Michael Hussey is Australia’s ole man river

Date: December 17, 2012 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Michael Hussey just continues to make runs while the twilight shines.

Where the likes of Ricky Ponting, also 37 years of age, and 39-year-old Sachin Tendulkar have found the going tough in the latter parts of their glorious careers, Hussey continues to maintain his standards.

Yesterday’s unbeaten 115 against Sri Lanka was his third century in four Tests this summer.

Of all the nations that have faced the veteran left-hander, none have felt the wrath more than the current tourists with Hussey having plundered five centuries from them whilst amassing an average of 125 – all that in just six Tests.

Few, if any, have debuted so late in life at Test level and gone on to forge the career that Hussey has.

After a decade plying his trade, and honing his skills, he finally got tapped by the national selectors, debuting in one-dayers at the age of 28 and Tests at 30.

His Test debut at the Gabba against the West Indies in November 2005 was as a stand-in for an injured Justin Langer at the top of the order.

He posted scores of one and 29.

He got another chance in the following Test and cashed in with 137 at Bellerive.

It was enough for him to be retained, albeit down the order, when Langer returned to the team.

The current match against Sri Lanka is his 77th Test, a figure compiled in an unbroken run from debut.

Sometimes when you transplant a tree it fails to fruit.

That wasn’t an axiom that could be related to Hussey with his move to the ‘big time’ almost seamless.

The comfortable transition was aided no doubt by his seemingly endless apprenticeship – it took 15,313 runs at first-class level before he played his maiden Test, the most any player has compiled before donning the baggy green.

During his long, and often frustrating, time awaiting a call-up he scored triple centuries – 310, 329 and 331no – over three successive years while playing on the English county circuit for Northamptonshire.

From the moment he got the honour to play for Australia he reacted like a man who had everything to prove, both to himself and those that had overlooked him for so long.

After his first 32 one-day internationals he boasted an average of 100, while 20 Tests into his career it stood at 85.

As expected those numbers headed south over time with his ODI mark currently at 48.1 after 185 matches and his Test average now 51.4.

His worth to the Australian team across all three formats of the game has been substantial with his performances at one-day level, in particular, of the highest class.

Like Michael Bevan before him, Hussey is a master at toying with the fieldsmen in the deep.

He has the ability to play shots with the expertise of a Harley Street surgeon, regularly placing the ball deftly between boundary riders at a pace that allows for two runs.

It is a skill that not many possess on a regular basis and has allowed him to accumulate his runs at a highly credible strike rate of 87.

Like many left-handers he is sublime on the cover drive and can be extremely savage on the short ball which is usually deposited to the on-side boundary well in front of square leg.

In the Test arena he has been involved in some tremendous rear-guard actions with the tailenders.

In two separate matches, with Stuart MacGill and Glenn McGrath, he fashioned stands that allowed Australia to frame a victory.

Perhaps the best example of his match-defining efforts with the tail was at the SCG against Pakistan in January 2010.

At 8-206 in its second innings, Australia was clinging to a tenuous 51-run lead before Hussey (134no) and Peter Siddle (38) put on 123.

That partnership provided the impetus for a stunning come from behind victory with Australia knocking over the tourists for 139 to secure a surprise 36-run victory.

Not long after his arrival on the international circuit Hussey was dubbed ‘Mr Cricket’ – the culprits have been variously listed as Andrew Symonds, Andrew Flintoff and even Graeme Swann’s brother.

It is a sobriquet that doesn’t sit comfortably with Hussey.

But its origin was predicated on both his acute awareness of the history of the game in tandem with an incredibly strong work ethic.

A few years ago when his place in the Test team was on the line after a succession of low scores he decided to free up his mind and lessen the almost monastic devotion he devoted to his game.

The change of mental approach paid dividends with his form this season a glowing testament.

Age has in no way quelled his enthusiasm with his voice and his hands always audible from gully as he continuously gees up the troops.

The great imponderable is just how he would have gone had he debuted at Test level a few years earlier – would he have likely extended his current aggregate of 6118 runs into the five-figure realm?

We will never know the answer.

Mike Hussey is currently writing his final chapter and each paragraph of late has been worth reading.

It is just a matter now of when the last full stop will be inked in.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 16 December 2012

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