India v Australia, 1st Test, Bangalore, 2nd day October 10, 2008

Australia's MVP

Ali Cook
Michael Hussey must be the most calculating batsman in the game


Michael Hussey's driving on the off side was exact throughout © Getty Images
 

Michael Hussey must be the most calculating batsman in the game. When he goes out he carries a protractor in his mind along with an unbending desire. He thinks in degrees for runs and has proved the method works all over the world.

In Hussey's autobiography he reveals he writes lots of lists. At the crease his duties are on a sheet in his brain.

Anil Kumble is bowling mostly googlies
There's an eight-metre gap between cover and mid-off
If he pitches up, hit it through 78 degrees
Full face, don't try to smash it

So Hussey was prepared when Kumble skipped in and delivered a fuller ball around off stump. He took a big step, checked his drive and stroked it with such superb timing that he pierced fielders who could almost touch each other. The boundary moved him to 82. While most of his team-mates had to wrestle for their returns, Hussey had the ability to glide.

One of the few times his precision left him was when Ishant Sharma forced an inside-edge that went for four and raised his ninth century in 26 Tests. It is an incredible record built on the adding-machine properties made famous by Bradman. Hussey now averages 70.60, sitting high above Graeme Pollock and near the feet of The Don.

His driving on the off side was exact throughout, but he was not content waiting for the opportunities to play a big shot. With India unable to force the wickets that were expected initially on a pitch offering more uneven bounce, he toyed with them by varying his speed like an all-stops train. Accelerate with a four, slow for a well-placed single, stop, let out a deep breath, start again.

After drinks in the second session Harbhajan Singh was operating, very briefly, without a man on the boundary in front of square leg, trying to force Hussey into a mistake. Only Hussey doesn't take unnecessary risks. When he decides to do something he has already considered the dangers and deemed them too small. If his mind was a guide for race-horse punters none of them would be in debt.

With the off side packed, he stepped back to the first vaguely short offering and pulled a boundary in front of square. Later in the over he slog-swept a six to long-on and quickly judged it time to slow down. His constant contributions eased the demands on his partners. He must be a fabulous man to bat with; solid and dependable yet always ticking things over.

After the valuable stand of 91 with Brad Haddin ended he conducted a fruitful partnership of 59 with Brett Lee. One of the concerns for Australia heading into the series was that the lower order would collapse in the unfamiliar conditions and the handy runs usually expected of them would evaporate.

Hussey was able to delay the fall until Zaheer Khan lined up Lee and Mitchell Johnson in a couple of overs after tea before focusing on the main man. Hussey knew time was running out when Lee departed, so he altered his thinking and embraced more unconventional means. A reverse-sweep was successful but soon he was facing the suddenly nasty swing of Khan. An inside-edge toppled his middle stump and, last man out, he scurried off with 146.

It was an ugly end but it was not a stain on a consummate performance. Ponting is undoubtedly the best batsman in the team, but Hussey will be his greatest ally during this series. Nothing flusters or hurries him. Not the heat, or the noise, or the bowling.

Only the sight of no more batsmen in the dressing room could force him into a lethal error. In such a taxing and distracting environment he is Australia's most valuable player.