Melbourne Stars' Brad Hodge lauds bouquets on a brickbat training regimen

He turns 39 in just over a week but Brad Hodge is nevertheless adamant his cricketing career will stretch well into his third decade.

When Hodge turns out for the Melbourne Stars in Friday night's Big Bash League season opener against the Melbourne Renegades at the MCG it will officially be the start of his 21st domestic season, having debuted in December 1993 for Victoria.

Domestic batting great Hodge has overcome the knee injury that was expected to threaten his availability for the start of the BBL, partly from an unconventional training regimen based around helping builders completing a major renovation of his family's house.

"I come and help clean up, pick bricks up and that sort of thing - all the crappy jobs," Hodge said.

"It's some hard labour but it's amazing how good it's been for training purposes. Before I went to the Champions League [in September] I was basically working all day, picking up and stacking bricks, throwing bricks, throwing tiles. It was great, good for strength.

"It's been quite valuable [in the past three months] because I haven't been able to run, with my knee. It's helped me keep my strength up."

Since retiring from Victoria's one-day team almost two years ago to exclusively focus on being a freelance players for various countries' domestic Twenty20 competitions the right-hander boasts a remarkable record. From his 69 matches since then he has scored 1796 runs at an average of 40.82.

Hodge is particularly proud of his recent lofty record in the IPL, because his Rajasthan Royals captain Rahul Dravid had elected to move him from his customary top-order position to take on a finishing role.

"When Rahul Dravid put me down the order his instructions were pretty straightforward. He said 'There's not many people in the world that I've seen who can hit a cricket ball off very good bowling, like Brett Lee, Dale Steyn, Mitchell Johnson. You somehow have an ability to whack those good bowlers when others can't. . . so we need you to do that'," he said.

"Everyone in the team was saying 'Let's get 'Hodgey' up the order - the more balls he faces the better', but looking back on it I probably won more games for Rajasthan down there off my own bat than what I would have before.

"Rahul clearly states 'We know 'Hodgey' can bat in the top three and will probably get us 500 to 600 runs but [down the order] he's winning us four or five games off his own bat, and we can't trade that'."

With Hodge, who also serves as the Stars' batting coach. now convinced he can prepare for Twenty20 tournaments with a little as a week's intense training beforehand - for much of the Australian winter he relishes being a full-time father - he said his recent performances have convinced him he is "consistently as good as I was 10 years ago".

"It's against the trend but . . . the way I'm going . . . I reckon I've got three years left in me, for sure. If I'm making runs for 'Shippy' [coach Greg Shipperd] then, don't worry, he won't want me as a coach, he'll want me as a player."

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