Surely, Michael Hussey doesn’t need to sign a cheque using his full name. Or even his initials for that matter.
Just the nickname would do.
One wonders about the delight in being saluted with a nickname that represents an all-encompassing tribute to the very game Hussey came to master if scoring over 11,600 international runs in merely 8 years could be considered an instance of some brilliance.
But it must be said, when you identify someone as Mr Cricket, you inadvertently strum a somewhat staccato rhythm of respect, that stands away from fashionable adages, having walked a long mile from the flair of ‘The Prince’ toward the glory of ‘The God’, in a hope to be salvaged by ‘Superman’ in this age of instant gratification.
But even in hailing Hussey as Mr Cricket- an epitome of the fulfilment of Cricket loving one of its practitioners back- the adage only lends simplicity to a bloke who was once Australia’s go-to man in crisis. And today serves a dignified reminder of revisiting an era where saving a Test held more value than contemporary histrionics of wearing yellow shoes over blue batting pads on a somewhat daft-looking orange jersey; a scenario that affords a unit the easy boisterousness of being called ‘Lions’.
In Hussey, one of the few lower-middle order batsmen in modern cricket to have scored 4500 of their 6000 plus Test runs from an exact 100 innings, collectively from number 4 and 5- remains the answer to unravelling the DNA of a dying breed in international cricket; that of a batsman of great durability, someone who exemplified the desire to accept challenges with glee, whilst always keeping his team ahead of himself.
A game decorated by crafty techniques- Cullinan, Dravid and Mohd. Younus- and amplified by flair- Lara, Gower and Sangakkara- Hussey bridged distances between such lofty pedestals of batting styles, creating a craft of his own that had exemplified an ability to intelligently navigate across a sea of challenges, wherein he drew strength from a reservoir of patience, in remaining unsullied by withering match situations.
Building an inning on the tempo of gentle glances and staid backfoot punches, Hussey, who finished with an outstanding Test average of 51 and an ODI average of 48, scored mountains of runs at home at an imperious average of 61. And settled for nothing less than an aggregate of 2400 runs on foreign duties at a respectable 41. In so doing, he countered the pace of an Ishant, Johnson, Broad and, Boult using a strong bottom-hand technique, deployed to full measure in an elegant-looking forward defence. And when he lifted an Ashwin, Ajmal, Herath or Tahir over deep mid-wicket, it seemed, all it took him for bashing spinners from the pulp of his blade was merely a gentle stroking of the cricket ball.
In an age where Cricket is either being defined by mighty big scoring, the likes of Rohit crossing the venerable double-century mark in 50-over contest twice and the likes of Gayle, Warner, AB and Guptill still very much in business, having Michael Hussey in the middle meant that even amidst a seemingly insurmountable problem, a game could be saved through utter resilience and technique alone. Big-hitting wasn’t all that necessary.
A reticent conduct often formed a halo around Hussey’s monk-like figure of concentration.
That he stepped in as opposed to ‘bursting on’ the scene just when a famous old guard Michael Bevan hung his boots, meant relief was on offer for Australia. Again. Hussey’s arrival brought a sense of satisfaction that imminent crises situations would still have to battle a worthy nemesis in order to breach Australia’s defenses and that their game would once again benefit from the services of a simpleton at a time where Cricket’s growth was incessantly being judged by the proliferation of T20s.
Hussey furthered hopes for Australia to once again consolidate their position as one of the game’s leading lights wherein much of their problems were often internal, such as the Watson-vs-Clarke saga. It also, then in some ways brought relief that in Mr Cricket, Australia found a way to retain a heritage of uncomplicated but fiercely honest Cricket; an essence of yesteryear’s simplicity, last evident in Bevan’s conduct, echoed by an agricultural mindset of creating opportunities to score instead of tethering bowlers apart.
And wasn’t it here where the game had begun to see Kohli battle Johnson, not always with the bat that Hussey’s silent resolve offered a difference in an age largely defined by agro and sledging?
He didn’t stare back. He didn’t slip in verbals as a fielder, but must it be asked if there’s another like Hussey- since, say a Gilchrist- who hasn’t been offered stingingly bad prose from the opposition?
For offering the full face of the bat amidst times where egos clashed and captaincies continued to be marred by needless diatribes among ones own unit- Afridi’s backlash against Younis giving company to Watson calling Clarke a cancer for Australia- Hussey continued to focus on the basics- right conduct, distance from controversies, cherishing a good challenge such as scoring that famous 195 in an Ashes Test above shenanigans.
Even in his final Test appearance, he managed to take Australia, when at the cultural home of Australian Cricket, Sydney stood up to applaud the Western Australian, who, neither through a fifty, or an indomitable hundred, rather by a quintessential Mr. Cricket special; a 27 not out took his side home.