Australian cricket October 2, 2013

The thoughts of Michael Hussey

ESPNcricinfo staff
A few excerpts from Michael Hussey's autobiography, Underneath the Southern Cross, with his thoughts on the Sheffield Shield, team selection, and more

On the captain as a selector: It affects relationships between the players on the fringe and the captain. You become more guarded in the dressing room. Michael Clarke is watching how I prepare, how I am in here, and that might impact my selection. I noticed, during that period, that when Michael was around, everyone went a bit quieter and kept their head down. It's not a comfortable feeling; people aren't being themselves. Overall, I just felt that it drove a wedge between the players and their leader, and it wasn't fair to either side.

On the Sheffield Shield: Another area I was concerned about was the rush to get teenagers and other youngsters into first-class cricket. I thought the Sheffield Shield should be hard and uncompromising, not a finishing school. If you start playing youngsters who aren't quite good enough yet, it will lower the standards and intensity and make the jump to Test level so much bigger. I opposed any concerted push to get rid of guys in their late twenties and early thirties. We're all formed by our own experiences, and I was living proof that you could start playing Test cricket at 30 and still have a long career.

On the lead-up to the World Twenty20 in 2012: The batters were sat down before the first game [in Dubai] and told, 'We want to stick with this batting order for the foreseeable future. We want you guys to have the confidence to go out there and play for the team. You're not under pressure to keep your wickets.' I thought that was fantastic to know. Put the team first, yourself last - a brilliant philosophy. So we played the first two games, and then my brother Dave was dropped. I said to George, 'What happened to the philosophy of sticking by guys and giving them a long run?' He said, 'Yeah, I know, but we're not sure of what our best team is.' Suddenly they'd dropped one of our best players after two games. We were all under pressure. I could understand they weren't sure about what was the best team, but saying one thing and doing the other created some doubt among the players.

On Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus missing the 2012 Perth Test against South Africa: As a member of the team I was bewildered. Different rationales were coming out all the time. First I was hearing they were exhausted and couldn't recover in time. The next day, the story was that they had injury niggles. Then I heard a third version, which was that they'd been dropped. I didn't know what was going on.

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  • stuart on October 5, 2013, 14:13 GMT

    Its ironic that having heard the Baggy Green champions slag of County cricket for so long and tell us how good the Shield was it would appear that it is the players and not the structure of the game that counts. Will Aus go the way of the West Indies after their fall?

  • ToneMalone on October 4, 2013, 2:29 GMT

    I wish more Australian players had the attitude of and all-round credibility Hussey. A champion batsman, and a champion character. These are the types of players you can genuinely cheer on and show as an example to your kids.

  • Varnendra on October 3, 2013, 13:54 GMT

    Age shouldn't be a criterion. Even if one is capable of playing one years good cricket he must be picked.

  • Steven on October 3, 2013, 8:06 GMT

    Reality; while Australia were cruising along in the 2000s, destroying everyone, James Sutherland decided it was a great idea to make money while the team was winning. The current state of the Sheffield Shield is one of the results. At the same time, the big wigs realised in about 2009 that they needed to prepare for more retirements. Because of the decline of Shield, there were few candidates, and the wrong ones were chosen; form-dependant players like Cam White and Marcus North, who have productive months, then long stretches of hopelessness. They chose talented youngsters like Steve Smith, who was at the time untried, untested, and unfit for the job. Every player they chose failed them, and they ignored the ones who wouldn't. Is it coincidence that batsmen like Clarke, Katich, Phil Jaques and Chris Rogers are/were good test players, and spent long seasons in England county cricket? No. Bad schools rarely produce geniuses, and bad cricket systems rarely produce Test quality players.

  • Dummy4 on October 3, 2013, 1:48 GMT

    Exactly, Huss confirming what I already had felt - Clarke created tension because of his ways, and Hussey has now confirmed it precisely as I felt it would be in the changerooms.

  • Luke on October 3, 2013, 1:44 GMT

    There has been so many mistakes made in Australian Cricket the last few years that it is quite amazing that James Sutherland has kept his position. Financially Cricket Australia is in a good place from all reports but that as always is only half the story. On the field and at a developmental level, the game in this country is in absolute shambles.

    When we lost all that experience post 2007-08 through retirements it was completely ludicrous for us to forcibly remove another huge chunk of experience from the Grade and State level just to get a few younger kids some experience. We are now seeing the fruits of that stupid policy, with many of our young players (particularly the batsmen) now coming into the higher levels without having been really tested by Test quality cricket on a consistent basis.

    I have been saying this for ages but we need to bring in overseas players to play in the Shield comp. This will raise the standard and ensure Shield players get a better Cricketing education.

  • Brady on October 3, 2013, 0:46 GMT

    In an ideal world I imagine selection for a test team would operate something like this: 1) Pick a player with current/recent international form > 2) Pick a player with recent/current domestic form and a proven international record > 3) Pick a player with recent current/domestic form with a proven domestic record > 4) Pick a player with a proven international record > 5) Pick a player with a proven domestic record > 6) Pick a player with a good short-form record that potentially could do well in test cricket > 7) Pick a player who provides some other benefit (i.e. good-looking and easy to market, appeals to youth, and etc.).

    The fact that the Australian selectors are regularly jumping from 1 to 6/7 is a cause to question either their competency or their motives.

  • Dummy4 on October 2, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    Mike Hussey is the Australian player of the last few years that I respect the most. Aside from Clarke, no-one else in the current batting set-up holds a candle to him.

  • Dummy4 on October 2, 2013, 15:36 GMT

    @nerk, I kind of disagree but I understand your viewpoint. The flatter or more trustworthy consistent batter friendly pitches make life more nurturing for batting which is our weakness, take a look at the fc averages in India, very high and from that they have plenty of quality batsmen, as well as spinners far beyond anything we have in Australia. There is the supposed problem of having flat tracks grinding bowlers down which is probably why India favors limited overs cricket. I think having a few more draws per season in shield due to flatter tracks is not a bad thing. I believe in the long run the best country will come from those that make the most consistent and balanced wickets possible. A wicket that allows strokeplay but allows bounce and zip and also turn for the spinners, somethimg for everyone, Maybe this is why aus used to be number 1.

  • Dummy4 on October 2, 2013, 15:22 GMT

    Mr cricket! The man! Confirming everything I've been commenting on this year regarding the Clarke problem, the age discrimination and the selection pressure, it's great when observation and intuition are confirmed by someone inside and respected such as Hussey!

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