Interview: Michael Hussey October 23, 2007

Mr Cricket takes a chill pill

Jenny Thompson speaks to Mike Hussey about life as Mr Cricket, life as a computer game ambassador... and as an international cricketer

Love all: from Tests to Twenty20, Hussey can't get enough of all forms of cricket © Getty Images

"I don't really like it," says Mike Hussey. Hearing that Mr Enthusiastic, Mr Cricket himself, doesn't like something comes as a surprise. And what he doesn't like is astonishing: his nickname, Mr Cricket. It's almost sad, like learning that Santa Claus doesn't really like children.

"It's a bit embarrassing," he explains, although he then admits: "But if you show you hate it, they will call you it even more." Cricket teams everywhere, take note.

That perennial joker Andrew Flintoff is responsible. The jibe came not during the Ashes - Hussey played his first series against England last year - but during a Durham v Lancashire match at Chester-le-Street when Hussey was spending his winters drumming down county opposition as he drummed his fingers waiting for an international call. "It was really cold, really wintry and I looked like I was enjoying it."

He's enjoying everything right now: even Twenty20. Although most of the Australians seem to loathe the short format, Mr Cricket, unsurprisingly, can still find some time for it. "You love all forms of the game," he says.

Hussey even found the format harder, in some ways, than one-day cricket. "We were surprised at how intense the game was - up a notch even from ODIs. We're still having fun and trying to catch up with it. It's good fun. We're a bit new to it just yet. We did well to make the semis [of the World Twenty20]. I think we'll get better, and I'm enjoying every moment."

You bet he is. The international selectors, after years of penning in "Hayden, Langer, Ponting. Reserve: Hussey, again", finally came knocking for the one-day side when he was 28. "I always wanted it and hoped the call would come, and when it did, it was hugely satisfying." He currently averages 58.90 in 72 ODIs, even though he bombed (by his standards at least) in the World Cup earlier this year, with 87 runs in the tournament.

His Test call came even later, at 30. Consequently, it's not for him to dictate where he plays. While an opener, he's happy to bat wherever Ricky Ponting wants him to. This means No. 4, a position which suits him, he says. And so do the figures: he averages 79.85 after 16 matches. "I'm enjoying every moment."

He's not, however, enjoying his injury - a ruptured hamstring is forecast to keep him out till the first Test in Brisbane against Sri Lanka on November 8 - and he's itching to get back playing. "It's frustrating, especially watching it on TV."

The Aussies were smashing India as we chatted, but instead of looking after their victory, he was thousands of miles away looking at the screen, while looking after his three children - all under four, and one a newborn - with his wife, Amy. "That's the only good thing. It's a silver lining. You don't get much time off. It's good, though."

Beneath the nice guy lies a brutal will to win: "There was no Spirit of Cricket in our backyard" © Getty Images

He loves being a dad, he loves cricket, he loves living in Perth. And he's smiling and genuine. But do not be deceived by his nice-guy exterior; what lies within is a brutal will to win. This intensity came from playing in the backyard with his brother David, who now plays for Victoria and Nottinghamshire.

"We used to have massive fights. There was no Spirit of Cricket in our backyard. I would beat the living daylights out of him. He put up a good fight. He used to cheat and bend the rules; I'd be lying, though, if I said I never did - but I always try to play in the right manner."

And he is loved for it, by fans and pundits alike: "Superman wears Mike Hussey pyjamas!" laughed Damien Fleming on the radio during one game, summing up the mood.

Hussey's enthusiasm - for batting, fielding, and the occasional bowl - makes him a natural ambassador for the game, and to this end he has agreed to front a lifestyle computer game, Cricket Life, which aims to simulate everything from playing to off-pitch contract negotiations. While it may not replicate the years of hard slog of getting to the top, it promises to be otherwise realistic, a la Hussey himself. "It should be fun. I'm happy to put my name to it. You can see what it's like to be in the dressing room."

And here's an insight into the Australian dressing room: "We've got a few Mr Crickets in our team. Ricky Ponting, he loves the game. Adam Gilchrist, he loves it. Shane Warne ... well, he's gone now but he loves it. Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer all love it."

As for Hussey, well, it's no secret that - whatever he may profess about nicknames and the like - he loves it all.

Jenny Thompson is an assistant editor on Cricinfo