30 December 2012

Michael Hussey: Another giant of the game bids farewell

Ricky Ponting has retired, Michael Hussey is soon to retire and Tony Greig sadly passed away.
All three have had a major role to play within the world of cricket and each one has left behind their own legacy.

Greig was not only a decent cricketer himself but is better known as a well accomplished commentator who was an easily recognised media personality. He was directly involved in Kerry Packer's World Series cricket revolution and the role he played there resulted in the start of a legacy within the media spotlight of the game.

Admittedly, in his older years I was not an avid fan of his commentary but always had a good laugh at some of his one liners and if a player impressed him he'd make his appreciation and enjoyment more than apparent which was a big up for the cricketer concerned. Sometimes it was shown for the ladies in the crowd the television camera captured!

I have embedded a video below which is good for a laugh. It's a Tony Greig classic moment.

Anthony William Greig. October 6, 1946 to December 29, 2012.

Ricky Ponting's departure was one that was somewhat expected, but is still so sad as he is a modern legend of the game and a personal favourite for so many reasons well beyond his attributes as a cricketer.

The shock that has come though is the retirement of Michael Hussey from international cricket, another man who put the team first and was a solid team player. At the best of times he was the teams saviour.

It's sad and a huge loss to Australian cricket, so much so I haven't entirely grasped the news.
To be honest no one will until we no longer see Huss charging out onto the field to execute a rescue mission or get set into building one of his stealth-like innings with the bat in hand in any form of the game.

Michael Clarke said it many times, Huss is a "freak" in the game.
Ideally Clarke was saying Huss is a unique cricketer but what a well grounded, down to earth bloke he has been at the same time.

His ability to keep charged, adapt his game between formats and maintain the highest, professional standard with his approach to the game whilst maintain a healthy family life off the field makes him the best of the best. He is an elite performer and has qualities rarely seen in the modern world of sport.

I bought his book five or six years ago and to this day I find inspiration when I read it.
The basic principles he followed in that book were done so with consistency and determination that is hard enough to maintain over a limited period of time, so to cast back my mind to when I first read a book that took a glimpse into the mind and life of Michael Hussey, it really makes me appreciate the energy levels and height of ambition he kept finding ways to channel into his game to this day.

However, it seems to have run out and although Huss was on a high, the value and challenges of life outside of cricket became greater ones than the value he'd invested in building a career that places him in an elite field as a cricketer with a story to be told and shared.

With a tour to India and back to back Ashes series many would think, "why now?"

The reason is simple. It may not be the right time for the team but it is the right time for him.

Huss will bow out of the game with a standing ovation and the right amount of respect he deserves for what he has given to cricket followers around the globe and most importantly what he has done for Australian cricket in all forms of the game.

He leaves in good form and far from any form slump to talk of.

The time he leaves is before two intense tours away from home and the demands will be heavy.
The players involved face a challenge that involves high pressure and intensity on and off the field in unfamiliar conditions, which will be a first for many of them.

Huss could have offered incredible support and advice but it's a demanding year ahead and time away. He has a young family and as a family man he needs to be there at a crucial time in his their lives which is greater than the game.
He has given a lot to Australian cricket and if it is time to focus his energy, determination and focus within his life away from cricket then it is the right thing to do. The game will pull him back at some stage.

The void left is massive. It is not his concern and although Huss confidently stated at his media conference that he has no concerns about the future of Australian cricket, the role he played will likely be one we may not see filled for many years to come, as it has been for the spinners role since Shane Warne retired.

Fortunately our bowling stocks have finally come right where we have 10 bowlers plus to choose from, some with experience, some with age and others with youthful ambition.
It has taken six years to develop this level of depth and to get our bowling into a place where we head into a Test match with a well loaded attack, which is open to adjustment.

The batting however has just headed into the danger zone.

I don't think the development will take as long as it has for our bowling attack but we will likely be looking at a two to three year development period.

It would need to be one within a year though given the stakes of what lies ahead but realistically it will take time and we need to support the boys as we've had to since 2006/07.
It will take time and patience is crucial.

There's good batsmen in our system and the departure of Punter and Huss will allow for the water to be tested. It's exciting times.

Phillip Hughes has been placed into the number three position and now the middle order will need a new call to order, but not one to fulfil the Hussey role. That is not possible. Instead what is needed is a capable batsman who can become a stable Test cricket and/or by the same token a limited overs batsman.

Usman Khawaja is likely to come into the side now as a recognised Test match contender but he is no Hussey and should never be compared. That is not fair and no player should be given labels unfairly.
Each of our cricketers need to build their own identity as Huss has and as Punter did so extraordinarily well.

There's players fresh at Test and limited overs level who are ready and some identified players. This is the time to blood them.
The departure of two great players has left an opening for two fresh players to start a legacy of their own. It may take time, the result will be varied but the opportunity is there and someone needs to grab it and mould it. This is the time!

Hussey also came into the Australian side with massive experience at First Class level after grafting like a dog to finally get his chance to play Test cricket for Australia.

Hussey, an Australian champion!
He waited a ridiculously long time to get his Baggy Green cap and many of us wondered if he'd ever get his chance. When it finally arrived against the West Indies it was fair to say that I honestly feel that was a debutant I had zero worries about. He'd earned it in all possible regards.

However, guys coming in now have credibility that is nowhere near to that of Huss.
Once again, no comparisons can be made as this is a different era and a different team but it does give a matter of perspective. The level of competition has changed and it's an environment that is going to grow again.

Huss debuted during a golden era for Australian cricket and he lived every second with utter appreciation with that knowledge. Players come in now with less appreciation, perhaps, but the future is bigger for them as there is not only a personal legacy to build but a team legacy as well. That is pressure and a different type to that which Huss debuted under.

I do believe the future is a positive one for us despite these losses.
It will take time but if Michael Hussey says he is not concerned, neither should we. We simply need to understand the changes and challenges ahead, which a man of his knowledge and understanding would have already processed.

We will miss him and it's going to be so unbelievably painful to see him leave the field to hang his Baggy Green cap up. It's the way it goes though and while Huss is close to 40, it was not the expected date of retirement we all had in mind.

The memories of Huss will remain strong in my mind and without doubt my best Hussey memories stand as follows:

Amazing Adelaide, which was the 2nd Test of the 2006/07 Ashes series.

Nevermind the fact our win was a massively unexpected result heading into play on the final day but the way Huss switched to limited overs mode to score a half-century and hit the winning runs was sensational. His roar and sheer delight is brought to memory in split seconds!

The innings against Pakistan in the semi-final of the ICC 2010 World T20 was a ripper.

The way he brutally smashed Saeed Ajmal around St Lucia was, well, unforgettable. 60 runs off 24 deliveries, doesn't get much better in T20 cricket. I remember we were doing a live chat here for that game at the Baggy Green blog and I had to leave the chat in order to run around the garden cheering like a mad man.

His ability to bat with the tail was first shown in international cricket with Glenn McGrath against South Africa. He did it many more times in ODI and T20 cricket as well.
Memorably everyone will easily recall his batting with Peter Siddle against Pakistan at the SCG. He just knew how to adapt to any situation and the faith he showed in his batting partners was special. Qualities of on field leadership and that ability is unforgettable.

Each century was honestly special to watch but the pain of his century in the final innings of the final Test of the 2009 Ashes series grips me to this day.

He had a terrible season by his standards and despite the hurt I felt seeing him go through the struggles and not truly knowing the pressure he was under, to lose the Ashes was far worse.

Yet, he regained his self-belief and when he reached his century I had to bite my lip. The pain and emotions behind that innings was a strong testament that even in bleak situations Huss never, ever doubted himself and kept fighting for his place and Australian cricket.

That is how I will remember Michael Hussey the cricketer and I can only wish him the best for the future with his family and life away from the game. He gave us enough entertainment and inspiration.
Bring on the SCG Test!

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HerLadyship said...

I agree with your assessment of Mr Cricket, what a massive blow to cricket Australia. "Stealth-like" exactly.

I will miss the insightful commentary of Tony Grieg and his dulcet tones since his playing career was before my time.

Ian said...

Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!

I have to moderate comments for a while longer as I received too much spam.
As a result I am getting fewer comments but hopefully the spam will ease off so I can put up free commenting again.

Sad to see Huss go, it is a massive blow.

Hope to see more comments from you.
Glad to see you're also getting into blogging.

Marie John said...

A really good analysis! It is very sad to see Hussy go. On another note though, I can't wait for the the ashes series