The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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ĎI just want to be the best Matthew Hoggard can beí

London: High on confidence and clear about his role. That, for you, is Matthew Hoggard. The 25-year-old didnít start off with a huge following but, with experience, has emerged a key player for England. Hoggard, fond of rugby and dogs, spoke to The Telegraph on the eve of the Oval Test.

Following are excerpts

On early influences

None more prominent than the late Phil Carrick (who died young, at 47, two years ago), a former Yorkshire captain. Heís the one who noticed me at club-level and got me to graduate. His help kick-started my cricket career.

On whether, as a kid itself, he had set sights on becoming a pro cricketer

Early on, in fact, I was into academics... Being fond of dogs, I wanted to become a vet...

On whether he actually idolised anybody

(Grins) Nobody... Have just wanted to be Matthew Hoggard, though Iíve admired Allan Donald and Courtney Walsh. Indeed, even today, I just want to be the best that Matthew Hoggard can be...

On Donald, too, helping shape his career

Yes, Allan arranged for me to play at Free State... I first went as a back-up bowler and, then, turned out as that provinceís overseas pro. Why just me, anybody can learn bowling with Allan... He always has something new to offer. My being at Bloemfontein also meant I could work with Corrie van Zyl, an outstanding bowling coach. Moreover, I got exposed to the Kookaburra, which swings conventionally for the first 20 overs and, then, begins to reverse.

On the grounding in Yorkshire

Has given my bowling the competitive edge, made me aware of what responsibility is all about...

On how would he describe himself

Iím a whole-hearted swing bowler... I can be dangerous if the ball swings, otherwise, Iím the sort to hit the right length and not give batsmen liberties... While I donít set targets, I look to ending every game with something to show.

On getting to play the lead role ó in the absence of Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick ó during last winterís Test series in India

Yeah, it was an opportunity to show character, to learn in conditions that have never been friendly towards the new ball bowlers... More than anything else, one learnt how to stick to the team plans when conditions were hard.

On whether he felt insecure once Gough and Caddick did become available

In any case, that would be a natural reaction... Am I good enough to keep one of them out' Will there be place for all three of us' Such thoughts did occur but, hopefully, the selectors have been noting my performance... I know Iíve got to keep reminding them about my presence.

On working with Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher

Thatís an awesome partnership... Nasserís a great captain and, while Duncan doesnít talk much, it makes sense every time he does say something. They are taking our cricket forward.

On whether he envies any one contemporary

As Iíve said, I donít wish to be anybody else... I realise Iím still learning but, in a couple of years, I hope people will ask other fast bowlers whether they wish to be like Matthew Hoggard.

On whether he lets fly verbal missiles

Oh, no... Iím definitely not a big-time sledger.

On having been hit by injuries

Canít be avoided, I suppose... One just has to be careful... Frankly, thereís little rest in any one given season.

Finally, on bowling to Sachin Tendulkar

(Laughs) Donít we all know his reputation' Only, before getting to Sachin, weíve first got to tackle the Rahul Dravids. And, after Sachin, take care of the Sourav Gangulys... Itís quite a line-up. While preparing, then, I donít focus on Sachin only. Collectively, the Indians are hardest to bowl at.

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