Playing it straight, the Mr. Cricket way

Michael Hussey is of the view that Twenty20 has impacted Test cricket a lot. “In the past, a score of 250-300 on a day in a Test match was considered okay. But the scoring rate seems to be going through the roof now. But having said that, I still think there’s place for a technically correct batsman who can bat for a longer period of time,” says the former Australian batsman.

Michael Hussey... “As a player, you want to be tested on all those different levels and that’s how you get respect from everyone in the game.”   -  Getty Images

Michael Hussey was one of world’s finest batsmen, shepherding Australia to several memorable victories for nearly a decade. In a free-wheeling chat with Sportstar, the dynamic southpaw talks about Australia’s chances in the upcoming limited-overs series against India, its spin reserves and how he played the turning ball in the sub-continent, among other things.

On Australia’s chances in the upcoming limited-overs series against India: I think it’s going to be a great series, two heavyweight teams really. Australia will take a lot of confidence from the Test series even though we didn’t win the series. I thought we performed extremely well. The guys will take a lot of confidence from it. We’ve actually had good success in ODI cricket in India before plus the players have a lot of experience of playing in Indian conditions with the IPL, the Test series and things like that. I think the guys will be keen to do well, and they have a chance to upset India in the series. What I do know is that India is a place the Australians have got high up on their priority list. They want to win in India, it’s one of the hardest places to win, be it a Test, ODI or Twenty20 series.

On Australia’s spin reserves: Those two spinners (Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar) complement each other well. You’ve got (Glenn) Maxwell who can bowl some handy off-spin and Travis Head who can bowl a lot as well. There’s quite a group of guys who can bowl handy spin. I think it’s a nicely balanced attack, it covers all bases. Some of the pitches in India actually suit the faster bowlers, particularly in ODI and Twenty20 cricket. The current squad has some good spin, pace and all-round options. The team, whichever ground they are playing at, can assess the conditions and pick a competitive playing XI. The conditions in Chennai might be completely different from some other place.

On Sri Lanka’s whitewash of Australia in 2016, and how to perform better in sub-continent conditions:

That was a disappointing series for sure. You can’t really put the blame on just the spinners. The batsmen didn’t score as many runs as they would’ve liked to. It’s much more difficult (for Australia) because the pitches back home aren’t conducive as much to spin bowling. The best thing, in my opinion, is to get into the sub-continent conditions as often as possible and get used to them. The Australians are starting to gain more and more experience by playing in Sri Lanka, India and the IPL. The more often they’re in these situations, the better they will get. Some of these guys are still young in their careers — Ashton Agar is still a young player and even Adam Zampa hasn’t played a whole lot of cricket — they’re still learning.

On Australia ‘A’ team’s trips to the sub-continent: More Australia ‘A’ tours to the sub-continent will definitely help, without question. It will help the batsmen as well. I’m sure it is the same for Indian batsmen coming to Australia. They’ll practise on faster and bouncier pitches at home but then, someone like Virat Kohli is a great example. The first time he came, he wasn’t quite sure, but then he got better and better every single time he has come to Australia. That’s what you want as a player — you want to be tested in all the different conditions around the world. The first time you might find it hard, the second time it will get better and the third time, it will get even better. That’s one thing about this Australian team coming into this series. We’ve got guys who have come (to India) on quite a few occasions which will give them confidence to do well in the series.

On whether the CA-ACA dispute has affected the team’s training:

I guess... We’ll see (laughs) ... I don’t think so, no, and the reason I say this is because some of the players like Warner were quite vocal about it, but most of the players just put their trust in the ACA to do all the negotiations and players could just concentrate on preparing for the series coming up. It (CA-ACA deadlock) wasn’t good for cricket — either for the players or the administrators. But thankfully now, the deal is done and we can get on with the real stuff of playing cricket.

On how he tackled spin:

I was very lucky to be able to come here, to Chennai actually, for what we call as simulation tours. We come in here, bat in the nets; we’ve practice games and things like that in Indian conditions. You’re just trying out, looking for different things. I was someone who liked to use my feet down to the spinners, but I found I was doing it all the time rather than alternating between using the feet and staying back. That was one thing I learnt here — you can’t just run every single time at the bowler especially because they’ll adjust and bowl flatter and quicker. I found it’s a lot different playing Test cricket in India than say ODIs and Twenty20s where the pitches are really good for batting. In Test matches, the wicket deteriorates and it can take a lot more spin and could be more up and down. You’re learning different strategies for different formats of the game. Even things like dealing with different weather — batting in Chennai, for instance, is extremely difficult than batting in Perth. It might still be hot in Perth but it is dry heat. Getting accustomed to the humidity and sweating all the time, it takes a little time.

On the return of Chennai Super Kings to the IPL: It’s great to have both teams back — Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings. Having been here in Chennai for the last few weeks and talking to a lot of fans, they’re very excited. Obviously CSK has a huge following here. It has been a shame that they (fans) have been starved of IPL cricket in the last two years, but now it’s going to be an exciting comeback, and I am sure the fans will be right behind the team again. The teams obviously had a lot of success, so it is going to be interesting to see if the teams can get back up there straightaway or if it takes time. I am sure the management will have to work hard to put together a strong team again. Let’s see how that goes, but it is exciting to have them back.

I think even for the rivalries — there are some great ones that CSK built up with Royal Challengers Bangalore, Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders. It will be good to see those kind of matches again. The fans will love it.

On whether M. S. Dhoni will play the 2019 World Cup: If he (Dhoni) wants to, there’s no reason why he can’t. He has obviously been a great player and a great captain for India for a long time. As long as he is still contributing, I don’t see why he can’t continue. But those things are up to the player, management and the selectors. They’ve to make the call. I think if he has the desire, then he’s good enough to get there.

Michael Hussey has high regard for Mahendra Singh Dhoni. “He has obviously been a great player and a great captain for India for a long time. As long as he is still contributing, I don’t see why he can’t continue,” says the Aussie.   -  PTI

 

On whether Twenty20 cricketers will dictate in Test cricket:

I think we have already seen it in the last few years. In the past, a score of 250-300 on a day in a Test match was considered okay. But the scoring rate seems to be going through the roof now. The bowlers are getting better all the time, bowling different types of deliveries, and the fielding standards in Twenty20 have also improved. I think we’re seeing these things filter through to other formats, especially Test cricket. But having said that, I still think there’s place for a technically correct batsman who can bat for a longer period of time.

It is still going to be very important in Test cricket, where sometimes you will need a (Cheteshwar) Pujara to bat for three days. When the pitch is deteriorating, you are going to need someone with a sound technique to get you through that situation. But of course, there can be certain stages in the game where someone like (Hardik) Pandya can come in and thwack the ball everywhere. That’s why Test cricket is so great; it caters to different types of players. Look, I am sure Pandya will have times when he won’t be able to blast the ball, he is going to have some challenges along the way as well. That will test his technique and temperament, and his concentration as well. That’s what you want as a player; you want to be tested on all those different levels and that’s how you get respect from everyone in the game.