This time every year I think about Brad Hodge.
Or as I refer to him: ‘the wonderful Brad Hodge’ (said as one word).
There’s a reason I slip in an adjective before his name, a little run up if you like, and it’s not just because of his majestic stroke play or the fact that everyone loves a hard-done-by battler (and batter).
Hodge has certainly had his fair share of selection controversies over his career – you might even say he’s been ‘dudded’ by the selectors – whichever way you choose to look at it he hasn’t let any of these disappointments affect his prolific run-scoring (only Chris Gayle has scored more T20 runs), and we love him for that.
WATCH: Hodge shows class is permanent
But that’s not why he pops into my head at this time of year.
It’s simpler than that.
We share the same birthday. And we are of a ‘similar’ age.
We are proud members of the December 29 club.
He’s not the only cricket royalty in there – David Boon and Gideon Haigh also belong to this eminently prestigious group.
In cricket terms middle age comes when you retire from the Test team – or pass the age of about 34. When you enter this period you are more at peace with the person you are. And you’re (often) wiser – (the blond hair dye has been locked away and some of the jewellery too).
Staring at what’s left of the Christmas ham I’m aware that not everything improves with age but there is something liberating about leaving behind the impetuosity of youth. As a cricketer you may miss some of the lightning reflexes and zip between the wickets you once had but it’s certainly not all doom and gloom.
WATCH: Hodge blasts massive six
Hodge has proved this point in spades. Not only has Mr Victoria subverted the natural order of things by leaving his beloved home state to join and now captain the Adelaide Strikers – he’s continuing to thrive and continuing to show off his still remarkable skills. With players folding all around him he still managed a run-a-ball 34 with a few sixes thrown in for good measure in the Strikers’ loss to the Thunder.
And just look at controversial Kevin, (yes we’re still all talking about Kevin) Pietersen. Being dropped by England hasn’t dampened his desire and, on view for all to see, his skills. So far one of the best moments of BBL|05 was listening to KP commentate his innings while plundering the Sydney Thunder attack. It was a fascinating insight into the workings of an enigmatic mind, one of the game’s greats.
WATCH: KP predicts future, channels greats
Enter the other South African.
In the same game KP was calling the shots it was no surprise to see Jacques Kallis proving his worth yet again.
Like South African beef jerky – age certainly hasn’t diminished his appeal.
They may store him in a cryogenic chamber before each match but for all his declining speed and agility Kallis still has all the guile and steel that only years of experience can build.
In the Thunder’s one-run win over the Stars, skipper Michael Hussey (another member of the middle-aged maestros) handed the ball to Kallis for the final over. With his trademark no-fuss approach he subdued James ‘The Finisher’ Faulkner to secure the win.
WATCH: King Kallis denies the Finisher
Against the Strikers he reminded us why he is regarded as the world’s best allrounder.
And finally, I have to mention the other Brad and another cult hero of the game, Scorchers veteran Brad Hogg. He’s about to turn 45 although it seems like he’s been turning the ball (and taking wickets) since the beginning of time. I love that he’s still vying for a spot in next year’s T20 World Cup squad – and he surely has to be in the discussion (especially if Nathan Lyon gets injured).
He is by all accounts still an absolute nightmare to score off.
These aged warriors, along with Brad Haddin and George Bailey, add so much value to the game and are vital to the lifeblood of the sport – the young players coming through. As mentors they pass on lessons learned both on and off the field. As players they entertain and still have the ability to turn a match on its head.
Not only that, they make me feel so much better about my own score of forty-something not out.
Happy Birthday Brad.