We’ve made a theory. We truly believe in it. And perhaps there’s no way we are prepared to tamper with it- or so it seems.
And it’s that Cricket is, largely speaking, about runs scored, wickets taken, partnerships broken, catches held onto and effectively speaking, matches won in the end.
Well mathematically speaking, that is what the sport is about- yes. But could it also be about something else? Isn’t Cricket also about changing perceptions and breaking old biases that stick on after all?
Creatures of habit that we are, for the longest time we thought- and rather conveniently so- that Shiv Chanderpaul was perhaps only about playing the old school, stick-it-out-on-the-pitch style dogged innings. That’s when the left hander smoked Australia on his way to a 69-ball-hundred and that too, in a Test match to change the way we looked at him, once and for all.
For the longest time did we limit Dravid’s skills to the throes of confinement and self preservation, which is when “The Wall,” smoked three consecutive sixes to Samit Patel in the only T20I he played, circa 2011. An IPL contract with the Rajasthan Royals with Dravid at the helm would follow a few months down the line.
That’s not all; we conveniently held to the belief that the most effective fast bowlers were the ones who left batters breathless, steaming in hard at speeds in excess of 145 or even 150 kmph. That’s when the world saw Bumrah, not the most menacingly quick seamers around but one who’s already picked over 300 international wickets having not even turned 30.
But one of Cricket’s most famous episodes of perception management goes beyond all of the above.
It takes us back in time to the island pearl that is St. Lucia, which twelve years back on this very date, was the venue of the Men’s T20 semi final, 2010.
The breezy Caribbean wind prompts us to remove the dust that’s settled on what was, well and truly speaking, the finest episode of perception change in the game’s briefest format.
Australia took on Pakistan and found themselves immediately challenged in having to chase 192 to reach the finals.
The confidence was with Pakistan and Australia found themselves on the edge or very nearly facing the inevitable.
Even in this day and age of PowerPlay and free-hit assisted wham-bam style of T20I’s, chasing a 170-plus becomes a touch difficult. This was then, a 192 run ask and that too, in the next-biggest stage of the mother of all T20I battles, the finals of the World Cup being the biggest affair.
Something had to give. Someone had to stand up. And very sincerely, none of Aussie bowlers did; six of the seven bowlers Michael Clarke deployed to control Pakistani scoring went for 8 an over.
The fiery Johnson and the swashbuckling Watson went for 9 and 13 an over, respectively.
When the chance came to chase amid a capacity crowd with stands producing deafening sounds having witnessed the Akmal brothers’ blistering batting, Australia buckled down instead of attacking.
They were two down inside three overs with Watson and Warner both departing for the dugout. Their combined score read 16. Haddin played a few lofty strokes but departed soon after, albeit for a gritty 25; Australia were 3 down for just 58 and nearly 8 overs were completed.
What lay ahead seemed a long and arduous journey to undertake- with 134 needed from 72. Much like being asked to walk from Qatar to Singapore barefooted. Just how do you do it?
Even Clarke and David Hussey failed to impress. Halfway down the twelfth over, the total read 105. Whilst there was much respite in that Cameron White had begun to hit the ball finding a way to put the pressure back on Aamir and Afridi, trouble was that half the side was done and dusted.
That’s precisely when Mike Hussey walked in to change the complexion of the contest once and for all.
As one Hussey replaced another, Pakistan perhaps in a celebratory mood never suspected what was to happen. Who would blame them since another 87 were needed from 45 deliveries.
Doing basic math suggests, by the time Mike Hussey took guard, Australia almost needed two runs off every delivery to win.
There was pressure everywhere. Just that Mike Hussey wasn’t in the mood to take it.
Of the 92 runs that Australia eventually scored, Mike Hussey, usually expected to just hang in there and block the bad balls to stay at the crease, scored 60 of them on his own.
And that’s not all; he’d only take four overs to do so. In exhibiting pure sorcery with the bat, this devoted servant of Australian cricket eschewed the silky touch, so commonly associated with his batting, for brute stroke making.
As Australia won the contest on the penultimate delivery of the game, having struggled for the better part of the day, Mike Hussey evoked emotion even from the deadbeat hearts that had nothing to offer.
Offering a six, followed by a six, then a boundary before finally closing the game with a humongous six, Mike Hussey was responsible for the finest spectacle of manslaughter we’d come to witness by an Australian in any World Cup.
Before the start of the 20th over, Afridi would never have guessed about what was to happen. Who would, with 18 required of 6 and with Saeed Ajmal, the finest spinner at that point in charge of the proceedings?
But Mike Hussey, who was huffing and puffing all this while as he engaged in exquisite gap finding, especially on the on side to Mohd. Amir (nineteenth over) had other plans in mind.
Severe to anything bowled short of length and unstoppable against spin, the Mike Hussey Pakistan bore the brunt of wasn’t the 195 off 330 delivery style batter who had blunted England; this was a batting carnivore that truly devoured a spinner considered trailblazing back in the day.
Of course, that “Huss” ended undefeated and with a strike rate of 250, over and above that, was truly the stuff you would expect of a Gayle or Samuels, a Yuvraj or Dhoni.
And maybe it makes perfect sense why the good looking left hander is nicknamed Mr. Cricket.
Having been someone, who prior to May 14, 2010, was considered a traditional (wicket-saving) batsman, miles from mayhem making, that Hussey ended up doing exactly the opposite goes to show how the Perth-born changed perceptions and with it, Australia’s fortunes in the 2010 T20 World Cup.