on 6 October 2009
Kim Hughes was one of my favourite batsmen when I was growing up and this book is a fascinating portrait of the man and what went on around him. Lillee and Marsh may have been great cricketers, but reading this book they come across as rather unsavoury characters who treated Hughes poorly.This book fills a gap nicely and I wish Kim Hughes all the best. Update. Heard Hughes on TMS at the Perth test. Really excellent interview. His 100 on Boxing Day 1981 v Windies at height of their fast bowling domination is one the the great test centuries.....catch it on you tube but for context look at the scores in the match.
on 26 October 2011
In many ways Kim Hughes always struck me as a throwback to a bygone era. His cavalier style of batting, with little regard for the match situation, would not have been out of place in the Cardusian "Golden Era" prior to the First World War. With a landmark beckoning, Hughes often aimed to reach it with a towering six. Sometimes it came off spectacularly, but on others he perished and there can be few big name batsmen who have missed out so often in the 90s as Hughes had a tendency to do. His strokeplay was vivid, innovative and eye-catching, though his self-confessed tendency to decide on the stroke before the ball was delivered could also lead to his downfall. To do that when seeing it like a football is one thing; to do it on a regular basis is not the most sensible of approaches.
A Test average of just under 40 is indicative of talent, but not at the very highest level and a player with Hughes attitude - one similar to Michael Slater, Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle and a few more - will always entertain and infuriate in equal measure. As he showed in the centenary Test at Lords, Hughes was like the little girl with the curl: when he was good, he was very, very good - though when he was bad...
I've read a good few books over the years that purported to be "explosive" and this is one of the few that genuinely lives up to the billing. A number of the main protagonists declined to be interviewed for it and the author, Christian Ryan, has done a remarkable job in piecing together the story of an Australian dressing room at a time of turmoil from those willing to talk. There was a lot going on of course - the Packer revolution, rebel tours and big name/big ego players was a recipe for disaster, unless overseen by a player of equable temperament and ability.
Kim Hughes was just short of that and the attitude of the Chappell brothers, Ian and Greg, Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee does not show them in the best light. Lillee, trying to knock Hughes' head off at every net session; Marsh, seemingly undermining him at every turn with his own captaincy ambitions thwarted and the Chappells offering little in the way of support and plenty that could be construed as antagonistic. Hughes' carefree attitude sat poorly with them and they made their dissatisfaction patently obvious to most observers, certainly those with more than a passing eye on the Australian dressing room. He was too flashy, too unreliable, too much the outsider to their inner circle. His ultimate breaking down at the press conference as he resigned the captaincy of the national side was more remarkable by the fact that it took so long to happen, given the pressures he faced from inside and outside of the side.
Kim Hughes' career spiralled downwards as his eye went and his foot movement became more leaden. A less than perfect technique being shown up by the physical and psychological bombardment of the West Indies of the time, an unrelenting attack that was always going to test a happy and compulsive hooker. His final years were a melancholic parody of a batsman capable of genuine brilliance as he found various ways of getting out, infuriatingly when well-set.. Yet having played club cricket in Scotland for thirty years, I can vouch for the fact that every overseas professional is still compared to Hughes' spectacular year for Watsonians in Edinburgh before he made the international scene, while those who saw his rapier-like bat in action at Lords in that centenary Test saw batsmanship of a calibre rarely equalled, let alone surpassed. That he was a player of brilliance was undeniable. The reality is that there were just too few days when it lasted long enough to make a real difference.
The author has produced a masterful book that will live long in the memory. Perhaps too sensationalised for some tastes, but if you like your cricket books to make you think, raise your eyebrows and shake your head, this is undoubtedly one for you. As a 'several flies on a wall' account of a disintegrating dressing room, one overly reliant on a handful of ageing players, it is up there with the very best of its genre.
With Christmas coming, I would start slipping hints to the love of your life. This is a seriously powerful and thoroughly engaging read .
on 16 November 2009
This book has the major advantage of being written with hindsight and at a distance from the main protagonist. Suffice to say it is the antithesis of the very ordinary cricket (auto)biographies that grace the shelves with "X too fivefor, Y took threefor etc". Very well worth reading with some surprising revelations for those of us so far from Australia in the 1970s and 80s.
Kim Hughes is known for many things. Being on the receiving end of Botham's Ashes. Having one of the least successful records as Australian captain. Breaking down in tears at his resignation press conference in 1984. This book tells the story of why these things happened.
The eldest son of a Western Australian headmaster, Hughes seems to have been born with an innate self-confidence, a trait encouraged by his parents when they noticed his sporting abilities. Kim himself saw the defining moment of his life as meeting his personal cricket coach, Frank Parry. The type of coach Parry was is encapsulated in an anecdote Ryan tells about a time Hughes got a duck in a club match. Parry phoned the disconsulate Hughes after the game and said "Your left elbow was right, your head was fantastic, your footwork was great. As a matter of fact it was the best made duck I've ever seen in my whole life. You were perfect. There's only you and Don Bradman".
Despite these blips, he eventually made the Western Australian state team. His immense talent was noted, as was noticed his propensity to decide on his shots before the ball was bowled, and his tendency to get out at the wrong time while trying to entertain the crowd. John Inverarity, his captain when Hughes made a sparklin debut century in the Sheffield Shield, criticised him for getting caught on the fence while going for a six just before lunch. This was nothing to what his teammates had in store for him in the future.
Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh were what you could call stereotypical Aussie cricketers. They drank, swore, sledged and insisted youngsters paid their dues. Kim Hughes, with his breezy talent and innate self-confidence, irritated the hell out of them. An opinion shared by the recruiters for the breakaway World Series Cricket who asked three teams worth of batsman to join, but demurred on Kim. Ironically, this helped ease his path into the "Official" Test team.
Hughes's talent and self-belief stood out among the young and journeymen cricketers of the Packer-era team, and he was made captain in short order. He even held the position when the WS players came back, when Greg Chappell decided overseas tours were not for him. Lillee thought Marsh should have been in charge. So, unsurprisingly, did Marsh. They showed their displeasure by relentless undermining Hughes. From aiming bouncers at his head in the nets, openly displaying their dismay at his onfield decisions, to betting against their own team during the Headingley '81 Test, they made his life hard.
And when they found Kim refused to give way, Chappell, Lillee and Marsh all retired simultaneously on the eve of a tour of the West Indies, leaving a fatally weakened Australian team to face one of the best sides in history.
Hughes endured a torrid time in the West Indies, and when his personal form and authority collapsed, so finally did his previously unbreachable confidence. Kim reisigned at the famous press conference, dissolving in tears before the cameras and fleeing the room halfway through his prepared statement.
He was never the same again. Mediocre returns on a rebel South African tour and skimpy scoring in Australia meant he never got near the Test team again. He retired in 1991, and now lives an underemployed life in various ventures involving cricket. Despite his claims that everyone involved are mates now, there is a distinct feeling Kim Hughes is still persona non grata 27 years later.
If you want to know how confidence can get you far, yet not let you stay once you get there then buy this book. Few get any credit here. Aussie heroes of the 70s are denounced as intolerant bullies, and Hughes himself while depicted as charming and well meaning is shown to unable to cope with what happened due to his personality traits.
I lived through much of the period covered by this book, and have a clear memory as a cricket mad boy of the tempestous mid 1980's in Australian cricket. Back then, I was not a Hughes fan, in part because Lillee, Chappell and Marsh were legends of the game, and in part because every time Hughes was put to the captaincy test, he seemed to fail - and then his batting fell apart too. Unlike the other reviewers, I did not suddenly gain understanding of Hughes as hero, and nor do I think the author paints Hughes as such, or Lillee and Marsh as pointless antagonists. My opinion of Hughes, Lillee or Marsh was not changed but this book, but I will say I understand the situation better now than I did then, and can see several layers of nuance my young eyes missed.
What Golden Boy does do is paint a detailed picture of Hughes, and the riotious cricketing uproar that was WSC, the merger, and ultimately rebel tours of South Africa. Hughes became the ACB's Golden Child indeed, while WSC returnees Chappell, Marsh and Lillee remained the real power in the side. Hughes' overwhelming ambition was to captain Australia, and the ACB indulged him, when, to be fair, Marsh was probably a better choice when Chappell was not available.
Everyone portrayed here has flaws - they are human, after all. 25 years and more after events, no one has axes to grind, and you really do understand why Lillee and Marsh behaved as they did, and, to an extent, why Hughes was never able to command their respect. It is interesting to imagine a world where Hughes is but a batsman in a team captained by March into the mid 80's, and in time becoming captain then (perhaps never to be succeeded by Border at all, in the end).
This is a book about Australian cricket in the 1970's and 1980's, but the lessons presented here can be applied to just about any sport or even the business world. This is the rare thing, a book that teaches you something without being preachy, while somehow remaining a gripping read at the same time.
on 9 January 2011
The frustrations of supporting Australia during the period around World Series Cricket took more toll on one man than the rest of the nation put together. Ryan's account of how poor old Kim Hughes was manipulated and undermined by so many others reinforces the view of him as a weak, over-ambitious pretender, but also explains the forces driving him to accept unacceptable things, and probably even those hook shots. The Chappell brothers, never the most sympathetic of fellow travellers, emerge as ruthless antagonists of someone whose natural talent was simply never under his own control, but it is fellow sandgropers Marsh & Lillee that seem to have the most to answer for. Their systematic lack of support for their captain would get them dropped these days, and stands in stark, hypocritical contrast to their public pronouncements about the duty of cricketers to their team and cause.
A flawed career for sure, but considering the flaws of the man and how his need to belong was exploited by so many others, it seems a wonder he achieved what he did.
on 25 January 2012
This is one of the best available books on the world cricket scene.
The subject matter is Kim Hughes, one of the truly excellent natural players that Australia has produced.
It focuses on how the performance of a national sports team can be affected by certain archaic belief systems... and cruelled by Australia's tall poppy syndrome (fuelled by jealousy and personal prejudices).
It's well researched, with all of the major figures approached, and most of them interviewed. The emergence of World Series Cricket is dealt with expertly.
The author exhibits a remarkable turn of phrase and writing is always lively. Even the accounts of Hughes' matches as a youngster drive you to the edge of your seat!
I bought this book in Australia and have found it so satisfying that I wanted to tell the world! Well, the Amazon world, anyway...
on 7 May 2010
A terrific read and a great insight in to Australian cricket of the 70s / 80s, the Packer years and beyond. Hughes the man comes out of this with great credit. No-one appears to have a really bad word for him, even those who opposed him (even in his own team) during his test career.
Not quite unputdownable, this is non-the-less a very good read.
on 15 July 2014
Kim Hughes has virtually been air-brushed out of Australian cricket history. Largely forgotten, if he's remembered for anything at all it is for his tearful resignation, at a time when such a thing was laughed at and regarded as unmanly, as Australian test captain during the 1984-5 drubbing versus the West Indies.
This excellent and entertaining book therefore is a very timely reminder of how good a batsman Kim Hughes was, and that he played some wonderful innings such as those during the Lord's centenary test of 1980 and several other occasions. He was also a figure who attracted very polarised views.
It was Hughes misfortune that his peak years coincided with the divisiveness, and it's aftermath, of the Packer schism and of the era when the West Indies fast bowling mean machine was rampant and all-conquering and when the Australians seemed to be playing them virtually every season. Nonetheless, his test batting average (37.41) doesn't compare unfavourably with that of other leading players from that era such as Allan Lamb (36.09), especially when its recalled that this was a time when bowling attacks, especially fast bowling, were largely far stronger than today and with pitches much more in their favour than the lifeless tracks prevalent today.
It will probably never be definitively proved whether Hughes was offered a Packer contract and turned it down, whether one was being drawn up when he decided instead to become the poster boy of establishment cricket or whether he was never going to be offered one but it's undeniable that by nailing his colours so strongly to establishment cricket's mast he incurred the lasting enmity of those in the rival Packer camp. It's certainly very noticeable that out of all the Australian cricket captains of recent times he is the one absent from a post in the media or a proper role in the game, as this book highlights.
Although neither Hughes nor his close family and friends co-operated over the writing of the book, Ryan largely seeks to give an account of these troubled times from Hughes' own perspective, giving his side of the story. This certainly fills a much needed void as his chief protagonists have had their say, largely unchallenged, for many years, both on screen and in print. The book gives previously unrecorded recollections from former team mates and administrators of the intense hostility and indifference Hughes actually faced from those he had crossed.
The book doesn't forget to mention that there were victims on both sides of the Packer divide. The big names like the Chappells, Lillee, Marsh and a few others were powerful enough to look after themselves but some of the others who made up the numbers were passed over after the two sides settled, when it came to choosing touring sides or even resuming state cricket careers. Likewise, some of those who stayed loyal to establishment cricket were also jettisoned with unseemly haste so the extent of the hostility shown to Hughes is given it's proper context.
The book also muses on what might have been, if Hughes had shown more foresight, been given wiser advice and not sought the Australian captaincy so openly. He could have stood aside for Rod Marsh or even John Inverarity for the tours in which Greg Chappell was unavailable (a very difficult situation in itself) and the period immediately after Chappell retired. They would both certainly have been far better equipped for that task. But I can't help feeling that it was always destined to end in tears for Kim Hughes. If he'd have come to the captaincy in the mid 1980s he would still have been locking horns with the Ian Botham inspired England sides and Richard Hadlee inspired New Zealand sides which both enjoyed success against Australia at home and away during that period as well as having to deal with a powerful West Indies side still at the height of it's powers.
It's surely undeniable too, that Allan Border proved a far stronger leader and captain, much better equipped to lead Australian cricket out of the wilderness into the successful period of the following 2 decades. This book though, certainly provides plenty of food for thought and gives a fascinating insight into troubled times in Australian cricket.
on 16 July 2013
Viv Richards was mightier, Greg Chappell more classical, but in his pomp, perheaps no batsman of his era was as exciting to watch as Kim Hughes, who played at least two of the greatest Test innings of all time. His style, fleet footed blazing drives, cuts and hooks had crowds on their feet and commentators digging deep for superlatives. But it was fleeting, great talent wasn't enough, and his overall record was mediocre. And when the tough times came - and boy did they - Hughes was exposed as a spoilt brat, a princess and his own worst enemy, managing to royally piss off some of the greatest Australian players of all time just by being himself.
Hughes really did think he was hot s*** and would happily tell anybody who would, or at least pretended to, listen. All well and good as a junior sporting prodigy surrounded by adoring coaches and sycophants, blowing sunshine up his backside. Not such a crash hot idea when dealing with the Australian Cricket team of the 70's, the hard as nails peak of mustacheoed aussie machoism, iron hewn by Ian Chappell and personified by the likes of his brother Greg, Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh, hard men in a ruthless team culture that would broke no weakness and could be a cold, cruel place for a man child with notices on himself.
Almost inexplicable is the Australian Cricket Board's decision to make Hughes captain so young. Mind boggling is such treatment as Dennis Lillee pounding Hughes with bouncers in the nets, often before a Test match and sometimes hitting him. Truly disgusting, school yard bully boy behaviour by one of the game's greats that wasn't dealt with in any kind of adult way by the players and officials of the time. Lillee and Rod Marsh were particularly pitiless and pitiful in their undermining of Hughes, just as childish as he was in their own way. Imagine the uproar if Mitchell Johnson had tried to knock Michael Clarke's block off and then trash talked him to anyone who'd listen.
With a canny mimicry of the vernacular of the era, Ryan brilliantly captures a terrible, toxic flashpoint in Aussie cricket. It's a book perfectly tuned to time and place, with no direct participation of it's main subject and probably so much the better for it.
Ahhh, those WEREN'T the days...