Phil Hughes: Hope, Hype and the Slow Death

By any stretch of the imagination, Australia’s tour of India has been bad. A constant diet of bad batting, bad bowling, bad decisions and perhaps worst of all, bad luck. The latest case was Phil Hughes’ dismissal on the final day – an untypically poor decision from Aleem Dar to a ball which, according to the replay, was going down the legside. When things go against you, they really do go against you.

For a man whose previous five scores had been four single figures and a scratchy 19, this was some respite, but he remains a man under seemingly endless pressure and playing like it as well. In an underperforming team, Hughes’ failings have been highlighted mercilessly despite the travails of his other more established colleagues (Clarke apart).

It wasn’t supposed to be like this for him. Just four years ago, Hughes was not so much setting the Test Cricket scene alight as erupting like a firework upon it, becoming the youngest batsmen ever to score two centuries in a Test match against a rampant South African attack containing Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in only your second appearance will do that.

Just then, when the world was at his feet, the words of Neil D’Costa, Hughes’ mentor, who said “I’ll tell you this; this kid will go all the way”, appeared prescient. An Australian team, lacking a quality young batsman since Michael Clarke burst on to the scene, appeared to have found their era’s Don Bradman, Doug Walters or even Victor Trumper, young Australian’s who achieved extraordinary things.

Unfortunately for Hughes and Australia, history will record something very different. England refused to buy the hype and bounced him out of Test Cricket and put a severe dent in his reputation, and bar the occasional cameo there has been nothing quite to match the giddy heights of his debut. Not so much a Bradman, Walters or Trumper, he appears to be akin to David Hookes – a prolific run-scorer in domestic competitions but one who himself admitted that he struggled technically to cope with the rigorous demands of Test cricket.

But while Hughes’ travails in international cricket remain unrelenting, the question is rather whether Australian cricket can really afford to give up on him.

Domestically Hughes, with the second highest average in Sheffield Shield cricket (behind one Ricky Ponting), has had a prolific season. Bar old heads Ponting and perennial run-scorer Chris Rogers, only Mark Cosgrove and Alex Doolan as potential competitors in first class cricket have performed as well – one unselectable for spurious reasons, the other as yet inexperienced. Nor has his probable replacement, Usman Khawaja, performed as capably. If first class cricket, so often the previous indicator of Test readiness in Australia, is anything to go by then Hughes should by any definition be up for selection.

He almost seems symbolic, symbolic of a system which is failing in its duty to prepare Australia’s players adequately for Test Cricket through an insufficiently demanding domestic competition. Symbolic of a system which glorifies it’s young players too quickly without providing them with time to develop (remember Khawaja-mania?) and a cricketing setup which appears to look unkindly on its players operating their own form of preparation – hence D’Costa’s stinging rebuke against Cricket Australia’s refusal to permit him a one-on-one session with his young protégé.

The truth is that Hughes is what he is, a capable young player who at the age of 24 has the potential to iron out the technical flaws that are holding his game back. He is younger than Mark Waugh, Darren Lehmann and Mike Hussey were when they had scored their third Test Century yet still remains apparently on the cusp of being drummed out of Test cricket for the third time in his young career.

He appears to be a victim of his own success, a prisoner of the heightened expectations which greeted his initial triumphs in Test cricket and the reputation it brought with it. While Waugh, Lehmann and Hussey honed their game in first class cricket, Hughes has been promoted and talked up in international cricket – finding himself having to learn in an environment that is as unforgiving as they come. Little surprise he always bears the look of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

And if Hughes does ultimately fail, Australia have some hard questions to ask themselves. A young player of almost prodigious talent is finding his career strangled by the weight of expectation placed upon him and the realisation that he is not the player he was heralded to be. It has been this reputation which has built his international career, but it could also be the burden which breaks it too.

Brad Hodge: The Last Hurrah?

Brad Hodge: Not why, but why not?

It’s a strange kind of symbolic irony that a new tournament such as the Big Bash League should start dominated with talk of a comeback of an old Victorian hand and end with it too. The film may have been called “No Country for Old Men” but Australia still continues to be an exception. But while Shane Warne’s bark was proved to be worse than his bite, for Brad Hodge it was definitive proof that he remained, as ever, a class act.

And then, with Australia’s retirement brigade growing larger with the exits of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey comes the next part: The Ashes. As Australia cast their net wide for the next brigade of batsmen, it was interesting to see Hodge put his name forward again with rumours of a first class return for Victoria. It’s a strange and unexpected move, but a complete write off? Never say never.

Sure, there are question marks – lots of them in fact. Hodge hasn’t played First Class cricket in years, gave it up because he got too bored and wanted to hit boundaries. He’s semi-retired, playing club cricket and travelling the world as a Twenty20 top order specialist, a still-headed flayer through the offside who still glistens while capably dismantling the fast and the slow. And then there’s the age, the detrimental impact on Australia’s next generation and the fact that he last played Test Cricket nearly seven years ago. In terms of selection precedents, it’s up there with England in the 1970’s recalling Colin Cowdrey from retirement to face Lillee and Thomson, or Brian Close to face Holding and Roberts.

But, ask yourself a question. Take out age, it’s just a number anyway, and rank Australia’s top ten eligible batsmen and ask yourself if Hodge wouldn’t be part of it. Sure, you have Clarke, Warner, Watson et all, but it gets hard to put him below the rest. And besides, there’s the other factors – flip the youth argument on its head and ask yourself what Australia’s next generation could learn from Hodge, and whether they’d benefit from having an experienced head to guide them through a tricky Ashes summer which, as it stands, looks like it’s a year too soon for their younger batsmen.

Then there’s the motivation argument. Hodge is 38, but judging by the interviews and the talks of Ashes comebacks then it seems something still burns inside him. His Test career remains a curiosity. An average of 55, including a double century, and yet he was dropped after a couple of wobbly Tests against South Africa when Australia’s batting stocks were never stronger.

And yet, as those stocks got thinner and thinner, he was never considered as an option. Without re-writing history but would they really have fared worse in 2009 or 2011 with a middle order which swapped Hodge for say, Marcus North or Steven Smith? And, unlike those bright young things who have been burnt by England already, Hodge remains an icon from a better age in Australian cricket, a man born and raised when Australia ruled the cricketing world and they could use some of that attitude, that confidence, that reputation in a key Ashes year.

Sure, it’s a big call, but Australian cricket was seldom one to shy away from making them when it was at its peak. But if it’s about Australia putting their best XI on the park; regardless of age and reputation, then the question becomes why not Brad Hodge?

Joe Root call shows England have learned from Australia and India

One of sport’s great modern perfectionists, Roy Keane, summed up one of the key parts of his approach to footballing success, when he said: “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”

Keane should know a thing or two about sporting success, and also the importance of making big decisions at the right time to benefit the continuation of success. He worked for Sir Alex Ferguson for over a decade, a man who has built three great teams at Manchester United, and who knew when to cut his losses and make the key calls, which once included getting rid of Keane himself when the time was right.

Preparation is a key part of Andy Flower’s philosophy, he ensures his team play as many warm up games per series than Sri Lanka play Tests annually. He also likes his side to be well drilled, organised, and meticulously prepared for whatever awaits them on the field. No doubt he’d fully endorse Keane’s philosophy, as it was the things which England failed to prepare for – a captain’s form failing, your star man texting the opposition and spinners, damn mystery spinners – that have derailed his team.

What he would also recognise is that two of his side’s biggest wins to date, in Australia in 2010 and now in India, came against side’s who ignored Keane’s mantra and found themselves caught in transition and unprepared to cope with what awaited them.

Australia in 2010 were a shadow of the team which had previously crushed English spirits at will. A group of ageing players such as Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey were required to keep a group of young, inexperienced players and others who were plainly erratic or incapable together in the face of a well drilled unit executing their skills expertly. The sight of Australia throwing in Michael Beer, Usman Khawaja and Xavier Doherty was a joyous one for an Englishman but painful for an Australian. Whereas once Australia prepared a young prospect for Test cricket with baby steps, such was the mismanagement of the departure of their great players one-by-one that they were forced by necessity to push inexperienced players too-far, too-fast. It was a shock they even won a match.

Now India in 2012 have fallen into the same trap. India are a team who have fallen on hard times from their peak of 2010 when they topped the world rankings. Their team are aging, their side disillusioned and their best players are past their peak. The sight of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan being wheeled out in a hope they could reignite their dying light was at the same time, both painful and awkward. Their futures are the elephant in India’s room.

The transition has again, scarcely been managed. India have two gaps in their middle order following the departures of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, taken by Pujara and Kohli – both of whom who were among the more successful batsmen in this series. But beyond those two, the replacements for Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag will lack experience of Test cricket, while the replacement for Zaheer Khan is still waiting to be found and the mid-series selection of Harbhajan Singh was hardly a ringing endorsement for the young spinners coming through, though if that group is headed by Ravinder Jadeja it’s hardly surprising.

If England’s two successes tell Flower anything beyond the strength of his own team, it’s also that if he wants to ensure their continuing success, then they must manage these scenarios better than those two countries.

This is a lesson which seems to resonate with him. While England’s success under Flower has been built on a cycle of players capable of adapting well to most conditions, he will be well aware that cycles will eventually end, and while the generation of Pietersen, Cook, Trott, Bell, Anderson and Swann are currently in the middle of a cycle of success which has carried them to the top of the world. But in time, and perhaps not too distant a time, this cycle will end and replacements will be needed. Hence why it was noticeable that Flower took time out in a post-series interview to praise the work of the English academy in preparing young players to be ready for international cricket. He also ought to praise the work of his predecessor, Peter Moores, who was integral in setting up the academy, because the work he has put in is reaping rewards.

English cricket has seldom produced as many multi-talented young players, but Flower has shown a keenness to expose them to international cricket which will ultimately be to England’s benefit. Joe Root’s successful debut at number six is the latest in a line of young English batsmen to be exposed to Test cricket. Jonny Bairstow and James Taylor have also performed noticeably well in difficult circumstances in Test cricket – which should boost their development further and prepare them when they permanently need to make the step up. Developing these players, and even younger, yet equally promising, players like Shiv Thakor, Daniel Bell-Drummond and Sam Billings will be high on the agenda for the next two years.

Furthermore the oft-stated intention of Flower to build a pace bowling squad which should enable England to rotate, will be used to prepare the next generation. The likes of Chris Woakes, Stuart Meaker and James Harris have all been integrated tightly with the squad and drip-fed international cricket, and all ought to be considered for the New Zealand tour. While the spin bowling cupboard is slightly barer, Flower has already exposed Scott Borthwick and Danny Briggs to international cricket and Simon Kerrigan has been part of the Performance Programme for the past two winters.

While these may seem like small steps right now, they are all intrinsic parts of Flower’s long-term plan for England, and his plan to expose as many of these younger players to international cricket as early as possible to aid their development. If England’s recent successes have taught him anything, preparing for the future is as important as preparing for the present, as both Australia and India can testify as they underwent their own, tricky, transition.

Ricky Ponting: Symbols, Cycles and the Old Ways

Great players often leave great holes behind them

As with anything regarding Australian cricket past and present, Gideon Haigh summed it up best. He once wrote: “Great players often leave great holes behind them; it is a very rare great player who effectively renders himself redundant”. Haigh was writing about Allan Border, but the sentiment could so easily be applied to one of Border’s successors Ricky Ponting, whose final day of test cricket leaves Australia facing a great hole to fill.

When cricketers become symbols of their age, their exit also becomes symbolic. Ponting’s exit is a symbolic moment in Australian cricket, not for what he was but what he represented. His cycle was a golden one, spanning 17 years of (mostly) unprecedented success, but also of turbulent change as cricket has straddled the demands of valuation and values as the rise of the shortest form has posed a challenge to its longest.

And in amongst the cacophony of hyperbole and exaggeration, Ponting was a voice of reason who often stood up for the game’s finest traditions despite being the captain of the world’s most commercially driven and powerful cricketing country.

He frequently spoke of his fondness for his old days of club cricket, retired from Twenty20 such was his disdain for the format and argued long and loud for the protection of Test cricket and Shield Cricket. He even devoted his Bradman oration to a recollection of his youth growing up playing cricket in Launceston and listening to the old pro’s at his cricket club Mowbray.

It’s hard not to feel his passing is significant. Australian cricket finds itself increasingly at the mercy of the game’s shortest form, with the rise of the Big Bash and the IPL enriching a generation of ordinary Australian cricketers, while it’s form in the longest form suffers. It is at a crossroads and Ponting’s traditional values may themselves soon become increasingly obsolete.

Indeed Ponting was very much in the mould of much of the Australian traditions. He was as competitive as they came, a prodigious talent who seldom took a backwards step against any opposition and who fielded with the enthusiastic energy of a greyhound. His aggression at times overspilled, but it underlined the fiercely competitive streak which made the likes of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Allan Border and Steve Waugh real Australian heroes. If anything Ponting was a product of his upbringing.

Yet there are few like him left. Australian cricket needs heroes, people it can identify with, and while it’s technical purists have always attracted purrs of delight. Hard-nosed competitive bastards have always been popular down under, Australian cricket has lost that edge. If the recent examples of Mitchell Marsh and Luke Pomersbach tell us anything, it expects it’s players to be saints rather than sinners. Ponting could be both, but importantly, everyone knew he could easily be the latter if a win was at stake.

Australia will miss that. Ponting was a winner, regardless of the failings of the past three years, and a master batsman to boot. He was symbolic of the age he played in – a winning cricketer in an Australian team which was utterly devoted to it.

He was the golden son of a golden age, and with him passing closes a chapter in Australian cricket which will probably go down as it’s greatest. Ponting led his side to victories, delivered defining innings when it really mattered-too many to count-and at number three dominated opposition bowlers in a style unlike any Australian right hander.

While his place in the side became more and more based upon sentiment as his failures began to stack up, it was a sentiment borne of his standing in international cricket and the nagging fear that one day it would click and the old magic would return and be unleashed on an opposition again.

Nor was his place in the side completely without merit – his form in Shield Cricket where he topped the early run scorers chart – demanded his place in the side, but his failures this summer have merely reinforced the growing gap between the two and confirmed to Ponting that he could no longer continue kidding himself.

Perhaps now neither can Australia. Ponting’s place in the side was a last reminder of what Australia were until recently, a great and dominant side. His departure, and the manner of his decline, are symbolic of the reality of the situation facing them now. The sad reality is that Ponting’s place was as much on merit as reputation such is the dearth of options which Australia have.

Whereas the likes of Border and Waugh could retire safe in the knowledge that they were being pushed for someone else to come in, Ponting has tried to hang on until someone possible came along, only retiring once he no longer felt capable of carrying on.

More ups and downs than a soap opera

The options facing them are scarce. Usman Khawaja, Callum Ferguson and Phil Hughes sit atop the run scorer charts in Shield Cricket, but all experienced as many ups and downs as a soap opera character.

Mark Cosgrove remains an option, but a weighty one unconsidered by the selectors while the likes of Chris Rogers and David Hussey ought to deserve consideration on experience alone but won’t get it. As solutions go it hardly bodes well for the future.

So as Ponting moves into retirement, Australia must confront themselves with the reality of the situation which they have been able to hide from for too long. That great hole the great players leave behind could prove to be an especially great one for Ponting’s successor. Australia may be about to learn just how great the hole really is.

If Ponting’s career was symbolic of the successful Australian team he was part of, his exit in defeat could be equally symbolic of the Australia team which will follow his departure. Competitive, capable but ultimately bereft of the inspiration or never-say-day attitude which Ponting himself embodied more than anyone.

South Africa: Rory Kleinveldt’s Rocky Reception

Sometimes the hardest thing about doing anything is simply getting started at all, and in Test Cricket even seasoned Test veterans will probably tell you that their first one was probably the toughest.

It’s a cut-throat business, playing against a calibre of player who are better, faster and stronger than any you’ve ever faced in your career, with a crowd and audience larger than any you’ve ever experience before and, to top it all off, you’re expected to perform above all expectations. In short, good luck.

So as Rory Kleinveldt marked out his run to begin his first over in Test Cricket, you can only imagine what was going through his head. Nerves, memories, perhaps the memory of the kind words of the well-wishers, supporters and coaches down the years who have helped him reach that point so far. Perhaps it was the words of his fellow bowlers, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, both of whom experienced debuts of very differing success.

Earlier in the day, he had enjoyed himself, hitting a couple of sixes and enjoying the creative liberties which are generally afforded bowlers who can hit a long ball, but by contrast, this was the serious business was getting started. His side were on-top, their opposition three wickets down, and the onus was on him to keep up the pressure and perhaps even chip in with a wicket or two.

Sometimes debuts can go like that, Graeme Swann took two wickets in his first over in Test Cricket, Damien Fleming got a hat-trick on his debut, Sajid Mahmood grabbed three quick wickets in fading light against Sri Lanka (at least one a full toss). As Mark Nicholas would call it “the wheel of fortune turned in their favour”.

The batsman facing him was hardly the most daunting. Ed Cowan will hardly go down as one of cricket’s great intimidators. If it was David Warner or Ricky Ponting who was marking their guard then perhaps you could forgive some real nerves. And so as he started on his run, more a gentle amble than a Holding-esque pelt into the wicket, and then turned over his arm, with a fast arm action and unleashed the first ball of his Test career and promptly earned his first ever dot ball in Test cricket. Deep breath, back to your mark, repeat.

In truth, this was about as good as it got. His next ball was a no ball, his fourth was his first boundary conceded, his fifth was his second boundary conceded. His seventh and eighth brought the same results, his twentieth was a boundary, a no ball and a first glare from the captain while his twenty-second was his last ball of the day.

His first spell in Test cricket finished with figures of three overs, twenty seven runs conceded, zero wickets, zero maidens, five fours, four no balls and one glare from the skipper. As starts go, it wasn’t quite on the nightmare-ish levels of Bryce McGain, Gavin Hamilton or Mick Lewis but it made for difficult viewing, except for those who have sung “Waltzing Matilda”.

But, for Rory, there was probably a sense of relief. It was over, the Test debut was out of his system, and while it was a tough first day at the office, it was one day more than before. And he will watch it back, reflect that he was too short, too wide, too often. He made both Cowan and Clarke look like Adam Gilchrist and Mark Waugh.

If this was Twenty20, he’d almost be out of chances, three overs means one to go, but part of the beauty of Test cricket is that players get the time to adapt and perhaps recover once or twice in a single match. Tomorrow is another day, and maybe the day that Rory Kleinveldt’s Test career really begins.

Michael Clarke and Chris Read: The Two Sides to Captaincy

Captaincy, as Richie Benaud once said, “is ninety percent luck and 10 percent skill, but just don’t try it without the ten percent”. In an era where the captaincy brain drain is felt more keenly than most both at a domestic and international level, this past week has shown that Benaud’s sentiments still remain true today.

Firstly in the Caribbean there was Michael Clarke’s bold declaration for Australia against the West Indies, setting Darren Sammy’s team a target of 215 to win with little more than 60 overs, was a carrot worth dangling with rain in the air and a fragile batting line-up to prey upon. In the end rain curtailed the contest, but it was Clarke’s declaration which gave us one in the first place.

It was a bold move, especially given the history of West Indian sides chasing against Australian ones in the past decade, but was a fitting symbol of Clarke’s captaincy which has not so much defied expectations as completely redefined them. About 18 months ago Clarke was losing popularity polls to Marcus North and Cameron White (look what’s happened to those two) in the race to succeed Ricky Ponting but it’s hard to imagine anyone else being as comfortable in the role as Clarke has.

He has carved out his own niche as a captain. His bold and daring field placing suggest that his friendship with Shane Warne has rubbed off on him, and unlike many of his peers he seeks to take wickets first and foremost rather than opt for containment – ask yourself how many international captains would have set such a daring target? While the leadership has elevated his batting to a new level – he averages 58 with the bat, as a cricketer it has made him complete. In an era where few dare, Clarke does.

Yet while Clarke’s sparky contribution suggested a captain at the peak of his powers tactically, it was the contribution of one of the more underrated cricketers of this era which was a true embodiment of one of those other qualities befitting the finest captains – the ability to lead by example. While Chris Read and Clarke may make unlikely kinfolk, they share one thing in common: captaincy appears to have brought the best out of both of them.

Read’s abilities are well known and brought with them England recognition, but there was always a questionmark about his capacity to cope mentally with the rigours of international cricket (normally voiced by Duncan Fletcher) which dogged his quest for a regular spot as England wicket keeper. Yet if there were any doubts about Read’s capacity to perform under pressure, his performances as Nottinghamshire captain ought to have alleviated them – not least his latest effort against Somerset.

Read’s reign has not just been wildly successful both in terms of silverware and accolades – County Championship and Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2010 – but like Clarke it has raised his game to another level as he frequently plays the role of finisher or saviour depending on circumstances. Yet for all the previous efforts, he will be hard pressed to play a more impressive lone hand for the rest of his career.

While his much vaunted top order fell to a series of injudicious strokes, it was left to Read to save the day and after striding out at 5-34 he scored a magnificent 104* in a total of 162 where only one other batsman on his team reached double figures. But for that effort, Nottinghamshire could have crumbled and ultimately it allowed them to escape with a draw on the final day, which was scant reward for Read’s efforts, which even the great cricketing leaders-by-example like Graeme Smith or Ricky Ponting would have been proud of.

And perhaps that is what both he and Clarke have shown this week. That there are two sides to captaincy – a tactical side and a temperamental side which both have a role in their ability to lead, but according to Benaud that’s 10% of it, the rest is luck. Fortunately for both, luck, or the capacity to make their own luck is something they appear to have in spades with bat or brain – a lesson for all captains perhaps.

Phil Jaques: Australia’s Forgotten Man

The last act of a forgotten man?

Australia has had more than its fair share of cricketing hard luck tales. You only have to think back to the likes of Martin Love and Stuart Law who both have first class records the envy of many yet could not get anywhere near selection, or more recently to Brad Hodge and Chris Rogers whose records perhaps merited greater opportunities at a higher level.

Yet while failing to get a chance is just plain unlucky, actually taking that chance and then having it ripped away from you by fate is far more of a hard luck story. In that regard Yorkshire’s newest overseas arrival Phil Jaques probably has the hardest luck of all.

Given his current status way off the radar for Australia’s new selection team it seems hard to believe that just over three years ago it was Jaques who was the man charged with leading Australia at the top of the order when Justin Langer retired. With a fine record of almost 50 in first class cricket, a cameo in Langer’s absence against South Africa in 2005 and consistent ODI progress to fall back on he was the obvious choice.

Indeed such was expectation regarding him that as early as 2005, Steve Waugh said: “In the long term, Australia is lucky to have a player like him coming through. He has the ability to win a match. He is the prototype for young players who want to play for Australia.”

Full-time promotion however did little to stem his run scoring as his maiden Test series contained two hundreds in the series with Sri Lanka, and he followed that with three fifties in the hotly contested series with India before finishing the West Indies series with another century.

Then fate, or rather a problematic disc in his back, intervened. While on Australia’s tour of India he succumbed to it after years of careful management and found himself unable to get up out of his chair. Operation was followed by operation when a replacement disc was inserted, enabling him to be back playing cricket after 12 months out.

Yet when he returned he found an Australian team which had quickly moved on, with Watson and Katich opening after the rise and fall of Hughes, while Jaques had lost his Cricket Australia contract and out of favour because, as he put it: “It’s hard to be remembered when you’re out injured for a year.”

Now over two years on from his return, he remains very much on the outside looking in. Despite the continued decline of Australia’s form particularly in Test Cricket, Jaques has barely registered despite the continued travails of Hughes and Watson at the top of the order and a Test and first class record of 47 and 49 respectively which puts him near the top of Australia’s current list of batsman playing the game.

In part that is reflective of his own troubles to fully shake off the effects of the injury he sustained-his average per season has never risen above 40 since his injury-but also of Australia’s own desire to look to a brighter, younger future with NSW team-mates Hughes and David Warner just two of the players above him in the pecking order for openers despite their inferior records.

Not that Jaques himself is giving up on his dream of returning to play Test cricket just yet, and earlier this year he stated: “I wouldn’t be playing if I didn’t think I could get back there. I enjoy playing first-class cricket, but I love to play in Test cricket and I’d love the opportunity to play again.

Returning to County Cricket, and Yorkshire in particular where his record of 2,477 runs at 61 is formidable, is the next natural step in his progression. Though a recall remains a long way away, with an Ashes summer looming, a prolific County season could yet stick in the selector’s minds.

At a time when Australia’s batting resources have seldom been weaker, Jaques will hope to remind the selectors just what he has done before, and what he hopes he can achieve again.