There was a time when David Hussey could not get a bowl anywhere other than the nets. Always highly regarded for his aggressive, free-thinking batsmanship and athletic fielding, Hussey was barely called upon with the ball for Victoria, not least because Brad Hodge stood in watchful guard of his own place as the Bushrangers' part-time tweaker of choice.
Spin bowling, of course, is an art of patience, and Hussey's has endured. Some years after his time as a frustrated net bowler, Hussey is enjoying his best summer for Australia, not only as an inventive batsman but also as the sort of temping spinner an agile captain like Michael Clarke is more than happy to employ.
In Sunday's first triangular series final, Hussey's four wickets helped keep Sri Lanka narrowly short of victory, and he can expect to deliver more overs in Adelaide. Tellingly, the Brisbane spell was also Hussey's longest in an ODI - soon, on the right surface, he may be good for a full 10.
Fielding questions about his bowling, rather than the batting that has him entrenched as the leading run-scorer for the series, causes Hussey to chuckle, but there can be little doubt that the extra skill makes him doubly valuable. His development also serves as a vindication of the national selector John Inverarity's view that every batsman should bowl at training, not only to further himself but also to help ease the burden on the fulltime bowlers.
"I've always enjoyed bowling in the nets, and bowling to other counterparts," Hussey said. "It's funny, a couple of years ago I was classified as just a batsman and a muck around net bowler who bowled to the tail-enders in the nets. Now I'm opening the bowling in T20 cricket and bowling key overs in one-day cricket. So I definitely take it a little more seriously now.
"I'm not really a front-line bowler, happy to fill in a job here and there, or help get the over rate back to where it should be. I like contributing to the bowling attack but I'll leave the wicket-taking to the fast bowlers."
Self-deprecating as he is, it has not escaped Hussey's attention that this is a year in which he can expect to bowl plenty of spells for Australia, and at important times. West Indian surfaces will offer help to his spin in ODIs and Twenty20 matches, and later on the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka will require a rich assortment of slow-bowling choices.
Hussey was given his first hint that his bowling role for Australia may increase in Sri Lanka last year, when in the first match of the series Clarke introduced him ahead of Mitchell Johnson to help Xavier Doherty arrest the hosts' momentum. He fetched the wicket of Tillakaratne Dilshan and returned to the field with 1-12 - the sort of contribution that encouraged Clarke to send for him more often.
"I think all subcontinent countries and the West Indies definitely suit spin bowling," Hussey said. "I wouldn't say I'm a spinner - if I hit a few pebbles they might turn a little bit. But I like to bowl well and contribute to the team, if it means one over, two overs, three or whatever. I'm happy to bowl at any given time, and you want to take the wickets of their key batsmen, and that gives you more credence with the captain to bowl you at critical times."
Edited by Siddarth Ravindran