Will Australia miss Ponting more or Hussey?

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 02, 2013 10:41 hrs

The Tendulkars, the Laras and the Pontings might hog the headlines even as their batting is the subject of lengthy analyses. But the fascinating aspect of cricket is that there is also a place for the Borders, the Waughs and the Husseys. 

The spectacular stroke players and the swashbucklers bat alongside the pugnacious batsmen who love a dogfight, who excel when others around them are failing. Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist all served Australian cricket for years with batting that combined style with substance. 

But when the score was 30 for three that's when Allan Border, Steve Waugh and Mike Hussey stood like the boy on the burning deck, like Horatio on the tottering bridge playing the rescue act to perfection and steering the team to victory from a hopeless position or saving a Test match that seemed lost. 

Hussey was the ultimate man in the trenches, never one to give up however lost the cause seemed. The phrase ''no match is lost till it is won'' was his ultimate belief. One can go on and on about Hussey's resilient qualities that helped turn a game Australia's way, when he forced the hunter to become the hunted. 

Not for nothing was he billed ''Mr Cricket'' and ''the great finisher'' and he deserving of these titles like no other cricketer of his time.

Perhaps this limpet like quality became associated with him because he really had to struggle to earn the Baggy Green. Which other cricketer had to score over 15,000 runs in first class cricket at an average of more than 50 before getting the Aussie cap? Talk about patience and perseverance paying off in spades! 

For when Hussey finally made his debut in 2005-06 at the age of 30 he more than made up for lost time scoring 361 runs in his first three Tests at an average of 120.33 with two hundreds.

Even at that time it was clear that Hussey was no meteor who would fall to earth with a dull thud. There was a fierce competitiveness about him and he quickly displayed the age old qualities associated with cricket's traditional format - dedication, determination and concentration. He had a duty to perform as one by one the stalwarts walked off into the sunset. 

But Hussey seemed to relish the additional responsibilities. Whether building upon a sound start or playing the rescue act with just the tail for support Hussey was in his elements. He was the go to man for the Aussie captain and the opposition came to realize that no match was won till they had seen Hussey's back. 

As long as he was at the crease he could conjure up all sorts of miraculous recoveries, turn defeat into victory or if this was too much even for him save the match for his team. He was the pivot around whom the Aussie batting revolved and he played the anchor role to perfection.

But could a fighter like him make good in limited overs cricket where the emphasis was on quick runs? It didn't take long for Hussey to show that he was the complete cricketer who could excel in all formats of the game. In Tests, ODIs and T-20s he ran up a record which was second to none. 

Even in a squad of world beaters Hussey made the transition from star to superstar as he repeatedly turned games around. In most cases he was superlative even by his own lofty standards. When it came to uncannily picking the gaps, running hard and converting singles into twos and twos into threes and knowing the right moment and areas to hit a vital boundary there was no one to top Hussey.    

There are numerous cases of Hussey turning a match on its head.  Let me relate just two examples. As far as Test matches are concerned his hundred against Pakistan at Sydney in 2010 which helped him script one of the most incredible turnabout victories in the game's history has to be right there at the top.  

Australia 206 runs behind on the first innings were 257 for eight when Peter Siddle joined Hussey. An improbable ninth wicket partnership of 123 runs followed and Hussey finished on 134 not out as Australia extended their total to 381. Nathan Hauritz then applied the finishing touches and Australia incredibly won by 36 runs but everyone knew who had scripted the fairytale denouement. 

One has only to glance at another unbelievable knock played against the same opponents to realize his worth in limited overs cricket. The stage is the Twenty20 World Cup semifinal at St Lucia in 2010. The feeling was that the Aussies were leaving the run chase so late that Pakistan couldn't lose from that situation and even Australia couldn't win from there. 

And yet Australia reached a formidable target of 192 with three wickets and one ball to spare thanks to Hussey's pyrotechnics. Coming in at 105 for five in the 13th over he launched an all out onslaught that saw him hammer an unbeaten 60 off just 24 balls with six sixes and three fours. He dominated an unbroken eighth wicket stand of 53 runs with Mitchell Johnson which was compiled off just 16 balls.  

To us onlookers it was all mind boggling and eye rubbing stuff. But to the man hailed as ''Mr Cricket'' it is just another day at the office. And now with Hussey poised to play his 79th and final Test at Sydney from January 3 - and he will retire from all international cricket at the end of the season - it is worth pondering whether Australia will miss Ponting, who recently called it a day, more or Hussey. 

Asking that question is not out of place and that in itself is the perfect tribute to Hussey.

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