January 13, 2013

Life after Hussey

On their next two tours, to India and England, Australia will greatly miss his skills against spin

Michael Hussey's surprise retirement announcement has left a gaping hole in the Australian line-up at a time when they can least afford it. His dependability, competitive drive and enthusiasm will be sadly missed, as will his ability to thrive after Australia suffered early setbacks. However, it's his effectiveness against spinners that the team will most struggle without in the next couple of series.

The current Indian spinners aren't among that country's most memorable. Nevertheless they are serviceable, and given the right conditions, which will more than likely be provided, they could cause Australia's batting line-up huge headaches.

Michael Clarke is the best player of spin in the Australian side, and with Hussey gone, he leads a group of batsmen who are vulnerable on turning pitches. David Warner has shown an ability to learn against spinners, as have Matthew Wade and Phillip Hughes, but they are still P platers when it comes to performing in a Test on a spinning pitch with fieldsmen crowded around the bat. The rest of the potential line-up has serious question marks against spinners.

Ed Cowan showed his shortcomings at the SCG against Sri Lanka, where he struggled mightily against steady spinners on a normal fourth-day pitch. Shane Watson is far better suited to facing the new ball first up, and Usman Khawaja has the sort of plodding footwork that can be exploited by wily spinners.

There could be a case for playing both Wade and Brad Haddin in India, with one of them in the side for his batting. Haddin is a good player of spin bowling and at this stage of his career is better than Wade standing up to the spinners. This is an important consideration as most of Wade's problems during the summer came while standing up to Nathan Lyon, and Australia can't afford to keep giving Indian batsmen second chances.

However, India will be just a warm-up in Australia's trial by spin. The following series is against England, who have a far better duo in Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, the ideal combination of right- and left-arm bowlers, spinning in opposite directions and with the potential to be England's new Jim Laker and Tony Lock.

While the English pitches may not favour spin as much as Indian ones, that's balanced by the fact that England also has a good pace attack. If Jimmy Anderson, Steve Finn and Co consistently take early wickets and Australia's middle order is exposed to England's talented pair of spinners, then Hussey will be sorely missed.

In the opening contest of the 2010-11 Ashes, Hussey waltzed down the track to Swann and continually disrupted his length, to finish with a blistering 195. I asked him why he suddenly started to use his feet against spinners when he had been loath to do so previously. He replied: "I always used to do it when I was younger but I stopped. I'm not sure why."

The important thing is, Hussey had the capability to use his feet efficiently to spinners. He'd obviously been well taught at a young age and had then taken different options. However, when he needed the slick footwork, it was still filed away in the memory bank.

On the evidence so far, none of the Australian batsmen other than Clarke and Haddin has this capability. If batsmen who haven't used their feet against spinners suddenly start trying it at the highest level, it's generally caused by panic. If the Indian spinners force some Australian batsmen into resorting to an unfamiliar tactic, then they'll likely win the battle. If that occurs, it'll be a huge headache for the Australian selectors when picking the squad for England.

Hussey, following a successful tour of India in 2008-09, had a lean time there in 2010-11. The second tour was just prior to the Ashes series at home and his lack of big scores in India may well have been the catalyst for his successfully using his feet against Swann. That shows that even reasonable players of spin bowling can struggle in India.

There was never any doubt Hussey would be missed and this could be brought home forcefully as early as Australia's next tour.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nipuna on January 14, 2013, 14:19 GMT

    @ hammond Nope........ Indians have the thinnest attack in the world Even Bangladesh Can score 500 agains them

  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2013, 7:23 GMT

    Two words - David Hussey.

  • James on January 14, 2013, 7:15 GMT

    I'm sorry if this has already been asked, but considering the lack of experience in the Australian batting going into a huge 12 months, why has Chris Rogers not been considered as a short term solution? Especially for in England. Slot him in, instead of playing Hughes, Khawaja and Maxwell. Or David Hussey would be a great choice to take over from his brother. England brought Trott in for the last test in 2009 and look how that turned out. Youth is great but the best players should be in to face the best opponents.

  • Mayank on January 14, 2013, 5:32 GMT

    A glaring example of tons of runs made in the domestic circuit and then making a successful international career. Many Indians like Rohit sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, have been given easy International Debut, they should learn from Mr. Cricket and go through the grind of domestic cricket. His work ethics, love for the game, patience and dedication has been second to none. Aussies will miss him in India and Indian crowd will also miss a champion cricketer.

  • Senthil on January 14, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    Many of the comments here are based on the assumption that everybody in the world will improve, while India will remain stagnant at what is arguably their lowest point in Test cricket. Ojha and Ashwin are by no means the sort of bowlers you can just write off. A fit Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, and these two could cause serious problems if they up their game just a bit and hold it together. Whether they want it badly enough (Test cricket) is another question all together. It is India's batting that has been a cause for worry, giving nothing for their bowlers to work with. Let them pile 450-550 consistently, and then you can see the bowling attack relaxing and doing its job. More than anything, Australia will miss Hussey's familiarity with Indian conditions, thanks even more to the IPL!

  • bhanu on January 14, 2013, 3:02 GMT

    C'mmon the current Indian players won't even make to Bangladesh team. Australia has nothing to worry about India trip. They should feel ashamed if they can't clean sweep the series with an innings win in each of them. England tour is the real challenge, Waiting for that series. Please ICC, take India out of Test cricket.

  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2013, 2:36 GMT

    Ian, there is no need for any team to worry about facing Indian spinners or pacers at the moment.. It is the English bowling that the Aussies need to worry about..