Australia news March 14, 2013

Truth behind Hussey's retirement secret

Michael Hussey did not reveal his plans to retire at the end of the Australian summer until the week before the Sydney Test match because he feared he would have been summarily dropped from the team had he done so.

Australian cricket reeled with shock when Hussey announced his decision to finish playing the international game, and it is no secret the team hierarchy would have preferred to be informed further in advance. However Hussey told ESPNcricinfo that his secrecy had been partly about preserving his place until the right moment to finish.

"Partly why I didn't want to say anything to anyone was that I cherished every Test match I got to play and I really wanted to finish the Australian summer," Hussey said. "If I made it known earlier then perhaps they would start looking ahead earlier and not play me in my last couple of Tests. That was a small selfish part of it that I really wanted to finish when I wanted to finish. I didn't want them to say 'you're going to retire, we'll blood someone else'.

"Most of it though was making sure I was 100% sure about the decision. I wanted to make sure in myself, I wanted to see how I felt through the Australian summer, and my feelings certainly didn't change. When I started looking ahead to what was coming up I knew I was going to find it really tough."

Hussey's suspicions proved well-founded, for his announcement was followed by his omission from the limited overs squads to see out the summer, though he remained available for selection throughout.

Watching the India series on TV, Hussey has admitted he isn't missing the trials currently being faced by Michael Clarke's team. He also said it would be some time yet before the team's culture settles into the sort of strong and assured environment he first walked into as a Test match debutant in Brisbane in 2005. Crucial to this, Hussey said, was the retention of a settled, stable team.

"The thing about that team is it didn't really change much for probably a 10-year period, so they got to know each other extremely well, like brothers," Hussey said. "The environment now will get back to that I'm sure, but it just takes time.

"There's been so much change and upheaval in Australian cricket over the last year or so, changing of coaches and selectors, players have come out of the team and new players have come in. So you've got to expect it will take time for trust to build up, friendships to build, the hard times, the good times together, it all builds the culture over a period of time."

In a career-spanning interview, Hussey also spoke about the time he felt his career came closest to an early end, before the 2010-11 Ashes series in which he was to be Australia's leading scorer. Compelled to play in the Champions League for Chennai Super Kings, Hussey was left with only two days to prepare for a Test match against India in Chandigarh, and actively fought Cricket Australia's decision to keep him in South Africa.

"I was really disappointed, because I was desperate to get there," he said. "My understanding was that the Test tour starts when the team flies out of Australia, and they weren't allowing me to leave South Africa where the Champions League was, until literally a couple of days before the Test.

"India's a tough place to play at the best of times, and if you don't have very good preparation going into it, you're not going to perform well, and I think looking back it was close to costing me my career. I came back into the Australian summer where again I felt under enormous pressure if I didn't start the summer well I could've been out of the team.

"I had one Shield game in Adelaide where I got 0 and 1, and in Melbourne I got a duck in the first innings and thankfully managed to get some runs in the second innings. If that had been the end, and one of the reasons why I was left out, because I wasn't able to prepare properly, I would've been one pretty dirty because I couldn't give my best to the team, but angry that it would've cost me my career."

Hussey gave Clarke credit for the way he had shaped the team over the past two years, but said that Ricky Ponting was the best captain he played under. He also revealed he had held his own leadership ambitions for a time, frustrated that his record of four losses in as many stand-in ODI appearances does not indicate what he might have done with a more lasting commission.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here