Merv Hughes

'You've got to be able to laugh at yourself'

There's always a funny side to every situation. One of the great Australian larrikins of our time should know

Interview by Nagraj Gollapudi

Hands off my handlebar © Getty Images

Allan Border gave me the nickname Fruitfly - after the great Australian pest.

Sledging - in my words, verbal pressure or verbal intimidation - worked against some players. The more senior the player, the less effect it had.

The batsmen who always were very difficult to bowl to were Sunil Gavaskar and Viv Richards early in my career - both quality players and very tough. Later in my career, the 18-year-old Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Michael Atherton.

I don't think I carried the Aussie pace attack in the 1993 Ashes single-handedly. Shane Warne took 34 wickets. And Tim May and Paul Reiffel took plenty as well. It was a good team effort rather than anyone leading the attack.

My philosophy behind the drinking: play hard on the ground, and if you win, celebrate hard off the ground.

All I did was go out there to bowl. If people thought I was intimidating, that was their view. If they thought I was underrated, that was their view. All I did was go out there and work as hard as possible.

The only people who don't have a sense of humour are people who can't laugh at themselves. That's sad. You've got to be able to laugh; there's a funny side to a situation always.

I was offered loads of money in England to shave my moustache off, but I didn't. I have a bit of a superstition about taking it off. Every sportsperson likes to think he is not superstitious but we all are.

If I were a player now, the one thing I couldn't handle is the scrutiny of former players.

On one England tour my fitness advisor set me a food diary which said that I would have to stick to ten pints of beer and not have dinner!

Players now take the game very seriously because of the money involved and also the pride of representing their own country. They certainly do have a good time, but away from the public eye.

Rod Marsh, Dennis Lillee and Ian Chappell were my favourites when I was growing up; when I played it was Allan Border; and there are a lot of fantastic characters in the current Australian squad, like Michael Clarke and Andy Bichel.

If I was more disciplined it would have prolonged my Test career. But you can't worry too much about it. I look back with no regrets.

Did I ever think about acting? No. An actor's is a dead life, since you're told what to do.

I was part of the team that lost the Ashes to Mike Gatting's England in 1986-87. It was very disappointing to lose in my first Ashes tour. I still carry that pain.

I was under control on the field. I had no problems. I was at a lot of people's throats for different reasons. One was to intimidate the opposition batsmen, but most times when I sledged a batsman, it was to get myself going.

The harder you work through the easy times, the easier it becomes through the hard times. If you work hard at your basic training, the easier it is during the game situation.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo. This interview was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine in 2005