“Sacrifices are not something to regret, they are something to yearn for.’’
To understand the depth of this phrase, you will have to make a visitation to an often unvisited cricketing heart. You’ll have to see beyond the mic. You’ll have to peer through the crisp white shirt and that pristine and immaculate style of presentation, one which has probably amazed you, repeatedly, about the true meaning of the dying art of real cricket commentary. What is commentary in the absence of proper experience? Are we, in this day and age, relying heavily on presentation skills and probably not pure unquestionable knowledge.
But before we get to assess the real meaning of being Nasser Hussain, we mustn’t forget that there aren’t many who astonish possessing both- insights and actual flesh and blood experience of playing on the 22 yards.
But how was it for one of the refined charismatic figures of English cricket from underneath the jersey? Let’s revisit the ‘has-been.’
It is the beginning of Cricket in the English Summer.
England have had a difficult period for more than a year. Heavy defeats in the subcontinent and a disappointing World Cup in South Africa have made life difficult for Naseer Hussain. But, the immediate task at hand is to chase down 282 against New Zealand in the first Test match of the series.
The rhetoric of Hussain’s batting was weaved around the obdurate display of classical batsmanship, steering away from extravagance and recklessness.
Nasser Hussain stroked an unbeaten 106 against the Kiwis en route chasing a difficult target of 282 against potent bowlers managed by an ingenious captain, Stephen Fleming. The celebrations after scoring the hundred were not as wild as it was after scoring his first ODI hundred against India in the Natwest Tri-Series final in 2002.
So, it came as a big surprise when Naseer Hussain decided to walk into the sunset just after playing a dominant inning, and stamping his class amidst growing criticism from the British Media. But, Hussain knew he had timed his retirement well. Andrew Strauss had all the attributes of a competent Test batsman. Naseer perceived well that it would be cruel and unfair to keep him out. Being a generous and farsighted individual, he decided to end his beautiful journey as an International Cricketer.
But, have we ever heard enough of Hussain’s selflessness at a critical juncture of English Cricket?
The lack of eulogy has never belittled Naseer Hussain and his contribution towards the growth of English Cricket. It was not too difficult to spot that Naseer Hussain’s batting skills were based on the robust imbibing of the orthodox school of batting. He had seen Michael Atherton stay extremely loyal to such a style of batting. Hence, there was little need for straying away from it.
The strictly English element in his batting was beautifully contrasted by his slightly divergent form of captaincy with no set template to fall back on from his predecessors. From unique fielding positions to mincing no words while being on the field, Naseer Hussain was a tough competitor and never believed in taking a backward step while facing the toughest of oppositions all at their prime.
In terms of being obsessive, Naseer Hussain was not much different from Douglas Jardine. There were times when Hussain had to stoically endure the fallible elements of his spinners and their inability to turn the ball. He could also palpably feel the reluctance of the batsmen to acclimatize in alien conditions.
Nevertheless, he kept persisting.
But, these elements never wearied down Hussain as a captain who was willing to innovate at different times of his career. His novel 8-1 field against India tired down the extravagant stroke players and set forward different precedence. Hussain’s true legacy lies in being a conscientious captain, an astute and aggressive leader much aloof from English preferences. His biggest asset as a captain was his dramatic control over the flow of events. In his playing days, he was clear about the state of English Cricket and still echoes his views with unsuppressed honesty, a quality which makes him a popular Cricket commentator.
It can be said that being an overtly intense skipper, he sometimes took his own batting for granted. The modest average of 37.18 whilst scoring 5764 runs in 96 Test Matches is a far cry from his brilliant batting attributes, his ability to tackle spin bowling in his generation is well venerated in English Cricketing circles.
Hailing from Chennai, India Nasser Hussain transitioned well from a leg break bowler to a solid Test batsman who had a fulfilling Cricketing career despite being susceptible to finger injuries. He led England to well-deserved victories in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, undoubtedly his effervescent style of captaincy was unprecedented in English Cricket and he raised English Cricket from mediocrity during his stint as the skipper.
English Cricket owes a lot to Nasser Hussain, isn’t it?