest are very poor. Even Pakistan are pretty average. New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and may be India (are good)… India’s bowling has been better but they were pretty average in the Test series. They didn’t improve, they went backwards (during the Test series).   

What do you have to say about India’s turn-around? They didn’t look like they could even buy a win in the tri-series...
I don’t know if it’s a turn-around but one-day cricket is vastly different to Test cricket where the bowlers have to do all the running. But in one-day cricket, it’s the batsmen that have to take the dominant role. You can’t bowl two bouncers, only four fielders outside the circle, pretty much you can’t bowl down the leg… So the game changes. They are doing well now, but they were poor in the Tests. The Indians actually, must thank the curators because they got the flattest wickets of all time. They didn’t even play in Perth. When we went there (to India), we played on four turners and they come to Australia, they get four of the finest wickets of all time! In one-day cricket (in the World Cup) their batsmen are back in form and bowlers are looking good as well.  

You saw how England played in the tri-series, are you surprised with the way they have performed so far?
I am not surprised with the way England have performed so far. They have made some terrible decisions. To start with, why would you play seven games in Sri Lanka just before the World Cup? You had (James) Taylor batting at No 3 in the tri-series and he scored an 80 at the WACA (against India) and come World Cup, you bat Gary (Ballance) at No 3. He had had no practice games and straightaway you bring him at 3!  England, they have been in a shambles. How come (Ben) Stokes isn’t playing? He got a hundred against Australia in the Ashes, he looks a really good prospect – big, strong and powerful sort of player. England, they are in disarray. They have made some terrible decisions and they have got too many backward (thinking) people. Even if they qualify for the quarters, I feel, they are just here to make up the numbers.    

Talk us through your World Cup experiences in 1983. You led Australia in the tournament, you won one game and lost another (Hughes missed it because of an injury) against India… Did you have any inkling that India would go on to win the Cup?
The West Indies were the favourites to win the World Cup. Look, Kapil Dev played an amazing innings against Zimbabwe for them to win. I think there was actually some poor captaincy by Duncan Fletcher (who led Zimbabwe then). I really thought the West Indies were the best side and when they got into the final against India, I must admit that when interviewed by an Indian journalist, I did say that I thought India could win!

But that’s only because it was an Indian journalist. India had a good side, a steady side but the West Indies had an amazing side. India almost beat West Indies through their lack of pace. Mohinder Amarnath took three or four wickets (3/12) in the final and he was bowling at my mother’s pace! He was very, very slow but it just shows you, on a day when you are not switched on, these things can happen. India had a memorable win but realistically, I didn’t think they would win. West Indies had won in 1975 and 79 and I thought they will make it three in a row. But India had an amazing finish and they were certainly the underdogs.

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