Sydney/Johannesburg, Feb.17 (ANI): Australian captain Ricky Ponting wanted to learn all he could about the youngest member of the touring squad, Phillip Hughes, and would have been most surprised to hear that Hughes loves to breed and show chickens.
For Hughes, this activity is a passion, but he rarely talks about it.
"He used to show chooks, and he used to help me breed them. It is something he keeps very close to him, and it is something he can't do in the city, but it was one of his hobbies," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted his father, Greg, as saying.
Before boarding at Sydney Airport, the 34-year-old Ponting said: "I will grab him on the plane and rip his iPod off him and have a listen to it, and see what gets him going. Fourteen years difference between our opening batsman and our No.3 batsman is a lot of time and a lot of experience, and there's a lot of knowledge for me to be able to pass on to guys like him."
"He'll be jumping out of his skin, there's no doubt about that. He'll be pretty nervous and pretty excited. Most of us older guys will probably have a good sleep on the flight. I'd be surprised if he has a sleep at all," Ponting added.
Ponting would have discovered that Hughes's favourite food is his grandmother's spaghetti and that he enjoys top-40 popular music.
Had he continued the grilling, he would learnt the finer points of chook breeding from the unassuming 20-year-old. Hughes also has a passion for breeding and showing cattle, and wants to pursue these interests when he retires from the game.
That is a lifetime away for the opener, who will look to break the record for highest score by an Australian on debut in South Africa, held by Bob Simpson at 60 runs from the 1957 tour.
Hughes's predecessor, Matthew Hayden, also made his Test debut in Johannesburg, in 1994, and averaged 10 in the first game. Australia needs a bigger contribution from Hughes if they are to start on the right note.
"Hopefully, he can be what we're looking at the top of the order. Obviously, he's a very driven and motivated young bloke who wants to be very successful for Australia. He's certainly done that for NSW," Ponting said.
And there to witness Hughes's expectant debut starting on Thursday week will be his entire family, with parents Greg and Virginia, brother Jason and sister Megan flying out on Monday.
"It is certainly a family dream come true. We're enjoying it. It is his ride, and we're there to watch him and support him," Greg Hughes said.
Ponting first spoke to Hughes at the Allan Border Medal presentation, when Hughes was named best young player.
"Justin Langer and I had a chance to have a drink with him that night and have a bit of a chat about his cricket and his batting.
At that stage, no one knew he'd be in the touring team. It was good to learn a little bit about him and see what he's all about." (ANI)