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What makes the not-so-fussy Hussey tick? - Suneer Chowdhary Column
by Suneer Chowdhary
Oct 19, 2008
In one of the earlier pieces here, there had been a mention of how Michael Hussey would be the man to look out for on this tour, from the Australian perspective. So far, he seems to have done everything on this tour to prove that his Bradmanesque average of only thirty less than the three figure mark is no flash in the pan. And that he can hold the bat, and his own, in almost all conditions around the world. He has already hit a century in a tour game, and another in the first test, and followed it up with a fifty in the second match under trying conditions.

Sunil Gavaskar, while commentating in one of his stints during the second test match, hit the nail on the head, when he alluded to the fact that batting in India requires at least one key virtue - amongst others - and that is the existence of reserves of patience. It is not only on the field that one feels this need, but also off it, whilst dealing with the traffic snarls, and the weather and the food and the oh-so-many other cultural differences. One does not quite have the cognizance of his off-the-field dealings, but Hussey's batting is laced with this key positive, and that is the endurance to bat through most difficult of situations and conditions and pile up the number of deliveries faced, without getting too flustered. And no, unlike the Rahul Dravid of late, it is not exactly an aimless prodding and pushing without looking for scoring opportunities. However, if need be, he seems to have given enough evidence that he could bat out a day for a draw, without troubling the scorers too much.

For me though, the one huge aspect of his play that got revealed on the second and the third days of the second test match was the amazing ease with which he read the reverse swing, unlike some of the other Aussie batsmen. For starters, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma were getting the ball to nip around towards the shiny side of the cherry at will, and it made for amazing viewing. Despite having the reverse-swing specialist, Troy Cooley, in their ranks, most Aussie batsmen did struggle to pick up the ball, and while not many wickets fell to brand of bowling, the Aussie troubles against the reversing ball were far too blatant to miss. It was almost like Ashes-2005 was repeating itself.

Hussey was that one exception who played, both, the incoming and the outgoing delivery with consummate ease. The ease with his bat came down on the reverse swinging inswingers and away from the ones going out was riveting and almost unparalleled. He did get out to one of such deliveries - nicking one behind - but by then, he had exhibited enough resolve to get to a fifty, and given the Australians a semblance of a hope. It was fascinating to watch him bat the way he did, as it was to view the Indian bowlers ask the right questions off him. As much as the Indian cricket fan in me wanted him to get out, the battle between him and the two 'quicks' made for some really cherished viewing. Exactly the point where Tests score over any other format of the game!

The batting against spinners is another such story. On the proof of what one has seen so far in the three innings, his batting has been par excellence against the spin. And what is surprising here is that he played most of his first class cricket for Western Australia, whose home ground is the WACA at Perth. For the uninitiated, the pitch is anything but spinner-friendly, and although it has deteriorated in its pace and bounce over the years, it still remains to be one of the quickest ones around. The typical batsman's feet tend to go back into the crease first before the thought of going forward even enters the recesses of their minds, at WACA, in order to give themselves that extra split second against the quickness. Apart from WACA, Hussey has also been an overseas player of many an English county, and again, the English conditions do not support a lot of slow bowling, something that can be easily inferred from their barren spin bowling cupboard. Yet, Hussey has taken to the Indian spinners, like a fish to water and this speaks volumes of his adaptability. Yes, one does feel that apart from patience, his biggest strength is his ability to acclimatize to any given match situation or pitch conditions, with the lack of any fuss.

The compactness of defence is another of the treats that he doles out on most occasions. Getting past his bat is not only a matter of pride for any bowler, but also almost akin to getting a wicket, and the time a bowler manages to pick his wicket up, the relief is as palpable as getting a first fifer in international cricket!

Technically speaking, he seems to be a batsman who is terribly quick on his feet and this helps him get forward or back with equal simplicity, depending on the length. To add to this nimbleness, he possesses a very loose bottom hand, and this makes for an excellent combination to have against spinners on tracks which turn as much as Indian pitches. Funnily - and paradoxically - enough, the aesthetics of his batting are not half as pleasing to watch as one would probably enjoy a Rahul Dravid forward defensive stroke, and yet, the effectiveness is there for all to see! The above blend becomes really potent, when his running-between-the-wickets - which incidentally reminds one of Michael Bevan - is so precise and swift, that the runs continue to flow even when the boundaries are not.

My personal feel is that what makes him such a great batsman - and one understands that it is too early to call him that - is the combination of his good technique with his rapid calling and running-between-the-wickets. It is a tough job to be quick over those twenty-two yards off one ball, and then refocus on the dead-bat defensive stroke off the next, whilst trying to get one's breath back. And so far, Hussey has done just that, over a reasonably sustained period of time.
 
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