Mike Hussey, 'The Great Finisher'

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 02, 2010 09:47 hrs

Partab Ramchand

Mike Hussey might hate the sobriquet ''Mr Cricket'' conferred on him but that is not going to stop the game's followers from calling him just that.

On the other hand I am sure, he would have no objection being compared with Michael Bevan, and would like to be known as ''The Great Finisher'' as that great Aussie one-day player was hailed as. No match is lost till it is won was verily Bevan's credo as I am sure it is Hussey's too.

His cool professionalism under pressure at Perth on Sunday provided only the latest in a long line of such successes and as a just reward he has taken over the No 1 ranking from MS Dhoni. 

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But in one way at least Hussey has proved to be even greater than Bevan. His predecessor was regularly dubbed as the world's best limited overs batsman for his ability to win matches from seemingly hopeless situations - something that Hussey too excels in. But Bevan's greatness was confined to ODIs with his Test record being somewhat limited (18 matches, 785 runs at an average of 29 and a highest score of 91). 

Hussey on the other hand, has been known to turn Test matches too on their head - the most recent being his century against Pakistan at Sydney last month when he scripted one of the most incredible turnabout victories in the game's history.

And to think that the pugnacious left-hander had to wait till he was 30 to make his Test debut! And this after scoring more than 15,000 runs in first class cricket at an average of over 50 - a record for an Australian before earning his Test cap. As if making up for lost time Hussey straightaway made the transition to the international level by getting 361 runs in his first three Tests at an average of 120.33 with two hundreds.

It was the same remarkable story in ODIs. Bradmanesque is a phrase sometimes incorrectly used to describe a player's achievements. But in Hussey's case the phrase would certainly be apt. Making his debut against India at Perth in February 2004 he quickly established his credentials as an agile fieldsman and innovative middle-order bat with a cool head and loose wrists and within a year had averaged 123.50 in 18 ODIs.

By the end of 2005 he lifted the mark to 151 - a world record for any player in his first 15 one day innings. In 21 games Hussey had scored 604 runs and had been dismissed only four times while his strike rate hovered around the 90 mark.  

Hussey's Test average for an extended period remained between 70 and 80 next only to Bradman. But then these kind of freakish figures couldn't continue for too long and not unexpectedly the average dipped. And for some time the fall was quite alarming. There was a lean phase of 28 innings during 2008-09 with Hussey not getting a Test hundred and scoring only 725 runs at an average of just under 27.

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During this period he seriously considered standing down from the limited over formats. There were calls for him to be axed but Ricky Ponting stood by him. Fortunately the Australian selectors who are firm believers in the adage ''form is temporary, class is permanent'' agreed with the captain and they persevered with Hussey. The perseverance was rewarded with Hussey
getting a century in the final Ashes Test at the Oval last year and then being at his ODI best on the tour of India.

Since then it has been the Hussey of old that one has seen on the cricket field. He is the pivot around whom the Aussie batting revolves and he plays the anchor role to perfection. When it comes to uncannily picking the gaps, running hard
and converting singles into twos and twos into threes and knowing the right moment - and area - to hit a vital boundary there is no one to top Hussey.

The opposing team cannot be sure of victory, however, much they may be in front till they see Hussey's back. As long as he is at the crease he can pull off unbelievable victories - like he did at Perth on Sunday - and like Bevan he is a master when batting with the tail.   

Figures may not tell the full story but in Hussey's case the mind boggling and eye rubbing statistics do manage to convey his immense value to the side. Only a handful of players average over 50 in ODIs and Hussey towers over the select list - among them Bevan and MS Dhoni. His strike rate of almost 88 makes him a dangerous player. Remarkably Hussey averages more than 50 in Test cricket too and despite playing the rescue act in the middle order, he has roughly a hundred every four matches.

He may be 34 but he has been playing international cricket for just half a dozen years and so has been able to retain his boyish enthusiasm. This keenness along with his unadulterated batting skills could well see Hussey adorn the team for some more years - a happy augury for Australian cricket.  

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