Effervescent, lovable, and as charming in his game as in his brilliant smile, with clean shaven boyish looks and golden locks on which sunbeams seemed to ripple, Kim Hughes perpetually looked the baby of the team — even when he led the side through the tumultuous late 70s and early 80s.
He would dazzle onlookers with strokes beyond the capability and imagination of mere mortals, step out to hit fast men over the top and hook faster ones off his face. Often he would follow the stroke with his eyes, rattling off a steady flow of commentary as it crashed into the fence.
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He could also throw his wicket away to rank long hops at the doorstep of glory, leaving spectators to hanker after what might have been — while he walked off with jaunty steps, not a care in his mind.
To him cricket was to be enjoyed, played with a spirit of adventure. And that is why he crashed headlong into men in his team who were hard as nails, with bared fangs doubling up as wisdom teeth, facial hair characterising the Aussie spirit of their times.
He did not quite enjoy the hot seat.
He even went where no Australian captain had ever gone before, walking into the dressing room of the opponents and apologising after his pace bowler had unleashed a beamer.
No sight was as heartbreaking when he bade a tearful farewell to captaincy. But if any Australian captain could shed tears, it was Hughes.
The talent and attractiveness of his batting lie buried under the mediocre average of 37.41, encompassing 4,415 runs in 70 Tests that saw him score 9 hundreds. Yet, from his batting to his smile, the spring in his step and the glint in his eye even in phases of immense pressure, mark him out as someone distinct, someone special.
Text: Arunabha Sengupta