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'If the handlebar added to intimidation, why not?'

india Updated: Dec 28, 2011 23:53 IST
Rohit Bhaskar
Rohit Bhaskar
Hindustan Times
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A 50-year-old beer-bellied man with the thickest handlebar moustache you are likely to see walks past the ushers outside the corporate suites on the third level of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. He stops, and says, "I'm sorry, I don't have an ID."

The ushers smile. "You've never needed one, Merv, we can't ever forget you or that moustache."

If you haven't guessed by now, the person in question is former Australian fast bowler Merv Hughes, and the moustache was once insured for a whooping £200,000.

Menacing moustache
Ask him about the moustache and the role it played in his intimidating on-field persona (6'4 with a grinding run-up, a tough-as-nails attitude, a face covered in zinc cream and THAT moustache) and also if he'd ever thought of shaving it off, and he's quite upfront.

"If you see my action and my style, I wasn't a classical fast bowler. I was a grinder and a hustler. If the moustache added to the intimidation, gave even the slightest advantage against the batsman, I thought, then why not."

Intimidate he did, as he bullied his way to a respectable 212-wicket haul in 53 Tests, including an unusual hat-trick spread over two days at the WACA in Perth. He dismissed Curtly Ambrose off the last ball of his 36th over, and Patrick Patterson off the first ball of his 37th over to end the West Indies innings. He then proceeded to take the wicket of Gordon Greenidge off the first ball of West Indies' second innings. In total, he collected 13 wickets in that match, including eight in the second innings after new-ball partner Geoff Lawson retired hurt in the first innings.

Always in the news
Always in the news, and under the match referee's scanner, Hughes was often found guilty of sledging and even fined, but he feels, he wasn't the only one doing all the talking. "When I was batting, I would always get sledged. People would come up and say things to me all the time and get away with it."

"Michael Atherton was a smart cricketer. He would come up to me when I was batting and say something which I wouldn't understand. Four overs later, I'd realise what he said and how insulting it was meant to be. With me, it was always blunt. I said it straight to the face," says Hughes.