Former Australia batsman Brad Hodge, who will mentor Kings XI Punjab in the upcoming edition of Indian Premier League (IPL), has hailed Ravichandran Ashwin as an ‘analytical guy’ and someone who can be a ‘good leader of men’ on the field.
Ashwin will lead the KXIP side in IPL 2018. He was roped in by the Punjab-based franchise for INR 7.6 crores during the IPL auction in January.
“We wanted a leader who was a local talent, someone who could carry the franchise forward for 2-5 years - something similar to what Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir have done with Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders respectively. We felt Ashwin was the right choice. He's passionate and aggressive. He's also a very analytical guy and a good leader of men on the field,” Hodge said in an exclusive interview with Sportstar.
During the Iran Cup match between Rest of India and Vidarbha in Nagpur on March 14, Ashwin was displaying his leg-spin skills. When asked about this radical switch, Hodge complimented the KXIP skipper for adding another dimension to his arsenal.
“I was pleased when I first heard about it. It's wonderful thinking from Ashwin to even consider that. The other thing is he's actually skillful enough to be able to do it and do it well. We all know how good an off-spinner he is and as a cricketer, I encourage him to develop and continue to develop,” he added.
During the IPL auction, the Universe Boss Chris Gayle heaved a sigh of relief in the third and final round as KXIP secured him with his base price of INR 2 crores. When asked about the move to bid for Gayle at the last minute, Hodge said: “It wasn't a plan. For us, it was an opportunity to acquire a player who has been dynamic in the Twenty20 format over a period of time. We've got a nice mix of junior and senior group and we thought with his experience, he might be able to contribute to the team. It's an important thing to be able to have.”
Hodge is widely deemed as one of the pioneers of Twenty20 cricket as he featured in his maiden T20 match back in 2003. Talking about the evolvement of shortest format over the years, the 43-year-old said: “T20 has evolved dramatically. One of the things which I loved about the format was its ability to expand the game outside the four-day and Test arena. We've seen some cricket shots that are unbelievable, the fielding standards have gone up, the bowling plans are changing as well. Also, the sheer amount of data analytics that goes into the game now, it was something that wasn't quite there when T20 started. For me, the IPL is the pinnacle to be involved in.”
He concluded by talking about his camaraderie with the legendary Virender Sehwag over the years and how their association will work for the KXIP franchise in IPL 2018.
“We've played together before - Viru and me - for Leicestershire. And worked with him for a fair amount of time leading into the auction. Look, I'm super excited to work alongside Virender. I think his attitude to batting will really help our group. That's the kind of approach we wish to instill in the Kings XI side,” Hodge signed-off.