Michael Hussey, fondly known as Mr. Cricket by many, has retired from the game earlier than most greats after entering international cricket a decade later than most. But in between, from age 31 to 37, from the day he made his ODI debut at Perth in 2004, Hussey can boast of one of the greatest short careers in the history of sport.
The impact Hussey has had as a cricketer on his Australian team, for the 7 full years he batted for them- after defying odds of age, form and fitness- is arguably greater than most have had over their 15-20 year long careers. His Test Record was Bradmanisque for his first few years after his test debut in 2005 at Brisbane, which propelled him into the spotlight as the greatest batsman to have never played cricket for Australia in the last decade. With an average close to 80 in both forms for his first 2 years, Hussey became a phenomenon- a living breathing example for most young players, giving them hope that their chances to break into the international arena after age 30 remain as strong as ever. Many say that Australia may have missed his services before 2005, when he was a giant in domestic cricket for an entire decade, but there could have probably meant no greater blessing in disguise for Australian cricket than giving Hussey a delayed debut. His hunger, intensity and skill grew relentlessly as he waited on the sidelines, while the Golden Era of Australian cricket stormed its way across the globe- winning everything there was to win. Even Dravid, Laxman or Tendulkar would have had a tough time breaking into the Aussie mold of things in the first half of the decade.
Hussey, at age 31, could have had his first and last chance when he played against the Windies at Brisbane in late 2005. He opened the innings with Hayden, and to Ponting’s credit- he quickly realized that Hussey was meant to be a middle-order bat. A stopgap solution, a temporary replacement till the youngsters got their act together. After that, though, there was no looking back.
6300 odd runs in Tests and 5500 runs in ODIs, over 7 full years of hard cricket- and the funny thing is that Hussey was never going to be a record-player the day he stepped onto the field. But after scoring close to 12000 runs in both forms of the game over less than a decade, there could be nobody to match his sheer density of runs over- where he defined the terms ‘second wind’ and ‘making most of his chances’. He was never to be dropped, one of the few stable factors in a team during transition along with Ponting and Clarke, shoring his beloved Baggy Greens into a new era of lesser returns. All through, Hussey remained what VVS Laxman was to India, and what MS Dhoni is to India in ODIs, or Bevan was to Australia in ODIs- one of the most reliable resourceful finishers of the game- even taking to T20 cricket with a bang, thanks to his IPL exploits with the Chennai SuperKings.
Hussey’s cover-drive, followed by two quick steps down the pitch to look for a run almost in follow-through of his batswing, will remain one of the patented plays in cricket. It denoted how busy he was, how hungry he was- not to miss out on a single run, however cleanly he hit the ball, not to miss out on a single second, a single moment of time- it was all so precious, and running out so soon.
Therefore, it was only apt that Hussey forced Johnson to take the run at the SCG after helping his team beat Sri Lanka for a 3-0 cleansweep, demonstrating that amidst all the hue and cry about why he was being pushed out of the ODI game too, he remained a team man- a fierce cricketer looking for one and only one thing- victory, however it came along.
The retirement of Michael Hussey, along with that of Ponting, Laxman, Dravid, Strauss, Tendulkar (partially) will make 2012 a year where this given team of retirements, if put together, could beat any other active test-playing team.