Magellan Ashes 2017-18
Greg Chappell's Ashes icons: 35-31
Former Australia captain and current national selector Greg Chappell picks the 40 best Ashes players from the past 40 years
2 November 2017, 12:39 PM AEST
As a player, captain, selector and commentator at varying times between 1977 and 2017, legendary Australia batsman Greg Chappell is among those most qualified to judge the finest players to have taken the field in an Ashes Test across the past four decades. Here Chappell has delved into the memory bank and listed his 40 Ashes Icons from the past 40 years; men who have left indelible impressions on his memory through their deeds in Ashes cricket. Today we’re looking at numbers 35-31…
35. Rodney Hogg
11 Ashes Tests 56 wickets at 17.00. BBM: 10-66. 5x5WI, 2x10WM
Rodney took 41 wickets in the 1978-79 Ashes and I reckon I've heard about every one of those wickets many times at various functions over the years – I feel like I played in that series. But he is a funny man. He burst onto the scene in that Ashes. It was quite amazing. He was about six foot tall, a very skiddy sort of bowler, and he tended to hurry on to the bat.
He was sharp – around the 140kph mark, and probably the thing that held him back was that he had a really good first spell, but sometimes didn't back that up in his second and third spells. He probably was never quite as fit and physically strong enough to sustain his 140 clicks and when he dropped his pace it did make a difference, but some of his first spells in Test cricket – and particularly that '78-79 Ashes – were as good as any I saw. He had some self-doubts, as we all do, and that may have stopped him reaching the heights he perhaps should have.
34. David Hookes (Australia)
10 Ashes Tests 627 runs @ 39.18. HS: 85. 6x50s
Hookesy burst on the scene with three or four hundreds in a row in first-class cricket as a 19-year-old. He was picked for the Centenary Test and had a bit of a presence from the start; he had the blond hair, the confidence, he walked with a swagger. He took the game on, didn't mind hitting the ball in the air, and his innings in the Centenary Test turned the tide from it being a bowler-dominated game to the bat getting on top.
We lost a couple of wickets in the second innings and were under the pump a bit, and David strode out there and didn't take a backward step. The five boundaries he hit off Tony Greig in that over made a statement that he was a man playing amongst men and he deserved to be there. He toured England later that same year for the Ashes and got a couple of fifties in the Tests in what was a tough series for batsmen. I reckon he was just about to take off when World Series Cricket came along, he had his jaw broken by Andy Roberts and I don't think he was quite the same batsman afterward – he was understandably just a little bit apprehensive.
He made another handful of half-centuries in the Ashes of '82-83 but he never quite made of his career what he perhaps could have, though his performances in '77 particularly showed he was a very good player.
33. Merv Hughes (Australia)
20 Ashes Tests 75 wickets at 30.25. BBM: 8-151. 1x5WI
Merv was the boy from the Western Suburbs of Melbourne. A self-made fast bowler, he didn't have the natural abilities some had but what he did have was a big heart and he just kept running in. There were times towards the end of his career where his body must have been screaming at him, and yet he kept running in.
Early in his career he tended to bowl a bit down the leg side, and I think a lot of people thought Merv probably wasn't going to be around for long. But he proved them wrong because of his indomitable spirit, his love of playing for Australia and his desire to do well for his team. He was the quintessential team man, loved by everyone. I can understand why AB didn't like Merv's tongue in his ear, I don't think I'd have enjoyed that much either, but you had to love his effort.
Most people would have looked at blokes like Lillee, Thomson and Craig McDermott and thought, 'they're super athletes – I don't think I could do that'. But with Merv, people thought, 'Well if he can do it, maybe I can do it'. People related to him. And he just loved taking wickets, ruffling batsmen, and didn't mind having a few words with them on the way through. A great character and a fantastic bowler.
32. Michael Clarke (Australia)
35 Ashes Tests 2,241 runs @ 40.74. HS: 187. 7x100s, 7x50s
A leading batsman in his era and a successful captain. He had really good instincts for the captaincy. And it seemed to galvanise him as a batsman as well. He was a good player in all conditions and scored hundreds home and away in the Ashes – he was always confident in his ability from early on.
He played some of his best innings on lower-bounce wickets, scored centuries at Lord's and Old Trafford and Edgbaston, so he was a very well-rounded batsman. As a captain, he handled his attacks well, he handled spin bowling well, and he preferred to attack; he liked to try to lead the game from the start. The 2010-11 series was a tough one for the Australians and Clarke and Ricky Ponting didn't have a great time of things, and you know when your premier batsmen struggle it's going to be difficult to win.
That's why his first few innings in 2013-14 were so important; he set the tone with hundreds in the first two Tests, led from the front, used his bowlers smartly and oversaw that famous whitewash. He was born for Test cricket, though he was part of a generation that never managed to win an Ashes series in England.
31. Ryan Harris (Australia)
12 Ashes Tests 57 wickets at 20.63. BBM: 9-106. 4x5WI
He played at a pretty young age for South Australia and was always viewed as a very good bowler, and a great athlete. The first time I saw him was at Allan Border Field in Brisbane and he took one of the best outfield catches I can recall seeing. But he didn't reach his potential in South Australia, and he's the first to admit he probably didn't work hard enough. He enjoyed a good time. And he got a shock when he wasn't offered a contract at South Australia.
At Queensland, he realised he was being given a second chance and he started working hard, he got himself fit, and he bulked up – and having spoken to him, he credits that with picking up a couple of yards of pace. He hit the bat hard as a kid but he became genuinely quick when he was fitter, stronger and had some mass. He went from 130-135 to 140-145 and that's a serious bowler. He bowled outswingers with great control and just loved getting batsmen out. It's a shame that injuries curtailed his career because he's genuinely in the top bracket of fast bowlers to have played for Australia, which is something his record won't immediately tell you.
But seeing him bowl in those prime years was very exciting. It always looked like a wicket was going to fall. He troubled everyone, even when conditions were tough for bowling. He bowled some incredible balls, including the one at the WACA four years ago to knock over Alastair Cook, and while he will always be overshadowed by others like Mitchell Johnson, don't be mistaken – he was an outstanding bowler.
Chappell's Ashes Icons
2017-18 International Fixtures:
Magellan Ashes Series
First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets
Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets
Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets
Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets
Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets
Gillette ODI Series v England
First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets
Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets
Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets
Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF
Prime Minister's XI
PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets
Gillette T20 INTL Series
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets
Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets
Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets
Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21