Merv Hughes was a cricketer and a character that drew people to cricket and made them love the sport
Former Australian fast-bowler and one of the most recognisable characters in world cricket, Merv Hughes, on Tuesday was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame.
An integral part of Australian cricket’s return to the top of the Test Cricket rankings, Hughes’ career spanned 53 Tests and 33 ODIs for Australia from 1985-94, taking 212 Test wickets at an average of 28.38. His career-best figures of 8-87 against the West Indies at the WACA in 1988 included the final wicket of a hat-trick spread across three separate overs, two innings and two different days. It was the first ball of what would be a big-hearted effort to hold up the frontline pace attack single-handedly after losing his opening partner Geoff Lawson to a broken jaw. It is a performance that illustrates a man who gave everything for his country when called upon.
A Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1994, Hughes also represented Victoria, Essex, and the ACT over a First-Class career spanning 14 seasons. He first came to the notice of State selectors in the late 1970s through his performances playing premier cricket for Footscray at a ground that would one day bear his name. In 2005, Hughes became a selector for the Australian cricket team, a role he would hold through until 2010.
While Hughes’ statistics alone speak to a great career, it is difficult to view his impact and influence on the game on statistics alone. Standing at 6’4″ in the old-scale, Hughes was an Australian cricket cultural icon. His bristling handlebar moustache, menacing run-up and displays of affection for his teammates made him a favourite for a generation of cricket fans. The affection for Hughes was most fondly manifested when fielding at fine-leg in front of the fans in the then Bay 13 at the MCG, who would imitate his warm-up stretches en-masse.
Hughes’ influence on the game goes beyond showmanship – he was a cricketer and a character that drew people to cricket and made them love the sport. And underneath it all, he is a deep-thinker of the game who continues to be a mentor to future generations.
Peter King, Australian Cricket Hall of Fame Chairman, said: “Merv Hughes was an icon of the Australian summer for so many of us, a larger-than-life personality, a wonderful international cricketer, an ambassador for the sport and a deserved inductee into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame. A lion-hearted competitor, Merv boasts a proud career for Victoria and Australia in the Test and One Day International arenas, paving the way for an incredible era of Australian cricketing dominance.”
“Even as synonymous as his on-field record, Merv will be forever remembered as a fan-favourite and his iconic warm-ups close to the boundary, especially at the MCG, that prompted bays of spectators to join in with him at stadiums all over the country. He has left his legacy on the sport in post-career mentorship with modern-day teams, administrations roles as a National Selector and the heartbeat of Australian cricket. The Australian Cricket Hall of Fame is delighted to recognise Merv Hughes,” he added.
The Australian Cricket Hall of Fame was first proposed by the Melbourne Cricket Club in 1995. With the support of Cricket Australia and Cricket Victoria, the Hall of Fame was officially opened by the then Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard in 1996.
The selection philosophy for the hall of fame focuses on the players’ status as sporting legends in addition to their outstanding statistical records. The selection panel is made up of representatives from all levels of cricket.
Chaired by the current MCC Cricket Chairman, three former players are joined by the respective CEOs of Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association, along with two representatives from the media.
All inductees must have been retired from international cricket for a minimum of five years to be eligible for selection.