September 11, 2011

Michael Hussey, role model

He's got the shots, and he can grind when needed. Cricket needs more old-school batsmen like him, not the Suresh Rainas, bred on Twenty20

One of the more intriguing aspects of the drastic changes in cricket in the last five years is the ongoing effect that the Twenty20 explosion has had on batting. There's also no doubt that, and the huge increase in the number of 50-over matches since the beginning of the nineties, has had a flow-on effect of speeding up scoring in Test cricket. This in turn - along with other factors, like making up lost time - has led to a welcome spike in the number of results achieved in Test cricket.

While this makes Test cricket more marketable, an obsession with quicker scoring could obliterate the desire for technical efficiency. Taken to its logical conclusion this imbalance would have a detrimental effect on not only the aesthetics of the longer game but also on the thrill of the contest.

The bowlers have always been the more efficient innovators and boundary-obsessed batsmen play right into their hands. Suicidal strokeplay and the increased instances of lbw, facilitated by the DRS, would put the balance firmly in favour of the ball on all but the flattest of pitches. No one wants to endure the tedium of five-day cricket on flat pitches. Therefore the balance between bat and ball will only remain a reality through even-handed law-making, rational scheduling and common-sense coaching.

While we haven't yet seen a batsman bred on a diet of T20 cricket reach the Test arena, it's interesting to compare the careers of India's Suresh Raina with Australia's Michael Hussey.

Raina is a left-hander of the modern generation, while Hussey is one from the old school. Raina has played a role in India's success in the shorter versions of the game, but was also part of the problem in their recent abject failure in the Test series in England. He can thrash an attack when the field is spread and the bowling restricted, but crowd him and apply the threat of short-pitched bowling and it brings a reaction similar to that of Superman exposed to Kryptonite.

Hussey can survive and then prosper in alien conditions, as he showed on a difficult pitch in Galle. His disciplined innings helped Australia take a series lead. Contrast that knock with his whirlwind strokeplay that helped Australia snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the World T20 semi-final against Pakistan in 2010.

Hussey is a complete batsman, one who can easily adapt to the game situation; Raina is a talented batsman with a fatal flaw that wasn't addressed in his formative years. Hussey did benefit from starting out in an era where the system provided an opportunity for the vigilant batsman to fully develop; Raina is maturing in a cricket world where the ethos seems to be "more haste, less care".

Now is the time for good cricket minds to invest some thought in the way young batsmen are prepared in the future. The aim should be to produce players with Hussey's assets: the ability to preserve one's wicket when needed and dash a bowler's hopes when the situation demands. That coaching aim, allied with the vision to let batsmen retain their natural tendencies, would be a good starting point.

It's crucial for a batsman with international ambitions to be able to play all the shots. What then separates the successful players from those who fade quickly is the knowledge of when to utilise the different weapons in one's armoury. A wise army general doesn't order machine-gun fire when the situation calls for heavy artillery.

A batsman's duty is to score runs quickly in order to allow the bowlers sufficient time to take the 20 wickets required for victory. There's no doubt the more time you allow batsmen, the longer they'll take to score their runs.

Who knows, with judicious law-making and a sensible advancement of scoring rates, the game could take a step forward by recalling the past. Test cricket started out as a three- and four-day game, and a reduction in the time taken to play the modern game would make it more palatable in a fast-moving world.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 14, 2011, 15:54 GMT

    what about dravid then????

  • Dummy4 on September 14, 2011, 15:39 GMT

    @harshalb Really dude. Then, what do you have to say about Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh? Both seem good pullers but terrible hookers, even Laxman is a great puller but a terrible hooker who even looks awful while ducking, as is bat always stays up when he leans. What do you have to say about these batsmen, aren't they considered world class? What about Ganguly, cricket is a game where you hide your weaknesses from opposition and make use of your strengths, no batsmen can be perfect. Ponting was considered a great puller and hookers of a ball for a better part of his career, and now he seems vulnerable against it. He can't play spin for his life, yet he is a word class batsman(averaging arnd 26 in Ind). For a record, I dont like Sehwag, not because he is pathetic agnst short pitch deliveries, its because he lacks the common sense to differ between a Perth and a Kotla wicket and swings his bat like he is swatting flies. Raina will improve with time. He is a better learner than Yuvi and Sehwag

  • Dummy4 on September 14, 2011, 15:35 GMT

    what about dravid then????

  • Dummy4 on September 14, 2011, 6:28 GMT

    A TOP CLASS a high class hussey started his career @ 31 because of BELOW AVERAGE Damien Martyn

  • Dummy4 on September 14, 2011, 5:41 GMT

    It is a good article from Ian. He is not dragging Raina here, but comparing the current and old player. He also appreciated Raina here saying a dam good ODI player. we have to accept that. Raina is far better player for ODI compare to Test. Even his body language also suggest the same. Just take a look at completed test series and ODI matches. Two different Raina.

  • Dre on September 14, 2011, 4:23 GMT

    The irony is that Ind is a pretty poor t-20 team as well, go figure. @jay57870. Ian admitted that Raina is hugely talented. Thats what I believe he means by riches. "Talent" Young Aussies like Phil Hughes seem to be less talented but through hard work and good coaching, I believe he will eventually be much more successful than Raina. As for the "mirror on the wall" thing, let it go, that article was written a hundred yrs ago during a time when SRT was struggling. I don't think IC would write it now.

  • Harshal on September 14, 2011, 4:00 GMT a joke of a batsman. He cannot play short pitched bowling even in T20s as we saw in the T20 WCs. Any batsman who cannot play short bouncy swingy or spinny balls is NOT a batsman.

  • Mark on September 14, 2011, 2:08 GMT

    I agree! A top article. Your last paragraph makes a lot of sense & I'm sure the people that govern the game are listening... We know that Test Cricket, at the moment, is being closely watched & analyzed, for both the short term & longer term. --'Test Cricket' needs to be successful, for the "game of cricket" to be a success!! 4 day Test Matches , perhaps even 100 overs per day, has to be a consideration... For those 'in charge', it is a heavy responsibility.

  • Hrishikesh on September 13, 2011, 16:26 GMT

    @cricfan and menon. the only reason u didnt know about hussey is bcuz when he was 24 aus had a world dominating team. he had to compete for the openers spot with Taylor, Mark Waugh, Hayden, Langer. raina wouldnt even fit in the aus b team during that time. hussey scored more than 13,000 runs before he got to play in international cricket. the reason raina is in this indian team is only bcuz this is a poor team where a mediocre t20 player can get into this subpar indian test team.

  • Dummy4 on September 13, 2011, 14:52 GMT

    @RandyOZ Dead Rubber Specialist???? Well, and I thought I had seen the most despicable one. You know how much Tendulkar averages in Aus, the place where Hussey was born and brought-up? Do you know how much Tendulkar averages outside sub-continent and how much Hussey averages in Sub-Continent? Go get a life dude. Your comments show your lack of knowledge. The most knowledgeable man alive on Cricket, your very own Ritchie Benaud thinks he is the best, the greatest fast and spin blowers that Aus produced think he is the best, I wouldn't take a Nobody Aussie's opinion over them. Peace.

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