Friday, 13 April 2012

The potential greatness of Michael Hussey

Any batsman aspiring to greatness should want to be great in all situations: all conditions against all types of bowling in all formats. It has always been that way, since Grace yearned to go to Australia - admittedly partly for the cash and the honeymoon, but also so that they could witness his mastery.

Here is a set of averages that suggest contemporary greatness: Tests 50.62; ODI 48.27; T20I 37.85; First class 52.32; List A 44.43; T20 41.46. They belong to Michael Hussey, a batsman to whom hype, and by extension full consideration, somehow refuse to attach themselves.

Almost everything about Hussey mitigates against anointment. He didn't get into the Test team until he was 30 years old, hardly a prodigy, and then it was as an opener, a position he quickly ceded to a returning Justin Langer. His vast early successes - a thousand Test runs in 166 days, an average of 86 for his first two years, another of 100.22 by his 32nd ODI cap - were airily dismissed as unsustainable (you don't say) and compromised by the relentless excellence of the team he was playing in. Hussey was simply working over opponents already half-out on the ropes.

Then there was the question of his image. In amongst his team of hard-nuts, wise-asses, muggers, brawlers, flawed geniuses, Hussey, sweetly, was the self-styled 'Mr Cricket', that rarest of things in pro sport – an enthusiast. It was almost heartbreaking when, in the gauche early days, he went out in a T20 international with the nickname on the back of his shirt.

The averages returned to a mortal framework during the rough run of 2008-9, and yet still he scurried to the crease in that way of his, like a man trying to get past the local delinquents on his way to the shops. He had enough about him to know that things would turn back his way, because there was no discernible weakness in his game, no gaping hole in technique. He was just getting out, as everyone does.

It's easy then, to explain why Hussey isn't great. It's tougher to to accept that he might be. But here it is: last week, he eked out the the thirty-odd runs to win a tight Test in Barbados. Eighteen months ago, a plane hop away in St Lucia, he won a T20 World Cup semi-final with 60 from 24 balls, an innings of shattering brilliance. Inbetween times, he made 195, 93, 52, 61 and 116 in consecutive knocks against England in an Ashes series in which his colleagues were humiliated.

Any bowlers, any conditions, any format from anywhere in the order, Hussey is ready. Even the way he applies his sunscreen says something about his character. The prominent nose is smothered, and the lips, but so too are the lobes of his ears - sure enough, they can be glimpsed through the sideguards of his helmet. This is attention to detail from a man determined to give himself every chance.

It's all done with deference to the team and to the game. If he has an ego - and he must have - it is well hidden, or more likely channeled into his love of the fight. Australia are never beaten until Hussey is done.

He fulfills a less-acknowledged role in the team too, one that he assumed from Adam Gilchrist. In a side that has pathologically pushed combativeness to its limits - and on occasion beyond - Hussey has offered another face. He is unyielding on the field, but unimpeachable in his sportsmanship. He has soul as well as heart, and when Australia began to lose again, Hussey did so nobly. Ponting could have crossed into dark waters with an Iago as his lieutenant. Instead he had Hussey to offer good sense and sympathy.

Gazing out from the team photos under his baggy green, there's something ingenuous about Hussey's face. Give the image a sepia tint, and he could be a first world war digger, a man from a more innocent age. He even managed not to laugh out loud when Shane Watson was asked to bat at three for Australia. There's no opposition in the world that would swap that arrangement for one involving Mike Hussey. That's the real measure of his worth.

17 comments:

Tim Newman said...

Superb post, as ever OB.

Australia are never beaten until Hussey is done.

Never truer words said. I positively loathe Hussey when he is batting, simply because he is so damned hard to remove and drags Australia back into matches which otherwise would see them humiliated. And as somebody pointed out on Cricinfo yesterday (meh, the oilfield can run itself for a day!), the tail-enders bat so well with Hussey because of his intelligent running: they feel confident that he is not going to make stupid calls and run them out. I wonder how well the Aussie tail would wag with Watson batting at 6?

Anonymous said...

Very nice prose, and excellent analysis. Ponting would indeed have crossed into dark waters with an Iago at his side. And as an Australian I have to compliment you on your accurate and incisive description of Hussey's team mates, as muggers, brawlers etc.
Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this, but it's 'militates' not 'mitigates', and 'channelled not 'channeled'.

Vic Nicholas said...

Simply brilliant article. Hussey is the schoolboy cricketer in us all. The boyish enthusiasm for the game simply oozes innocence from a bygone age in thsi era of IPL dollars and endorsements. Never fashionable, not always appreciated, but Mike Hussey will leave a cricketing legacy that those in the future will wish they had seen him play.

Vic Nicholas said...

Simply brilliant article. Hussey is the schoolboy cricketer in us all. The boyish enthusiasm for the game simply oozes innocence from a bygone age in thsi era of IPL dollars and endorsements. Never fashionable, not always appreciated, but Mike Hussey will leave a cricketing legacy that those in the future will wish they had seen him play.

John Halliwell said...

Has there been a more accurate assessment of the qualities of Mike Hussey? Ten short paragraphs that beautifully capture a very fine cricketer. It’s even easier now to imagine Hussey, dog-tired after having driven England and Tim Newman to distraction with 150 on a furnace of a day in Melbourne, and having done the round of broadcasters, being asked if he would give an interview to a 16 year old cricket correspondent from a local high school: “Yes, sure. Would you let my wife know I’ll be a little late”

A cricketing image that never leaves me is of Dexter, having slaughtered the Aussie attack for 76 at Old Trafford in 1961, getting an edge cutting Benaud. I swear blind Dexter was walking before the ball was fully in Grout’s gloves. And in my mind’s eye I see Hussey doing exactly the same.

Anonymous said...

One cannot deny Mike Hussey;s Irrepressible love of the game and never-day-die spirt. A loyal and encouraging team player, skilled with bat and in the field, plus a handy medium-pacer, Mike Hussey is the all round package, an invaluable asset to the Australian team, good with the media, and a true gentleman of the game. In my book, all hallmarks of greatness.

Anonymous said...

That's a really nicely written article. I don't know if their parents just wouldn't allow them to be brats on the field when they were kids but you never see either of the Husseys embarrassing the team or themselves with their behaviour. I can't think of a single thing that Mike Hussey has done in that line to make me cringe as an Aussie fan.

karann1986 said...

Hussey is really one of the best in this business.....
He totally deserves the title of 'Mr. Cricket'. Has Bailed out Australia many times.....
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livescore said...

Michael Hussey my favorite one, before Michael Hussey i Michael Beavan was great player, now there is no doubt that Hussey is the back born of Australian batting line.

Cool Android Games said...

One of the best and was a better replacement for Michael Beaven...
Mr. Cricket!!!!!!
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Addicting Games said...

old batsman has more experience which is beneficial for new comers ,like kalis ,hussey, dravid and lee best old batsman ,all are engaged with ipl now a days on experienced based .

Cool iPhone Games said...

It looks like Hussey is on fire.....
Good form playing awesome in this Ipl for CSK.......

Cricket Games said...

hussey brothers have a talent to win a match on any critical condition both has a lot of experience to move a game on one side

Top Web Games said...

Hussey brothers have immense talent... Just a perfect recipe for a perfect team.....

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you look at his potential and I look at him as the new great batsman, Michael Hussey is one of a hell player and I am sure he will make history