One of the highest run scorers in the modern era of Australia's domestic game, 40-year-old Brad Hodge is back for this year's Caribbean Premier League - after a cruel injury robbed the Aussie of his chance to join last year's party just before the start of the tournament.
Acknowledged as a fine batsman without the appearances at international level in recent years that his talent merited, we grabbed a word with Hodge to talk about the charms of the T20 cricket in the Caribbean...
How does it feel to be back in the CPL?
I only faced one ball in a practice match last year, broke my arm in a warm-up game and didn't get a chance to play, so it'll be great to go back this year and finish off what I started last year. T20 tournaments around the world are always good fun. There's a good build-up and everyone's excited, and the tournaments only last five or six weeks, so it's exciting and good to be involved in.
Was it an easy decision to return?
It's not a hard sell for cricketers to play in the Caribbean for a few weeks! The Caribbean has plenty of nice places - and some not so nice places like a lot of areas - but there's plenty of chances for relaxation, beach life, and lots of fun people around. It's one of those tournaments it's hard to say no to - like playing in Australia or South Africa or England, fun places to play.
How big an appeal is the party atmosphere?
It's all good fun. I guess the fun, the atmosphere, a bit of it has been lost in West Indies cricket in the past few years and they're trying to get it back. I played in the Caribbean in 2007 and it was a lot of fun, with drums beating in the background and the dancing... They seem to have lost some of that spirit with their Test cricket and One Day cricket, so it's a really good ploy to try and get people back involved in cricket.
I thought I'd retire at about 33, but T20s have changed everything - Brad Hodge
How important has T20 cricket been for you as a professional?
T20 allows you to carry on for as long as you want. As long as you're fit and strong, and your eyes are good, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to continue. As long as you're contributing, why not? It's really interesting to see that in T20 you can play longer. I thought I'd retire at about 33, but T20s have changed everything, brought a different aspect to the whole game.
What's the standard you're expecting in the CPL?
The squads are pretty good. There are some good players involved, and it'll pretty much come down to the local players. The internationals will have their day but they might cancel each other out, but it'll come down to which team's local players perform the best when the big stars don't perform. It's about standing up under pressure, and that's why although everyone thinks T20 is a young man's game it's actually the opposite, it's the wiser, smarter guy who can make the wise decision at the crucial time. They are the ones who get people over the line.
Chris Gayle is one of those guys where the grounds just aren't big enough - Brad Hodge
What are teams to look out for?
Of the islands, Barbados and Jamaica are maybe the big boys and it would be good to take them down. I've played with Kevon Cooper and Samuel Badree, who are both at Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel - it'll be good fun playing against those guys. Guyana have been there both times in the final. It's important to try and win the close games, get some momentum going, and if you do that you'll be in the knockout stages. Once you get to the final, it's pretty much 50-50. History says we'll be competitive and there is flair in the team with the likes of Dilshan, so we've got a good chance.
And what about Chris Gayle? How do you stop him?!
It's always good fun when you come up against a Chris Gayle and watch him try and blast the ball everywhere. If I was a bowler I'd try and bowl to him early and hope he was in the mood of blocking, bowl your three overs and get out of there with your figures intact. I don't really know! It's pot luck. He's one of those guys where the grounds just aren't big enough. I remember watching him play for West Indies against New Zealand in the World Cup and his mis-hits were sailing over the rope. The boundary was only about 58 metres, and for a guy that hits it 110 metres, his genuine mis-hits were easily going for six. He hit Vettori for three sixes and none of them were anywhere near the middle of the bat. It's great fun to watch, and secretly, when you're playing against him to want him to have a half-decent day! It puts you under pressure, the bowlers don't know what to do, and it's good fun to see how people respond. The plans go quickly out of the window because everyone forgets, it's absolute chaos and it's all good fun.
In the West Indies, I think the players are there and the quality is there - Brad Hodge
And there's a player with even more experience than you close to home...
I'm not the oldest in the Guyana squad?! Haha. Who is it? I'm trying to think! Who could it possibly be?! Shiv? Shiv's older than me?! That's really good to know, that! I reckon we'll be pretty good at running between the wickets together! I've not played with him, but I've played against him and watched him. He just doesn't get out. He just bats and bats and bats, he's an unbelievably good player.
How big can the CPL become?
The organisers have got a chance of making the CPL a very big deal, yeah. From what I saw and from what everyone tells me, it was a great tournament last year and very well received. T20 is good for everyone - the attention span of human beings is getting shorter and shorter and cricket is modelling itself that way, so it's a good thing. West indies cricket had been pretty disappointing by and large over the last decade-and-a-half. Everyone was crying out for some competition after the likes of Ambrose, Walsh, Lara etc... I think the players are there, the quality is there, but like every modern player, they are being asked how important T20s are compared to playing for your country. At the moment they've had some problems, but a tournament like this gets everyone back together, show everyone our skills and have some fun.