The Whole Hogg by Rodney HoggStuart Wark |
Author: Rodney Hogg & Jon Anderson
Publisher: Wilkinson Publishing
Rating: 2.5 stars
The Whole Hogg, a display of the writings and thoughts of the novelist James Hogg, including a first edition of his most famous work Confessions of a Justified Sinner, was opened to the public at during the Edinburgh Festival in 2005. James Hogg, who rose from humble beginnings in rural Scotland to become one of his country’s more influential authors of the 1800s, never quite achieved the fame of his more illustrious compatriots Burns, Scott and Stevenson. Nonetheless, James Hogg’s works are now considered as fine works of genuine merit. However, the same claims to literary greatness cannot be made about The Whole Hogg, an autobiography by former Test quickie, Rodney Hogg.
Hogg’s performances in the 1978/79 Ashes series are still statistically one of the finest in test history. Plucked from relative obscurity to try and bolster the WSC depleted Australian side, Hogg responded with 41 wickets at an average of just 12.85. Not surprisingly, Hogg was unable to sustain this level of performance, but he still had a very solid international career, taking 123 wicket at 28.47 in 38 tests. Hogg refers to his Ashes performance repeatedly throughout the book, usually in a self-depreciating way to highlight his lack of public recognition in modern times.
This book is an interesting first attempt at reviewing the life of Rodney Hogg. Unlike most autobiographies, it is not self-serving at all, and in fact, often seems to delight in portraying Hogg in the worst possible light. Some of his words are so unbelievable for a former test cricketer that you assume that they must be true. An example of this can be seen with Hogg’s recall of faking an injury so as to be made 12th man for a Test match. “Being 12th man for Australia was a lot better than playing because you got the same money and could legally get on the drink every night.”
The book is not a strictly an autobiography, and is instead more of a ‘Kerry O’Keefe’ style mixture of funny anecdotes and stories that feature Hogg in some way. One of the most interesting pieces of information revealed was that Hogg came within one vote of taking over from Kim Hughes as test captain. At that point in time, Hogg had already been approached about his participation in the upcoming South African rebel tours. Quite what Australia’s future would have been if Hogg, rather than Allan Border, had taken the reins hardly bears thinking about. Hogg’s part in the famous Dennis Lillee aluminium bat incident is also fascinating to read about, as his role in the affair is largely overlooked these days. Hogg also finally admits that he did try to punch Kim Hughes’ head off during a test match, although he is hardly alone in having that desire.
This book is certainly not your run-of-the-mill cricket autobiography. It doesn’t enter into the normal hyperbole and general self-aggrandisement that is normally par for the course in such books. It is quite short, and in some ways, it is a shame that Hogg’s fine career is almost completely overlooked in favour of a few laughs. Whilst comparisons with James Hogg’s works are not entirely fair, I have to admit that I enjoyed reading Rodney Hogg’s book more, and would recommend it, but perhaps not for cricket purists amongst us.