MELBOURNE: With his technique and temperament, Virat Kohli would have held his own against the likes of Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding had he played in the late 1970s and 80s, feels former Australian captain Kim Hughes.
The general standard of Test match batting, though, has “deteriorated in current times”, according to the former skipper.
Hughes, who played 70 Tests and also captained Australia during a critical phase, was considered to be a very stylish batter from the late 70s till mid 80s, before he quickly faded out after a slump in form.

“Virat Kohli would be a world class player in any era because he is tough, got a fantastic technique, and plenty of courage. He would do well in any era,” the 68-year-old Hughes told PTI in an interview.
For Hughes, there is no one bigger and better than Sir Vivian Richards but Kohli would come just in the next bracket.
“Kohli would have been equally successful against the West Indies team of the 70s and 80s. Maybe, he is not in the class of Viv, but suddenly in the top echelon.
“Viv was above everybody else, but Virat is certainly in the league of Greg Chappell, Allan Border and Javed Miandad, the best in my era,” said the man, who had 4000 plus Test runs.

Hughes, who has nine Test hundreds apart 22 half-centuries, feels that having an average of 50 plus isn’t a big deal in these times. But, back in the day, it was a kind of novelty due to the kind of pace attack the top teams had.
“Only great players in my era averaged 50, and there were only half a dozen at max,” said Hughes, whose own average was around 38, even though there were few who had the style and flair like him.
He gave a technical example.
“In late 70s and mid 80s, only batter who could hit a pacer for six over extra cover consistently was Viv. And now even my nine-year-old grandson could hit a six.
“No team now has four great fast bowlers like the West Indies of yore had and in our era, only Viv, Greg (Chappell), AB (Border) and Javed Miandad were four great players. They averaged 50 plus,” he added.

“The players now, I am sorry, are not in the league of Viv, Greg, Javed and Allan.”
Reason for decline in Test match batting
Hughes feels that T20 cricket is one of the biggest reasons for current day batters facing technical problems.
“T20 overs cricket has led to deterioration of technique of a lot of batters as they get on the front-foot. Big bats, short boundaries, and mistimed shots are going for sixes.
“Most of the Test batsmen in this era wouldn’t know what the backfoot looks like. Because of limited overs cricket, they just lunged on the front-foot and are sorted out by good bowlers,” he reasoned.

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Birthday boy Virat Kohli’s top 5 T20I innings

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Hughes feels that among the younger generation of batters, Cameron Green has a solid backfoot play, and with his all-round skills would be the “best all-rounder” in the days to come.
Cricket Australia and its ‘deplorable’ ways
Hughes isn’t exactly a great fan of Cricket Australia and the manner in which it has handled some of the recent controversies.
He cited three examples – sandpaper gate, David Warner’s future captaincy issue, and the Justin Langer exit episode.
“I think the manner in which Cricket Australia handled sandpaper incident was poorly. Former CEO James Sutherland didn’t speak about it for three days.
“He should have got on the plane instantly and got to South Africa and told the cricket manager and captain that ‘no one says anything till I reach’.”
If sandpaper gate was bad, the way Langer had to leave the Australia head coach’s job was worse.
“The Langer situation was handled absolutely deplorably. After they beat England and then decided to procrastinate and then had audacity to offer him six-month contract rather than ask him to do the World Cup (last edition in UAE). I think, they treated Justin Langer disgracefully,” he sounded rather angry.
He also feel that CA’s stand on seeing Warner as a potential captain smacks of double standards.
“They also handled David Warner situation very poorly and he hasn’t been in newspaper articles and media with respect to sandpaper and other people involved in it as well.
“Yes, it’s not right and David has taken it on the chin. Smith was responsible as captain. He is now eligible, and David isn’t.”
Don’t see Cummins playing T20s after this edition
Playing three formats along with league cricket isn’t feasible in this day and age, and hence, Pat Cummins is unlikely to play more T20Is post this World Cup, opined Hughes.
“After this T20 World Cup, I think that Pat won’t play too many T20Is for Australia. He doesn’t need to play that and he needs to have a break.
“He would play the odd 50-over game and some youngsters are coming up, so he should let them play and he would focus on Tests particularly going to England,” he said.
Alcohol addiction and turning into mental health coach
The last two years have been challenging for Hughes, who saw a downward spiral during the first COVID wave, when he drowned himself in alcohol and needed counselling and rehabilitation.
“It just did,” he paused for a moment and said.
“COVID came along and there was no corporate speaking but that’s not an excuse. It sneaks up suddenly and you don’t realise. Drinking or being around alcohol was much a part of my life as it is with a lot of Australian men.
“We don’t talk about things,” said the man, whose cover drives were as much a fad as his blonde curly hair.
For Hughes, more than his 9 hundreds and Test best of 213, the greatest “century” is being off alcohol for 101 weeks.
“Yes, today it is 101 weeks without drinking alcohol. I was going down the wrong path, and went into a rehab on advice of my son, and it’s the greatest century I have ever scored. 101 weeks, and I haven’t missed a drink,” he laughed.
“That’s the best thing that has happened to me. I can talk to people on ways to overcome alcohol or drug addiction, gambling. I work a lot on mental well being and mental health. I am a mental health coach.”
The brighter side of COVID was that his three sons and daughter gave birth to five grandchildren in the last 20 months.
“COVID has proved to be productive for Team Hughes,” he burst out laughing.
And how he is doing financially?
“Well, I am going okay, I am not a millionaire, but I live in the greatest place in the world and that’s Australia,” he signed off.

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By Dipak

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