Nasser Hussain

'As captain you need people to want to play for you'

The former England captain talks about leadership, the captaincy styles of Strauss and Dhoni, and more

Interview by Sharda Ugra

September 6, 2011

Comments: 57 | Text size: A | A

To the outside world, Nasser Hussain's significance in English cricket outweighs all his contemporaries - both as a prickly, unyielding, constant competitor and a forceful leader of men who captained England at a time of both tumult and progress. As much as Hussain gives credit to Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower for the team's recent ascent, the back story begins in the Hussain era, like Australia's did with Allan Border or India's with Sourav Ganguly. During India's tour of England, Hussain, now an insightful media analyst and crusader for Test cricket, spoke to ESPNcricinfo at length about the rise of England, the ticklish demands of that side's captaincy, why he is who he is, and where the world game needs to go.


Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan celebrate, West Indies v England, 2nd Test, Port of Spain, 4th day, March 22, 2004
"I know I couldn't have done what Vaughan did in 2005, and I know I couldn't do what Strauss is doing now with this team" © Getty Images
Enlarge

The redefinition of England began, it can be said, in your time as captain. How much of personal pride do you feel in England's rise to Test No. 1?
See, I'd have been disappointed if anything I'd done had been put down to 12 years before or whatever. What this team are doing now is down to Strauss and Flower. They were No. 6 in the world, being 50 all out against the West Indies, in turmoil again, and they have come in and put things right so quickly, it's unbelievable.

If you think about it, there is only one way, up, and I was fortunate that it was me that came in when [we were] at rock bottom and we could move our way up from there. I take great pride in watching England and the way we have progressed over the last decade because I go back to the comment that was made when I met [Duncan] Fletcher in a room at Lord's. He looked at me and said, "Why are you the worst side in the world? You have all these counties, all these facilities, all the money, all the players, a good team, a very good team, and we can't be... we're not the best side, but we can't be the worst."

So I look now - sell-out crowds, England No. 1, winning, and it's almost like, "Yeah, we've put things right now, we're playing like an England cricket team should." Look at the passion for the game in this country - every Test match is sold out, and we are now playing for them as they expect us, and we should do.

Is there actually a single template for teams to be successful? One particular method? You said that the Australian way was almost preached...
Well, there is a template. Good bowlers and good cricketers, and that is it. And that's what I meant about Australia and preaching. They used to preach a little bit, and I used to turn around and say, "Well hold on, [you've got] Warne, McGrath, Waugh, Waugh, Lee, whoever... Taylor, all that lot."

What I would like, and what I would hope this England side do - and they seem to be doing it at the moment - is, you worry about what you are doing and don't tell the rest of the world how to do things, because what now applies to England may not apply to India or to South Africa or to New Zealand. What we have is a lot of money coming in from Sky or whatever, we have the fortunate or unfortunate thing that we are picking up quite a few players from South Africa, a coach from Zimbabwe… I don't think you should ever preach.

The template is having the ingredients first, having a very strong captain and coach, and having 'em ready, having mentally strong cricketers. In this series I would say England have been mentally stronger than India - ready for the fight. Whereas I see a lot of Indians sort of say, I've played Twenty20, I've played 50 overs, but this is just a little bit harder for me, five days of this. I haven't done that for a while, so I'm not going to do it.

Finally I would say, having them ready, that's been the biggest difference on this tour. How many times on this tour - first ball, Jimmy Anderson, voom, got Abhinav Mukund. First ball, voom, got Virender Sehwag. RP Singh comes in, not ready, nightmare. You have got to be peaking at the right time.

Speaking of mental toughness, do you think it's one of those things that either you have or don't, or can it actually be built?
A lot of it is nature, what you're born with. It's what [Kevin] Pietersen has, it's the arrogance, the bravado, the ego. In 2005 the difference between [Ian] Bell and Pietersen was that Pietersen had a big sign up: "I'm Kevin Pietersen, please everyone look at me." Whereas Ian Bell back then had a sign up that said, "I'm Ian Bell, please do not look at me, I'm a bit quiet and shy." And you can't have that as a cricketer.

So you are born with it and you can learn it with success. Now look at Ian Bell. He's still a lad that mum and dad will be very proud of, a quiet, shy lad. But he has that confidence and arrogance and presence now, and mental toughness. That, I think, is going to stay.

Most of it is born. Like [Darren] Gough had it and [Andy] Caddick didn't, for example. Gough wanted to know when we are playing, he wanted to know where every camera was on the ground, wanted to be on TV. Caddick didn't. I think you are born with it, and if you get a bit of success you can learn it. And that's probably what [MS] Dhoni has done a little bit. Dhoni is a star figure and it's rubbed off on other people over the last two or three years, that I want to be that figure.

How much does the rise of a team, like England now, have to do with planning and how much with the cyclical patterns that we see in sport?
Well, you can plan. Every business will tell you that you've got to have some kind of succession plan. It's amazing how Australia, with that bowling attack, suddenly fell off a cliff, really. We were told all the time how great Shane Warne was. Then you see [Michael] Beer and [Xavier] Doherty and whatever playing, and you say, wait, we've seen these lads in county cricket in England, this is not Shane Warne. You've got to make sure you are thinking about the future all the time.

That's what has disappointed me about India on this tour. They were sinking in the present. World Cup, World No. 1, IPL, celebration. You've almost got to be ahead of the curve, all the time, and it takes a very clever man to do that.

That's going to be India's major issue. People write me down as someone who is hugely anti-IPL. I've seen IPL and I know what it means to the Indian public - they love it, British Indians love it. It's a good tournament, but it will exhaust cricketers. It's going to be one of Fletcher's biggest challenges. That if India carry on with IPL, I believe it will hurt.

There's no doubting it helped their one-day game. I think they wouldn't have been world champions if it wasn't for IPL. I think it has massively helped. Playing in your home country, players whacking the ball out of the ground, the handling of pressure, soaking it up - they've had it all in the IPL, and they go out and do it in the World Cup. But it is now going to hinder them - as we have seen here - in Test match cricket. Because you need young bowlers to be fit and raring to go, and the IPL is death for bowlers. It is noticeable that none of the England bowlers have played IPL.

What is England's next challenge? Is it to be dominant for a long period of time? Or is that not possible?
Let's not get giddy about England. Their main challenge is going to be the subcontinent. Going and winning in the subcontinent. England have got a lot of tours coming up in the subcontinent, in both forms of the game. So that's going to be their biggest challenge... finding that second spinner, whether it's going to be Monty [Panesar] or Samit Patel or someone like that; reverse-swing bowlers…

But they are all of the right age and all well looked after. The challenge is going to be to not do what they did in 2005, when they got giddy, and think they've climbed their Everest and that's it, we've done it. I don't think this lot will do that.

 
 
"People write me down as someone who is hugely anti-IPL. I've seen IPL and I know what it means to the Indian public - they love it, British Indians love it. It's a good tournament, but it will exhaust cricketers"
 

Also, England has not been No. 1 in sport, any sport, for a long time, so these are going to be star names. There's going to be a lot of attention in England, there's going to be a lot of lucrative deals. They're going to be more recognisable, so they need to not let it go to their head, lose their focus.

They are going to be enticed by IPL money. "Come and play, come and play." And they need to be looked after by the board to make sure that they don't go. So that they are ready for Test matches in the future. Because our season is always straight after that. So we don't need 'em coming straight from that exhausted. When you get a bowler, it's like gold dust. You do not just let him go. You don't just say, "Oh, fine, we can lose Anderson." Because before you know it, look at India, they're all gone. Look at Australia. Looking after this bowling unit and keeping them together is crucial for England at the moment.

Why has England's one-day cricket been so poor in all these years? Why haven't they been as competitive as they should be?
It is many things, but primarily, given the amount of cricket that is played, it is difficult to be at your best in all formats, and over the years England have prioritised Test match cricket, a little bit like India have of late prioritised one day-cricket. Very few teams can do both, like the Australians, for example, because the demands for both formats are very different.

The 50-over game is simple: see ball, hit ball. One-day cricket has been a lot more about individual brilliance, a lot more about raw talent. Not so much about technique etc. You look at the [Lasith] Malingas and the [Tillakaratne] Dilshans, Sehwag and these sort of guys - it's not about technique, it's very much about genuine raw ability and flair.

And historically England have produced good, solid technical batsmen, but you wouldn't say they have produced massive hitters of the ball or people who can be innovative with the bat, or have weird actions with the ball, spin it both ways or reverse-swing it. We've been a little bit too English, if you like, a little bit too orthodox. I think what wins you one-day games is a little bit of the unorthodox, and some individual brilliance. We've always lacked that, and Test match cricket is a little more of a team game.

As we've seen in the Test series, England had much more of a team, against the individuals who were India with great records and great players. That's Test match cricket. In one-day cricket it's probably a bit of the other way around - an individual can just turn a game on its head.

We're starting to produce those cricketers, albeit with a bit of foreign imports, but it's still an English side. Like [Jade] Dernbach with the ball - he's got unusual variations with the slower ball and he's unorthodox.

In that way Australia's dominance has been remarkable because it encompassed two formats consistently over a decade. Does this mean that kind of dominance will not happen again?
It will happen, but it won't happen every time, every team. The West Indies side of the 1980s and 1990s and the Australian side of the 1990s and the 2000s dominated both types of the game. It doesn't mean - as India are finding out now - that just because you are a great side, as India have been, you can be a great side in all forms of the game unless [the players] grow up together. It's becoming a bit late now for India, because, for example, soon it will be broken up. There are some tired bodies in there.

Whereas the Australian side grew up together - the Waughs, Warne, Ponting. It took a long time to build. It might come again. There is potential in this England side, but they have won nothing yet in one-day cricket, rather than the World T20.

England need to learn to win in one-day cricket - they need a good World Cup, just so that the kids in England look at it and say, "All right, we can play one-day cricket." I think it's going to be very important, the next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, for England. It is very difficult [to build dominance] but what this England side have now, and that Australian side had, was strength and depth.

If Warne was injured, a [Stuart] MacGill would come in, if Mark Waugh was injured, Stewie Law was waiting, or Greg Blewett or whoever. Michael Bevan would come into their one-day side when [Michael] Slater was out of it. That is a seriously good squad in both forms of the game. What you do need is strength and depth if you are going to be great in all forms of the game.

Do you think the ODI series is going to be tightly fought? Or is there far too little room for the Indians to turn the result around?
I think the one-day series is more about the future. Look what happened when England went on the Ashes before the last, without Vaughan, without Trescothick, without a few other cricketers. They got blown away 5-0. I don't care how good a side you are, if you lose the likes of Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Gautam Gambhir and the rest, it is going to be a massive blow.

The ODI series is going to be close, but more than the result, India should be interested in what they find out from the series. They are world champions, no one can take that away from them. If they lose 5-0 to England, they will still be world champions. What they need to do is to start to look to the future.

They need someone to come through with the ball to replace Zaheer, they need Ashwin to bowl well and see if he is a replacement for Harbhajan. I think it's much more about which of these young lads will put their hands up. Rohit Sharma, I'm a big fan of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli... In English conditions, it will move around in day-night games in September, and Fletcher will be watching closely and the selectors will be watching closely. Now is a great time to show what you can do.

Would you say South Africa are now England's biggest threat for the No. 1 spot?
They are, away from the subcontinent. If you had all of the Pakistan team available, and all fit, and none of the politics and none of the going around in circles with captains and all that, with their bowling attack, they would be a threat, but unfortunately that's not the case.

But South Africa are a threat, [though] they rely heavily on [Morne] Morkel and [Dale] Steyn. Imran Tahir is a very useful addition to them. But Jacques [Kallis] is not young, [Mark] Boucher is not young. I don't know who is going to keep wicket, whether AB [de Villiers] will take over. They are a good side, but I still fancy England.

Captaincy

What drove you to believe that you could make a difference as England captain? You've always said you were a nervous cricketer. Captaincy is not a job for the nervous.
I think what drove me was that I always wanted to push myself, really, so I enjoyed captaincy. I enjoyed thinking about the game, even when I wasn't captain, wondering about different tactical changes and technical changes. I also felt we were underachieving. [That] there must be something you can always do to try and improve the side, improve the team's performance. I was very, very interested in improving the England team.


Andrew Flintoff, Darren Gough and Kevin Pietersen, Southampton, June 10, 2005
"There are certain characters in the team that, when they speak, people will listen. In my team it was Darren Gough" © Getty Images
Enlarge

Captaincy was also something that challenged me. For too long I thought about my own game and worried about my own game. I needed something else in my career - to just start thinking about other people in the team. And in a way that would help me within my own game, really, not to be so self-centred and so introspective. It [captaincy] just helped a little bit, for a little while anyway, until the whole captaincy burden comes on top of you...

Obviously your place is much more secure as captain, so you're never that worried about being left out, and that always helps. It helped me understand a few other people as well. It helped me understand the likes of Andrew Caddick, who also had a large fear of failure. We're worriers. So me being like that [too] helped me get a broader understanding of a variety of different people.

I always believed that captaincy is not having one rule that fits everyone or one way that fits everyone. You couldn't get two more different human beings than Gough and Caddick. Or Stewart and Atherton used to open the batting, and you couldn't get two more different human beings than those two.

It helped me understanding that people were full of frailties and worries, people weren't all like Graham Gooch. I remember saying to Graham, "How do you cure nerves and waiting to bat?" And he said, "I don't really get nervous." So maybe someone like that didn't quite understand someone who did get nervous and someone who did worry and fret.

Good captains, then, like coaches, don't really need to be great players?
I don't think you do. I think you need to be secure in the side. When I got the captaincy job, Keith Fletcher rang me and said, "Well done, and the first thing you have to do is to make sure you keep getting runs. That's going to be the most important thing for you because it's always much easier when you are doing well. You feel more comfortable in the team and you feel more comfortable telling people what to do when you're doing it yourself."

I don't think you have to be the best player. One of the greatest captains England ever had was Mike Brearley, and he certainly wasn't the best player in that team. You need to have other skills. Sometimes the best players don't understand failure and don't understand fear of failure, and some people that can't do the things that they can do. Sometimes the great cricketers, like Ian Botham and Freddie Flintoff and people like this, don't make as good captains because they are, to a degree, geniuses, a little bit. Ask them to dissect [their game] a little bit, they might not be able to. So I do believe it's a just lot of different skills involved in being a captain to being a player so it doesn't necessarily go hand in hand.

What is the key quality a good captain needs to have - one or several?
He needs to have a presence about him, definitely, and probably the most important thing is that people want to play for you. I played under Michael Atherton and I thought that was his greatest skill. His greatest asset was that I wanted to play for Michael Atherton, because he always put the team first. I think the team sees straight through you if, when you are winning, you take all the credit and when you're losing you blame the team. I think how you handle yourself in and around the team, so that the team wants to play for you, is hugely important. I think when you lose that trust with the team, then I think you are fighting a losing battle.

How does a captain build loyalty? Did it come naturally to you?
No, you just have to be clever, really. I believe that there are certain characters in the team that, when they speak, people will listen. It's not necessarily your best player, it is your most charismatic player. In my team it was Darren Gough. At that time he was the pin-up boy, he was the star performer…

When we were going through bad times, that's when the team really start to chat properly. They won't tell you things in team meetings or hotel rooms, but when they get away from it that's when the niggly things come out. Why are we practising tomorrow? Why are we training tomorrow? Why is Hussain doing this, why is Fletcher doing that? Why is he still in charge? He hasn't got any runs for two months. That's when you need all your lieutenants out there, who will just quash that immediately. And I had two or three good ones in Atherton and Stewart and Gough, and [Graham] Thorpe was another one, who, if any of that chat happened, immediately said, "Hang on, we're all going in the right direction."

I realised very quickly that I needed Gough on board. When Gough spoke people listened. Gough, on my first tour as captain to South Africa, had a bit of a weight issue. The one thing that really upset Goughie was anyone mentioning his weight issue, and I was asked that at a press conference. Immediately I said, "No, Darren Gough doesn't have a problem, and he's the first name down on my team sheet and he always will be." Because, (a) that was the truth, and (b) I wanted Darren to know I had given him full backing in the media, so that I would have my main character, my main charismatic figure, on board.

Has captaincy become simpler than what it used to be when you started playing, given the massive support staffs etc, or has it become more complicated now?
It's become simpler for some. Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart would love to have had what they have now - central contracts and bowlers being rested and ready like they are now. They had people like Angus Fraser etc turning up exhausted [on Test match morning], Gough himself turning up exhausted. But while they would like what we have now, they would also be the first to say that captains of different eras have different problems. It's not got easier from me to Strauss. I was given quite a lot by Lord MacLaurin. Obviously we brought in central contracts etc.

 
 
"I'm pigeonholed as this nasty, aggressive captain who was always ordering, shouting. In fact, Duncan used to do a lot of the behind-the-scenes"
 

A captain is pretty much only as good as his side, mainly only as good as his bowling attack, really. A bowling attack can make you look like a fantastic captain. You only have to look at Mahendra here on this tour and look at Andrew Strauss. You are pretty much as good as your bowling attack. They are the key ingredients. The rest is about two, five, maybe 10% captaincy.

Do captains have a limited lifespan? You said you quit captaincy because you were tired. What did you get tired of?
Tired of worrying every day about English cricket. Every day you literally wake up and you're doing meetings and thinking and planning and looking back and looking forwards, worried about your own game, worried about the England team game.

It's different from country to country and different from era to era. For me, there was a lot of winning, but there was a lot of losing as well, so dealing with the media and everything, there were a lot of good days and a hell of a lot of bad days. So for me a four-five year time span was enough. [You finally say], "You know, I've got a young family, I don't have to be grumpy all my life. I need to move on a little bit." Whereas if you are Steve Waugh or now Andrew Strauss, and you're winning all the time, the number of bad days are a lot less. And hence your lifespan is that little bit longer really.

So I think it depends on what sort of side you are captaining, how successful that side is, what age it comes to you, and how much you want to do it. [Captaincy is] the sort of thing that you can't just do in half measures, it's the sort of thing you have to either do full-on or not at all. So once you get that gut feeling that you are just doing it because of the job, or you're doing things to save your job, rather than actually doing your job, then you have to move on. And I felt that very quickly, it came to me like a bolt out of the blue, and I just knew it was time to move on.

Does a captain need to be detached from the job a bit, to be able to do it for a long time, to be successful? One of Dhoni's strengths, for example, over these four years is said to be his detachment.
Again it has to come from character, and Dhoni looks to be a completely different character from me, for example. Different captains and leaders for different teams and situations, I think. India needed Sourav [Ganguly] to... it was always "nice India" when you played against them, all very friendly, good morning, all that sort of stuff. And Sourav made them into quite a nasty, aggressive bunch, a tough bunch. And it was what India needed then. I reckon with all the chaos that goes on with Indian cricket, and when it was on its way up, and the expectation and hype, what was needed after that was someone to calm it all down. You know what Indian cricket and media [are like] - it's so hyperbolic, so high, so low. They need someone like Dhoni to be there, flatlining all the way though - a calm character. So I believe in different captains for different times. Same with myself.

England were underperforming. We were the worst side in the world 12 years ago, booed here [at The Oval]. They needed someone to come in and kick 'em up the backside: this is not good enough, we are better than this; we are not the best side in the world, but we are certainly not the worst. So I had to show them what playing for England was all about, what it meant, but after me, when I had my time, they needed [Michael] Vaughan to come in.

When everyone was hiding behind their sofas in 2005 and saying, "Please, please, come on, let's beat Australia for the first time for a long time, win the Ashes", he stayed very calm, cool and collected. And after the Pietersen and Moores debacles, they have needed someone with a mature head, like Strauss, to come and take over. So it's different leaders for different times. I don't think, for example, Vaughan [would have been suited for] when I took over. Vaughan would have been a little bit too calm and nice and cool for that situation.

A little bit, what you've got to be careful of is that you get pigeonholed a little bit. I'm pigeonholed as this nasty, aggressive captain who was always ordering, shouting. In fact, Duncan used to do a lot of the behind-the-scenes. If anyone needed reprimanding or having a quiet word, Duncan used to do a lot of that.

Good cop, bad cop?
Yeah, good cop, bad cop. It's just like with kids. Being in charge of a team is just like having kids. You say one thing to Gough at one end and then completely different at the other end. Fletcher plays the bad cop, I play the good cop, and then we swap around.

But the captain-coach relationship is absolutely vital. You both must be singing from the same hymn sheet. Even if you disagree - when I'm having a cup of tea with Fletcher, we're having a meeting, I say, "No, Dunc, you're wrong," but 10 minutes later, when we go in the meeting, players will be [thinking] "Why is Nass going against Dunc?" So in a meeting you're together, [facing] the press you're together, even though behind the scenes you're disagreeing on a few things.

How do you rate captains you've seen? Who are the ones you've admired, both from the time you played and now?
I think these two [Strauss and Dhoni] are very good - for different reasons, sometimes not just on what you see of them but sometimes you've just to look at the record and say, "There must be something good about this guy, it can't be coincidence." I don't see something specific about Dhoni where I say, "Jeez, he's Mike Brearley", tactical brain or whatever, but the stats are there, the CV is there.

And if someone like Sachin Tendulkar says "He is the best captain I have played under", you put that into the equation as well, I think. I admire Dhoni for what he's done. Listen, I was there in Mumbai [World Cup final] when he did that, when he put himself up the order. I mean, the pressure… I was feeling nervous watching, and it wasn't my side playing. Dhoni pushes himself up the order, he's there at the end, he whacks it for six, picks a stump up and walks off. Now that is as cool as you like. He's got something about him. He's got a presence about him, and he's a leader of men.

Strauss is different. He's a leader of men [too]. When he speaks, people listen. He's an ambassador for his country, he is very dignified in the way he talks. In the whole country, I reckon no one would look at Andrew Strauss and say, "What's this bloke on about?" They listen. He talks well, he makes good sense, he makes good decisions, and yet both of them, you wouldn't have them both them down as massive tactical geniuses.

I admired Stephen Fleming. I thought when he took on that Australian side with a relatively normal New Zealand side, he had great tactics, great ideas.

I learnt a lot from Brearley, reading Brearley's book. I enjoyed him as a captain, the way he handled Botham - magnificent, the way you can handle Botham like that. Still, to this day, when Brearley comes into the box, Beefy gets up and it's "Morning, Brears", and he shows him a lot of respect. Brears is a psychologist of leading, his man management of people was there.


MS Dhoni and Andrew Strauss pose with the series trophy a day before the first Test, Lord's, July 20, 2011
"You only have to look at Mahendra here on this tour and look at Andrew Strauss. You are pretty much as good as your bowling attack" © AFP
Enlarge

The other thing as captain is that you can't have all the ingredients. You'll be good at certain things and not so good at other things. Just as long as you've ticked enough boxes and you've got more good things than bad, then you'll be all right.

How would you rate yourself as captain?
I always think it's for other people go say things like that, but I rate myself like I tried to rate myself as a player actually, so that when I end, I would say, "Well, that's the best I could do." That's what I did as a player and that's the same with my captaincy. I know I couldn't have done what Vaughan did in 2005, and I know I couldn't do what Strauss is doing now with this team.

Why would you say that?
Because of personality. I felt - a little bit like my batting - I was a man for crisis, because it took the fear of failure away. I hate [to be] like [Ravi] Bopara, going in now, going out at 300 for 4 or whatever. I liked it to be 20 for 4, almost like no one is expecting you to do well. You have got nothing to lose and then you show people you can do well.

And that was the same with [when] I took over. I got booed here [at The Oval]. Everyone was expecting England to just carry on and I would just be another captain. So it was almost a "like to prove people wrong" sort of situation, and I liked those situations.

And I'm one who thinks all the time. Think, think, think, think, and eventually there's only so many hours of brain time that you can use up before you say enough is enough. But I enjoyed the job. I absolutely… more than playing, my greatest moments and love of the game come from captaining England.

And the next day when you put on the TV and it's Michael Vaughan, England captain, it hurts. When the Barmy Army sang "Michael Vaughan's Barmy Army" from "Nasser Hussain's Barmy Army", it hurt. And again I'll quote Brearley. He said that what hurt him the most was the next day. When you are no longer England captain, you suddenly realise it's over, you are no longer England captain, and you appreciate what you had.

Hussain on working with Duncan Fletcher, being part-Asian and more: part two of the interview will be published on September 7, 2011

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by PremZtalks on (September 9, 2011, 4:27 GMT)

Great conversation to read! I'm not a fan of Nasser but his insights and observations looks honest and intersting too! After a very long time I completed reading a full part of article / conversation. Earlier I had to rewind to those articles in Hindu and by Peter Roebuck, etc...But my choice for best captains goes to Stephen Fleming, Sourav in the initial years as captain, Dhoni and Steve Waugh if he had not been an Aussie. Dislike for Aussie cricketers is bcos of there out of way approach to win games at any cost! Poor exhibition for Sport!

Posted by vijujack on (September 8, 2011, 14:45 GMT)

Nas is very candid and forthright, like how he handled a petulant Shastri - I'm impressed. Touched upon topics that makes one think and appreciate.....

Posted by   on (September 7, 2011, 18:00 GMT)

SIMPALY BEST NASS....HE IS ONE OF THE BEST COMMENTATOT IN THE WORLD NOW....GOD BLESS YOU

Posted by mohsin9975 on (September 7, 2011, 9:25 GMT)

@vaidyar Lol...SRT being mentally tough. Never performed in tough situations. What abt slowing down in his 90s. Is it being mentally tough? Chickened out everytime india needed him in tough situations vs tough opposition

Posted by caught_knott_bowled_old on (September 7, 2011, 1:24 GMT)

Great interview. Nasser comes across as honest and insightful. That makes it very refreshing. He's probably the best commentator these days.

Posted by Ms.Cricket on (September 7, 2011, 0:42 GMT)

Hussain, a good captain??? Who are we kidding, he is like the Emperor in the "Emporer's New Clothes". Hussain is a very good commentator though.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (September 7, 2011, 0:29 GMT)

@gdbuy my favorite (for the controversies yet command) captains are ranatunga, nasser hussain, and (even though he only captained for a short while) Sehwag. I still remember when Sehwag captained a side in Bangladesh and innocently made the comment that Bangladesh could surprise in ODI but couldn't in Tests because they are an ordinary team. And don't get me started on Ranatunga, what a dictator that man was. Still remember his sheenaningans with the Aussies including giving speeches about the inferiority of the Aus race! Unbelievable! Imagine if that happened in today's time! Best Captains (not favorite/entertaining but best) IMHO are Ranatunga (for taking the minnow Lanka into a feared side), Waugh, and Cronje (even though he was found corrupt). I hope Bangladesh find a Ranatunga in the future, and I hope another Waugh/Cronje comes up and dominates the world for another 10 years

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (September 7, 2011, 0:17 GMT)

To be quite honest, this guy had nothing to do with England's rise nor was he a good captain; just a decent one at a time where England had nobody good in their team. But as a commentator, this guy is phenomenal. He really knows his stuff and has amazing captaincy/tactical insights that strangely do not reflect his record. Very colorful guy too. Doesn't care for controversy and will say what he wants. "There are 1 or 2 donkeys playing for India" and all the Indian fans go nuts. Well hey, Bhajji called Symonds a Monkey, but in India it doesn't mean anything. In England donkey just means your a horrible athlete. Pretty sure that Dhoni, Munaf, and Ishant are the 3 donkeys but don't know for sure. To all you fans outraged about his donkey remark, he is not talking about Ishant Sharma's physical looks so calm down

Posted by SixFourOut on (September 7, 2011, 0:16 GMT)

Nasser Hussain is the most unlucky cricketer I have ever seen play. I have never seen one player be on the batting end of so many awful decisions, be it balls pitching outside leg or nicks that were not.....................................he should have averaged 40.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (September 6, 2011, 23:43 GMT)

Nasser is one of the best commentators around. Took Shastri to pieces when he wen off on a rant about England and the ECB being jealous of IPL etc. He says it how he sees it and is not afraid to criticise and praise any team, whether it be India, England, Pakistan or Australia. He does not deserve th flak he is getting from the Indians. I can do without his Essex bias though, going on about "fortress Chelmsford" all the time during T20 matches.

Posted by ygkd on (September 6, 2011, 23:26 GMT)

Nasser Hussain mentioned Ian Bell's shyness. I think Bell some years back needed to work out just how good he wanted to be, which is completely different from KP who always seemed to know how good he was. But both have benefited from the passage of time, one becoming perhaps a little more outgoing, the other perhaps a little less so or at least more circumspect about how his outgoing nature comes out. Nasser himself is a good template for confidence, in that he always seems to have an air of realism about his views, thus avoiding over-confidence which is often the downfall of the talented. And that is one reason why Nasser is a good commentator and was a good captain. His ego does not and did not interfere with the job at hand. Nasser always played for the team, not himself, and if that meant him playing the bad-cop role, he'd do it. And that's why I rate him and his views highly.

Posted by ygkd on (September 6, 2011, 23:07 GMT)

Interesting what Nasser said regarding confidence. I think too many today mistake the brashness of youth for confidence. If you can go in and bat and bat with your side in real trouble or stand firm when wickets tumble at the other end, that's true confidence. If you can take the ball in a big match when a wicket is needed against a strong opponent and deliver time and again, that's true confidence. It's about knowing your role - much the same point that was made by Adam Vanner about how Nasser was prepared to take the dogsbody fielding position in his first test as the former captain. His role had changed. The T20 format however is encouraging brashness (at least in youth batting) and that's not the same thing. That's all about a look-how-great-I-am attitude, rather than true confidence. Some of the young ones in the frame for England selection appear (to me at least) to have more ego than work ethic. If they truly want to be worth looking at they need to lose a bit of that brashness.

Posted by   on (September 6, 2011, 22:29 GMT)

very right about pakistan team... if they r all together they would have been easily number one..and since engalnd's rise the toughest time they had in a home series was againt pakitsan... though 3-1 did not depict how closely the series was fought and the tough time amir and asif gave them... Naser hussain has always been a fan of pakistan since teh tome of Wasim and Waqar and why not they r the mopst exciting team since 1987 WC(be it ina good or a bad way).... its jus the reason from outside the team have done them a lil but taht team PK for u :).... jus imagaine a full strength paki team Salman butt, Hafeez, Younis, yousf, Misbah/ Azhar ali, umer akmal, kamran Akmal, umer gul, Saeed ajmal , asif/ wahab, amir...its jus wow...a team in which afridi, sohail tanvir, abdul razak struggle to find place . presently i only see england competing with this team...last time younis and yousuf toured engaled they pilled up runs...much better than the tendular and rahul of the great batting line

Posted by Trickstar on (September 6, 2011, 22:06 GMT)

Even though some Indians have been bleating about Nasser and wrongly IMO, it goes without saying that he's easily one of the best Cricket commentators and general talkers of cricket. He understands more about the politics of the sub continent and India especially and is very knowledgeable about the players from that side of the world. Very good interview and really interesting to read.

Posted by EVH316 on (September 6, 2011, 18:15 GMT)

Nasser`s fantastic - when I watched England throughout the 80s and 90s it was infuriating how spineless we seemed, and how our talented players underachieved. I credit Nasser as the best captain of England in my lifetime. Not the most successful, but his achievements at the beginning of the millenium with broadly the same team that he had inherited were marvellous - the grit and determination was something England just didn`t do! I`m sure some of the spirit is around now, and a key reason why we have become No.1 in the important format. I hope he is utilised by the ECB someday...although I guess it`ll be when we`re bottom of the rankings and we need him to save us again! For the time being, his insight on Sky will do - him and Athers really are standout commentators.

Posted by   on (September 6, 2011, 18:05 GMT)

Who is this Nasser Hussain? I am really surprised that a journalist like Sharda Ugra has wasted her time by interviewing this man! Or is it because England is ranked no. 1 in tests, people like Nasser Hussain are getting so much attention! The recent remarks by Hussain and Vaughan suggest that they are finding it difficult to be on ground!

Posted by   on (September 6, 2011, 15:35 GMT)

Is it just me or do we get carried away with using 'great' to describe test sides that at best were solid or still unproven? Australia from '99 to '09, WI of the '70's and '80's or the Invincible's can be described as great but there's no way you can mention the recent achievements of India or South Africa in the same sentence as any of those sides. Only after consistently beating every side in the world over a substantial period of time can a side be even considered to be great.

Posted by   on (September 6, 2011, 15:28 GMT)

One of my favourite memories of Hussain was his first match after resigning the captaincy. He stood at short leg with a helmet on as if to say "I'm just another player now".

Posted by   on (September 6, 2011, 14:42 GMT)

hahaha funny this guy is taken seriously!! take a look at this http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/14325.html. Test avg 37.18 ODI avg: 30.28 with 1 century in 88 matches. Poor captaincy record.

Posted by SDHM on (September 6, 2011, 14:19 GMT)

Flat_Track_Bullies - the way Nasser used to bat, I think he'd have struggled to pick up an IPL contract at all!

Posted by Andy.rockz on (September 6, 2011, 14:18 GMT)

LOL..Thanks Nasir===================one thing i had in mind till now is cleared that why i'm wondering that irrespective of Gough's performance why he will be in team under the captaincy of Nasir hussain++++++++Darren Gaugh in the team itself is playing with a syrup of cough

Posted by SHAN16_JERK on (September 6, 2011, 14:05 GMT)

"Dhoni pushes himself up the order, he's there at the end, he whacks it for six, picks a stump up and walks off. Now that is as cool as you like" Exactly. If he wins the next WC then I do not care if we loose all the test series and one days series between now and the next WC. What is important is winning next WC.

Posted by   on (September 6, 2011, 13:52 GMT)

yes nas... is right!!!! PAKISTAN team can be No1, if there is no politic involve in the team selection & others.PAKISTAN have the blowing attack which can be effective on any surface. As nas.. say if any team to be No1 the should be mentally strong mental strength is the key factor in cricket, if your so great player but not mentally strong then your nothing.

Posted by Fifthman on (September 6, 2011, 12:34 GMT)

It's not unusual for ex-cricketers (and ex-captains particularly) to be able to offer good insights into other players and cricketing situations. But what sets Nasser apart is his ability to analyse and think through his own playing and captaincy with the same dispassionate skill he applies to his commentary. He really is one of the most authoritative voices in the modern game. And @ Flat_Track_bullies - you're merely displaying your ignorance by misreading the intentions of one of the games most honest and forthright individuals. Test cricket is the pinnacle to Nasser, and he rightly sees that IPL has the capacity to damage England's chances in the Test arena. So - if Nass was playing now, you wouldn't see him in IPL for any money.

Posted by mittalanuj on (September 6, 2011, 12:01 GMT)

I used to be fan of Naseer Hussain and his art of captaincy but his remarks on India in current series has left me with a bad feeling.......now I can say that he hasn't fully recovered from his failure as a captain and as a player... overall he had a modest record on the field and loose tongue off the field.....

Posted by KarachiKid on (September 6, 2011, 11:56 GMT)

Great Player, great captain but above exceptional analyst. Provides a lot of insight. Hats off to Nasir Husain.

Posted by   on (September 6, 2011, 11:56 GMT)

Terrific interview, Hussain is one of the best Cricket Journalists there is right now, along with Atherton and Roebuck, and this is testament to that.

Posted by   on (September 6, 2011, 11:43 GMT)

some of our west indian players need to take note. well said . playing for your captain is key players have to be made to realize there is much more in them than they normally express the captain needs to help them get out of their comfort zone so when the going gets tough there is another gear

Posted by redbrand on (September 6, 2011, 11:26 GMT)

Just looked up his record as test captain, win % 37.8, why would anyone listen to his views on being a good captain. His best cricket has obviously been played in his current role as tv commentator when he really is telling us what he should have done as a player/captain.

Posted by Hewyy on (September 6, 2011, 11:15 GMT)

How the only captain in the history of test cricket that has lost an Ashes series in less than 11 days of cricket can be credited with being responsible for Englands current success is beyond me.

Posted by itsthewayuplay on (September 6, 2011, 11:02 GMT)

Absolutely fascinating interview. For me as interesting as the best games themselves. All captains, current and future should be made aware of this, as part of their development. Nasser has also shown in a relatively short time a similar level of insightfulness as a commentator. While he clearly passionate about English cricket, he comes across as an impartial commentator. Like all true cricket fans I feel he loves the game first then his country's cricket. Sadly the same cannot be said for the BCCI who with the IPL are in danger of single handedly dragging down the whole of Test match cricket. Looking forward to part 2 tomorrow.

Posted by   on (September 6, 2011, 10:55 GMT)

Question to Nuss: what is your point of view on hawk-eye now, especially after you were so harsh on live TV on the Indian cricketers for not embracing it?

Posted by Nutcutlet on (September 6, 2011, 10:35 GMT)

2nd Post. How good a player does a captain have to be? Nasser says the captain doesn't need to be the best player - and he is absolutely right in this respect! Indeed, in being perceived as the best player, there is far too much pressure on the skipper to produce an outstanding innings regularly (the best captains are batsmen or all-rounders!) besides perform all the other tasks required of him, on and off the field. If his specialist skills are good enough, that's fine. Which brings us back to Cook and England's emerging ODI squad. Cook, not to my mind a flair player, needs to realise that he doesn't have to produce Bradmanesque stats as ODI captain. He has a right to build a firm foundation to an innings initially and sacrifice his wicket if he's not scoring briskly enough. No one should be pointing fingers and expecting regular high scores from him. Good enough is good for the captain! Far more important is how he inspires his side to play for him, as they do for his mentor,Strauss.

Posted by   on (September 6, 2011, 10:27 GMT)

I cant recall in last 20 years , any English captain(Test or ODI) having stamina, strength to achieve what MSD did since 2007. Naseer could have chickened out after T-20 WC victory complaining of fatigue .. Englishman have never won like this in last 25 years . It is simply cast biting more than chew.. Let them come to India , we will bring them into ground..

Posted by wmlhawkins on (September 6, 2011, 10:25 GMT)

Don't dwell on your captaincy nasser, just keep doing what you've been doing in the commentary box and you'll end up a legend. Easily the best TV commentator in the game.

Posted by randikaayya on (September 6, 2011, 10:06 GMT)

@Aaryabhatta: India won test series in Sri lanka, but fairly long time ago

Posted by Darnakka on (September 6, 2011, 10:05 GMT)

Not sure why nasser is being credited. it should be Andy flower and partly duncan fletcher.

Posted by randikaayya on (September 6, 2011, 10:04 GMT)

I believe the test #1 position should be won and lost and won again among a group of maybe 4-5 contesting countries for the sport to attract constant media and fan attention. That will generate a lot of healthy rivalries and competition that will benefit the game and players and will provide a spectacle for players. So the recent switch from India and England is fine for the game, but I doubt if it will remain for too long in English hands. What would be best for the game is Indians, Aussies, Saffers, Sri Lankans and others too having a fair shot at it from time to time.

Posted by demon_bowler on (September 6, 2011, 9:58 GMT)

Superb interview with a very thoughtful and honest ex-captain. I will always think of him and Duncan Fletcher as the saviours of English cricket. They arrested 15 years of almost continual decline and made England hard to beat, which is the first step before you can become regular winners.

Posted by   on (September 6, 2011, 9:00 GMT)

Well said, Nes !! Seems to be straight from 'donkeys' mouth ...

Posted by famir on (September 6, 2011, 8:45 GMT)

From a Pakistani fan, things really started to change for England team from Nasser Hussain era. He started to bring good players although he never full fledged injury free squad but they begin to fight harder n better..

Posted by Nuxxy on (September 6, 2011, 8:32 GMT)

I hope AB de Villiers reads through this and thinks deeply about it.

Posted by Aaryabhatta on (September 6, 2011, 8:02 GMT)

@ cpt.meanster india won test series in srilanka..n many odi series...in aus n safrica drew teset series eng in india????????

Posted by AJ_Tiger86 on (September 6, 2011, 7:18 GMT)

That was the best cricketing interview I've read in a long time. Nasser is a great speaker, commentator and probably the finest analyst of the game. @Cpt.Meanster: Lions at home and in AUSTRALIA in case you forgot.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (September 6, 2011, 7:11 GMT)

Interesting thoughts from Nasser here. Arguably the best thing that has happened to English cricket is the bust-up in the WIndies between Moores & KP; it brought Strauss & Flower to the fore. Almost immediately the onlooker sensed that England was sailing through calmer waters. There was a sense of direction, of focus, of purpose and strategy. Of course, cricket being the sophisticated game that it is, the captaincy role is crucial, but he cannot function with maximum effectiveness unless he has a coach in whom he has absolute confidence. Their shared vision is what has driven England forward and it has started with the purest form of the game, the truest expression of team sport: test cricket. To move forward and be successful in the ODI format, Flower needs to develop the same rapport with Cook that he has with Strauss. From this, good things can flow. Eng is identifying the players now: ODI specialists with flair and honing their skills to move to the top. IPL mustn't interfere!

Posted by ansram on (September 6, 2011, 7:10 GMT)

India used to win at home as it was common to prepare dustbowls and prevail over the opponent with the aid of a superior spin attack. But it is questionable if India has a very good spin attack right now. As Srilanka found out the hard way, without Murali they could not win even at Galle and a similar fate awaits India. England is likely to win in India this time, as a spinning track will be best exploited by the best spinner Swann.

Too much of IPL and ODIs have made Indian spinners too defensive and they bowl to contain. That wont' be enough to win test matches even at home. Indian batsmen know how to go after the bowling, but the staple diet of shorter formats has reduced their skills in playing for long periods ( except for seniors like Dravid), which led to their crushing defeat now.

India will do well to focus on test match preparation if they have to succeed. No doubt they will remain top team in the shorter format, but they will go down in tests if they dont prepare.

Posted by Truemans_Ghost on (September 6, 2011, 7:02 GMT)

Good interview. I do like Nass. I remember the last few months of his captaincy though. He had done so much but you could amost see him aging in fron of your eyes. I was a relief to see him go. I also think he is one of the best of the current crop of commentators. His comment about why Botham made a poor captain also holds true with Beefy's commentary- I'd rather hear a thoughtful Nass than a braying Botham

Posted by pitch_it_up on (September 6, 2011, 6:57 GMT)

My top 3 favorite captains are/were Mark Taylor, Nasser Hussain and Arjuna Ranatunga. (I don''t belong to Mike Brearly's era, so no comments on him). And I loved listening to Nasser...this guy has amazing communication skills...and what I like the most about him is his passion for the game...the different ideas he's got...good aggressive character...doesn't like his team dishing out some crap. I liked everything he said until his recent nasty comments he made during this current India tour or England.

Posted by Flat_Track_bullies on (September 6, 2011, 6:33 GMT)

The biggest issue to IPL would be the administration from BCCI. I strongly believe IPL has done more good than bad. This performance of india here is simply down to Zaheer khan's absence. India were number 1 but only marginally - everyone knew - just look at thier performance in S Africa back in december without zaheer and with him. England would be same playing without Jimmy!! IPL would prosper and get even bigger. IF NASSER WAS STILL PLAYING AND HAD A $1MILLION CONTRACT ON THE TABLE, I BET HE WOULD BE TALKING DIFFERENT LANGUAGE ABOUT IPL - AND YOU KNOW THIS NASSER DONT YOU? YOU MAY PRETEND TO DISAGREE....BUT REALLY?

Posted by Rahul_78 on (September 6, 2011, 6:20 GMT)

PASSION...sheer passion used to ooze from Nasser when he used to be on the field and it seems it is still burning inside him for English cricket. I so miss the maverick days of Nasser and Ganguly and all the shouting, kicking and shirt waving in this Strauss - Dhoni Era. I cant imagine what Nassers or Gangulys reaction would have been had they hit THAT six in the world cup final instead of Dhoni.

Posted by udayanavada on (September 6, 2011, 6:03 GMT)

Hussain has said it correctly.I do not agree with the sub continent fans that England can not perform better in Sub continent.Well OK India was a great side till now They never allowed any one to win the series in India. Managed to draw the series in AUS, SA.That is only because of the ambition of the FAB 4 more than the ambition of the BCCI. It Just happened that way.But now with all seniors are expected to retire soon and no youngsters are taking test cricket seriously.Hence India will not be a threat in their Home also. So is the case in Srilanka after the retirement of Sanath and Muralitharan. Not to mention about PAK With all their problems.Hence England may very well win the series in Sub continent and retain their No 1 position. How ever a Strong India or a strong Sri lanka or PAK are required for world cricket with out which there will not be any charm left in having a No-1 England test team.It will be just like having a King with one eye for a dynasty of blinds.

Posted by Kunal-Talgeri on (September 6, 2011, 6:00 GMT)

Nice interview with one of the finest captains and cricketers of the modern era. If players responded to Vaughan when he became captain, it was because of the rigour and sense of ownership that Hussain brought into English cricket before the Yorkshireman took over. It always hurt viewers like me when Hussain's best plans against the Aussies failed; Simon Jones getting injured in 2002, for instance. But he made every available resource (Hoggard, Caddick, Giles, Thorpe) count. O Captain, my Captain. That feels like such a different era of cricket, when players didn't come on assembly lines and conveyor belts. :-)

Posted by Vindaliew on (September 6, 2011, 5:56 GMT)

A real selfless leader of men. Even after quitting the captaincy, he still put the team ahead of himself. I'll never forget how he retired after scoring a century just so that Andrew Strauss could keep his place when Vaughan returned from injury. "Age has been catching up on me a little, the body, the fire in the stomach and the eyes have started to deteriorate a bit as well. I was willing to fight that and I was willing to fight against opposition players but I was not willing to fight against youth in the form of Andrew Strauss." A man who deserves his place in the pantheon of great England captains.

Posted by ignoramusenator on (September 6, 2011, 5:34 GMT)

hah this guy didnt help at all, all credit goes to the 'Team' not to a preacher.

Posted by vaidyar on (September 6, 2011, 4:51 GMT)

Nice interview. But I feel he's got it wrong with the mental toughness thing. Being a show pony does NOT mean mental toughness. Agree that KP, Gough etc were show ponies and have a touch of arrogance about them and were mentally tough. That does not mean those who are not are not mentally tough. Cases in point: Strauss, Hussey, Dravid, SRT, you can come up with a huge list here. Sorry, don't agree with Nasser on that.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (September 6, 2011, 4:38 GMT)

Nasser Hussain has definitely been instrumental in England having gone to the top of the ICC rankings just as Michael Vaughn and Andrew Strauss have been.Needless to say, Andy Flower's influence has been profound. It was perhaps the success of Harmison as a fast bowler that enabled the thinking in English cricket to veer towards the fact that tall and rangy fast bowlers are a breed apart when it comes to success in cricket.That was Nasser's initiative really.Besides he brought back the passion which seemed at a low ebb when he took over given the way they were losing to Australia, the old enemy.The Ashes win in 2005 under Vaughn showed that England were good. But then the subsequent disaster in Australia brought back the thinking that England could only play at home. It is this very point which is waiting to come up yet again. I feel that England will find it difficult to sustain their form and fitness once they leave the shores of home, Nasser and others notwithstanding.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (September 6, 2011, 3:27 GMT)

I agree with many things Hussain has said. Surely, the IPL will be a key issue in the future of Indian TEST cricket. India will still be a world class team in ODIs and T20s and the IPL has surely turned the Indian team into a confident limited overs side. However, test cricket is different. It requires different sets of skills and endurance levels. Adding to that, I think England will be REQUIRED to win in the subcontinent in order to prove their no.1 status. No matter what English fans think or say, this will a bitter pill to swallow. Cause if they can rewind back, India NEVER won in South Africa, Australia and Sri Lanka. So many questioned their no.1 status and rightly so. Hence, as destiny willed, India are no longer the no.1 team. England are a confident team, with many good players. I won't say they can't win or anything BUT they will find it very TOUGH. If they come out victorious, then we shall hold candles to them. Till then, they will be viewed as lions ONLY at home.

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