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Shirin Sadikot in Chennai 15 May 2013 - 02:26am IST

How Mr. Cricket conquered T20

Michael Hussey shares his approach to T20; eulogises de Villiers, Raina

An embarrassed smile adorns his face when you tell him that he’s ‘the rock of Chennai Super Kings batting’ and that he is ‘one of the most dangerous batsmen in the IPL’. He refutes any claim to making batting look beautiful and “what the team needs” is his common refrain.

That’s Michael Hussey, the second most prolific run-getter of Pepsi IPL 2013 and the foremost contender of the Orange Cap, currently held by Chris Gayle.

After CSK won their last home game of the season, against Delhi Daredevils, Hussey, as graciously as ever spoke to IPLT20.com about the approach that has made him a leading T20 batsman from a once Test specialist.

While the modest Mr. Cricket downplayed his own brilliance, he was magnanimous in his praise of ‘a freak of a batsman’, AB de Villiers and his CSK team-mate, Suresh Raina for whom ‘sky is the limit’.

Excerpts:

From being tagged as a Test specialist to now emerging as one of the most dangerous T20 batsmen – how has the journey been?

I’m not sure about being a dangerous batsman. I’ve got an important role of trying to get the team off to a good start and it’s just nice to contribute. It doesn’t happen all the time. In T20 cricket you need a bit of luck along the way and it’s nice that luck has gone my way in this tournament.

Did you always have an attacking game or did you develop it along the way?

I think it slowly developed over time. I was very much a defensive player when I first started playing. Probably learning to play in different formats of the game and different situations teaches you to try and be a bit more adventurous.

Are there adjustments you make in your technique or stance when batting in T20s?

No, not really. I don’t change too much in regards with my preparation and technique. I probably try and clear the front leg a little bit in T20. In Tests you try and stay behind the line and play the ball in front of your eyes whereas in T20s you’re looking to free your arms and hit the ball a bit more. That’s probably the only small technical change that I make.

Do you use a heavier bat in the shortest format?

No, I don’t change my bat; I know most boys use heavier bats in T20s but I just try and keep the same bat.

Running between the wickets is a crucial part of your game even in T20s. Do you make a conscious effort to balance your attacking shots and rotating the strike?

You’re right! Running between wickets is a very important part of batting in T20s. Whether you’re going for the big shots or not, you have to keep running well between the wickets. For me, I try to have a couple of areas in my mind where I think I can hit the ball for four. If the ball is meant to be hit in that area, I don’t hold back. If not, I just try and get some bat on it and run hard between the wickets.

Originally you were an opener but you had to adapt as a middle order batsman. Did that role help you develop your attacking game?

I think so. I was an opener for most of my career but then having to move into the middle order was my only opportunity to play for Australia. So, I had to learn pretty quickly and I really enjoyed the challenge. There are so many different situations you came across batting in the middle order. At times you come in with your team in a lot of trouble having lost early wickets. Sometimes, you come in at 300 for three and you’ve just got to tee off. You bat with the tail sometimes – there are so many great situations.

Ricky Ponting a few days back said, as a batsman his first priority is to get six runs off the ball. If he cannot, he goes for a four and then takes in down. What is your approach to batting?

It’s definitely not what Ricky’s is. I don’t think I can hit too many sixes (laughs). I just go with a clear mind and let my instincts take over. Sometimes, if the pitch is good and the situation requires it, you can get off to a bit of flier by playing good shots.

Despite growing up batting on Aussie wickets, how did you develop as one of the best players of spin bowling of your time?

I’ve always enjoyed playing on Indian pitches. I enjoy the slower wickets where you’ve got to time the ball, place it in gaps and try to manipulate the field. It’s a great challenge and one that I really love to handle.

How important is the sweep shot to be a good player against spin? How does it’s importance increase or decrease depending on the format?

I think it’s an important option to have. In T20 cricket generally the bowlers are trying to bowl quite fast and so the sweep can be a very dangerous shot to play. In Test matches if there’s rough outside the off-stump it can come into play more. But it’s a good option to have even in the shortest format. That’s the thing with T20 – you can’t be scoring in just one area because it makes it too easy for the bowler to tie you up.

AB de Villiers does not consider the sweep as a dangerous shot in T20s, does he?

I think he’s a freak of a player! He’s one of my favourite batsmen in the world. He can hit fours and sixes all around the ground and that makes him very difficult for the bowlers to bowl to. He has immense belief in his own ability and he’s a fantastic player.

So, is he the best T20 batsman according to you?

I think he’s one of the best. There are the obvious ones like Chris Gayle and Shane Watson but they are powerful guys. But what makes AB special is that he can score runs all around. I think Suresh Raina is another fantastic T20 player. He has got a very good mix of working the ball and bringing in the power game as well.

Being a left-hander, have you been helping Suresh Raina overcome the limitations that have kept him from being a regular in the Test team?

I don’t necessarily agree that he does have any limitations. The Indian Test team is a pretty tough one to get into. There are some quality batsmen in there. The only thing that I’ve been telling Suresh is to keep his mind clear and let his instincts take over. He’s such a talented player but great players tend to keep their mind blank and play with freedom. If he does that in Test cricket, the sky is the limit for him.

What do you read into his perceived vulnerability against the short ball?

I don’t agree with that as well. I have watched him play the short ball very well in T20 cricket. I have seen a lot of teams targeting him with the short ball and he generally dispatches them into the crowd. So, I don’t think there’s an issue there, to be honest. It’s just all mental.

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