Hoggard hails England's finest
Not only is Andrew Strauss’ Test team their best ever, England’s squad to face Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates is their strongest to date according to Matthew Hoggard.
Hoggard is well placed to make such a judgement, having won 67 Test and 26 one-day international caps during an England career that spanned from 2000 to 2008.
The Leicestershire captain, who played for Yorkshire from 1996 to 2009, made his international debut the year after England dropped to the bottom of the then unofficial Test rankings.
The consistent seam bowler aided a decade of mainly steady improvement with 248 wickets at a decent average of 30.5.
That England’s surge to the now official Test summit came post-Hoggard should not demean his contribution, but the 34-year-old preferred to hark back before his international career to 1999 when a new coach and captain were united.
“I think it all started when Duncan Fletcher and Nasser Hussain took the reins,” he told ecb.co.uk. “It progressed from there.
“It’s been a lot of hard work. Take no plaudits away from the current set-up and the current bunch of players because the current bunch of players are a fantastic set, they’re very talented and they’ve got a lot of depth in the squad as well.
“It’s not just the XI. We only played 12 people in the 2005 Ashes; that was the key of how we won that.
“If you look at the depth of the squad now, they’ve got more options than 12 players. They’ve got a very big nucleus of players that can come in and perform, given the opportunity. Not only is it the best team, I think it’s the best squad that England have ever had.”
Hoggard’s impressive Test career ended in ignominious fashion following a heavy opening Test defeat to New Zealand at Hamilton in March 2008.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad replaced Hoggard and Steve Harmison for the remaining two games, respectively at Wellington and Napier, and England won the series 2-1.
Anderson and Broad subsequently rose in stock to now lead England’s attack, with Hoggard rating the former the finest at his art.
“I was not in a great place at the time to be playing cricket, mentally, but the decision was taken,” he said. “Hats off to James Anderson, he’s come on and he’s the best swing bowler in the world I think.
Asked if Anderson took tips from him, Hoggard quipped: “I think I can learn a few tricks from him to be fair.
“It was nice to know James, when we were there and pushing for the same place so I’ve got fond memories of him as a friend and as a player.
“He’s come on leaps and bounds and now has overtaken everybody in the world as the leading exponent of swing bowling.”
Although Broad – who joined Nottinghamshire following the 2007 season – did not overlap with him at Grace Road, Hoggard believes Leicestershire can be proud of the 25-year-old's progress.
With James Taylor making an identical move this month, the skipper highlighted the calibre of players Leicestershire have produced.
“We’ve produced a lot of good youngsters. Broady’s been the latest, James Taylor as well in that bracket in the next generation of batters,” he added.
“I think Leicester have a very good grassroots system and academy system. We have to take our hats off to all the coaches who are involved there, and I think for a small county they’ve produced some very, very good cricketers.
“That’s down to the likes of Phil Whitticase, Russell Cobb and Lloyd Tennant who have worked out a programme and make sure the conveyor belt of talent that’s coming through the ranks is high.
“It’s nice to be involved in a club where you can actually look at your academy like that and say ‘right, these lads are our future rather than have to poach them from anywhere else’.”