Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st ODI, Melbourne November 2, 2010

Ponting backs out-of-form Hussey to bounce back


Michael Hussey will walk on to the MCG on Wednesday under immense pressure ahead of the Ashes, but his captain Ricky Ponting believes Hussey will come good before the first Test. Hussey has joined the ODI squad fresh from a disappointing Sheffield Shield match for Western Australia in Adelaide, where he followed a first-innings golden duck with 3 in the second innings.

One domestic outing would not usually have any bearing on an established player's place in the side, but Hussey's Test form has been scratchy for some time. His career average hovers around 50 but in the past two years he has averaged only 34.18, and at 35 years of age the time to justify his position is rapidly running out.

Adding to the selectors' dilemma in the lead-up to the Gabba Test is the strong form of Usman Khawaja, who toured England with the Test squad this year and started the Sheffield Shield season with a double-century. While Hussey was struggling in Adelaide, his South Australian opponent Callum Ferguson posted 129, and the form of the much younger batsmen won't make life any easier for Hussey.

"He's a bit disappointed with it," Ponting said of Hussey's Sheffield Shield performance. "I've had a good chat with him today. He's very clear in his own mind about what he needs to do and he feels he's on the right track and his preparation has been good for every game that he's played. Class players like him generally find a way to get it done, and I'm sure that over the next few one-day games against Sri Lanka you'll see him score some runs."

But the selectors must decide whether the ODI arena is the best place for Hussey in the build-up to the Ashes. Western Australia play a first-class game against the touring England side in Perth starting on Friday and it could be the perfect opportunity for Hussey to find some touch against the red ball and his Ashes opponents.

Australia's full-time selector, Greg Chappell, said there had been discussions about releasing Hussey to take part in that game, but the batsman wanted to stay with the one-day side. On Tuesday, Ponting had not looked closely at the state schedule but conceded the idea of getting more first-class cricket in to Hussey would have been spoken about.

"There's probably a debate around that," Ponting said. "At the end of the day, all the players want to be playing as many games for Australia as they possibly can. It's important then that you maximise your training time and the time you get in the middle to make sure your game is where it needs to be. I'm sure that's what Mike's thinking is this week."

All the Australian players will have at least one more opportunity to play Sheffield Shield cricket before the battle for the urn begins in Brisbane on November 25, but England will have three first-class warm-up games during the same period. The majority of Australia's Test players are preparing to face Sri Lanka in a one-day series, but Ponting was not concerned about his men having a lack of first-class action ahead of the first Test.

"The fact that Johnson and Hussey came home early from India to play that Shield game last week, we're doing what we can to get as much first-class cricket in to our players before the first Test match come around," he said. "The international programme is what we've got - there's not much we can do about it. We've just got to make sure we've got all our guys in the best physical and technical shape that we can have them in come the start of the Ashes series."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sajitha on November 3, 2010, 2:58 GMT

    I agree with Aussies.Zimbabwe should have been invited to Australia to gain Aussie confidence ahead of ashes.

  • Harvey on November 3, 2010, 0:59 GMT

    And there it is again....Ponting backing a mate. This must stop if the Australian team is to move forward. Until Ricky is open to bringing form players into the Australian team, they will be down in the depths for some time. ODI form is not a good indication of form in the longer game

  • P on November 2, 2010, 21:46 GMT

    @shameerpvt: don't take it personally. Ashes is important to Australians because people's jobs and career depend on it. If Australia were to lose Ashes then Ponting and Hussey's career is over and a few other heads will turn. With so much at stake, Aussies cannot think anything else but Ashes.

  • Dimuthu on November 2, 2010, 21:18 GMT

    @shameerpvt - unfortunately, no matter how well SL performs, it's always the case. SL tour of England next year is also being treated as a warmup for the Indian tour to follow. We've always been treated as 2nd class citizens :( but the players should forget that and just concentrate on winning the matches. the patronising cricket boards will continue to speak thus about countries like SL, NZ, PAK, and WI because we dont bring in the £££££

  • Dummy4 on November 2, 2010, 20:51 GMT

    No one in Australia really understands why this series against Sri Lanka is going on now. It is distracting the Australian teams focus on the Ashes. Who ever made this series should be ashamed.

    While England are doing boot camps and first class matches in preparation for the gabba. Our preparation is at best patchy and incoherent. I feel also for Sri Lanka because they aren't going to get a fair go in this ill organized tour.

    Maybe they had some luck on the Melbourne cup yesterday.

  • oscar on November 2, 2010, 19:31 GMT

    i really feel for Hus he made his test debut when he was 30 and has averaged around 50 when playing most of his international carer after his peak. i hope he comes good and does well in the Ashes

  • Tuan on November 2, 2010, 16:07 GMT

    I think, Sri Lanka should cancel their tour against Australia immediately & come home.... This is insulting for Sri Lankans.... While Sri Lanka is in tour, Australia speak about Ashes.... If the priority of Australians is Ashes, why Sri Lanka stepping their foot in the way.... I strongly recommend that, no country should tour or invite to tour Australia or England, when there is Ashes ahead in another 3 months time....

  • Dummy4 on November 2, 2010, 14:53 GMT

    I am not at all surprised that Hussey is struggling and I don't think he has it in him (talent wise or attitude wise) to put his career back on track. Known as a "whiner", he has lived up to his reputation by being a cry baby first about not being allowed to leave champions trophy early and then about the "unfair" ICC test ranking system where Aussies are ranked fifth. Being an overachiever in the early part of his career has made his average what it is, and the only way it can go from here is down. Carry on Hussey, I am waiting to see what you whine about when you are kicked out from the team soon. Maybe you will blame it on global warming..

  • Anthony on November 2, 2010, 13:54 GMT

    This tour by Sri Lanka is the most stupid decision I have ever come across. Why the powers that be thought a T20 and a handful of ODI's was a good idea is beyond me (except to $$$ angle). All Test players and aspiring Test players need Shield game after Shield game under their belts. It would be wonderful too to see Usman Kawaja and Callum Ferguson in the Test team soon. Both are wonderful players and long term prospects.

  • John on November 2, 2010, 13:32 GMT

    Hussey has been a great player, but he's played a lot of cricket for a lot of years and it's starting to show. He'll still play a good innings now and then, but the consistency is gone. 0 and 3 in the game that was meant to give him some time in the middle is an indication that he's not the player he used to be. At 35, he's not going to get any better. Loyalty is a great thing, but the Australians have painted themselves into a bit of a corner by sticking with the same players even though it's been clear for a while that the team is in decline. Now they don't have much choice, unless they want to go into the Ashes series with a bunch of relatively inexperienced players. Think about this- in 2005, the young gun of the Australian batting was Michael Clarke. In 2010, the young gun is.... Michael Clarke! There's not one new younger player than Clarke in the Aussie batting line-up. No wonder the side looks over the hill.

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