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In sports, while performances can earn you love and fandom, the path to earning genuine respect is harder to tread. For respect goes much deeper than the numbers. The respect earned by a sportsman is in direct proportion to the reverence with he regards his sport.
In cricket, the list of such men would be incomplete without the name of Michael Edward Killeen Hussey. He might not dominate the cricket record books. But his name will go down in the annals of cricket as a man who revered cricket and served it with utmost honesty and selflessness. If a man’s true worth is measured by the respect he commands by those he has come in contact with in his lifetime, Michael Hussey would be pronounced an international treasure by the time he turns 50.
Exaggeration apart, the former Australian batsman is indeed a treasure to any cricket team he plays for. At the IPL, the Chennai Super Kings enjoyed his inspirational team-manship for six years. Now it’s time for the Mumbai Indians to benefit from his unwavering dedication, his brilliant cricketing mind and the wealth of experience he brings with him.
Ahead of Pepsi IPL 2014, Hussey spoke to iplt20.com about the beginning of his journey with the Mumbai franchise and life after retiring from international cricket.
You’re so used to wearing the yellow jersey, at international level and in IPL. Now time to don a blue one?
Yes it will be different but I am excited by the challenge of joining a team that I have admired and respected over the six years.
What was your first reaction when you learned that this year you’ll be playing for MI?
Excited about joining the champion team and the chance to play home games at Wankhede stadium, which probably has the best atmosphere I have ever experienced.
CSK and MI have developed a rivalry in a very short time. Will it take a bit of work to adjust on the other side of the rivalry?
I don’t think so. I have had some great battles with Mumbai Indians over the years and look forward to many great battles with CSK over the next few years.
Until last year, you would often join the IPL midway due to national duties. Now it’s been more than a year since your last first-class match. Have you found it harder to maintain the extremely lofty standards of fitness that you are known for?
I have still been able to work hard on my fitness and strength and I am still playing in the Big Bash in Australia. I may be a little rusty early in the tournament but I think I won’t take long to get up to the required level.
On the other hand, does it get easier to concentrate all your energies towards working on one format?
Yes I agree. I always found it tough switching to and from the different formats of the game and I am fit and fresh and excited about getting into the action again.
In what particular way has your preparation and fitness routine changed? Any specific skill-polishing exercise that you have dropped or any that you have added to your preparation?
Yes, I guess my skill training has changed a little and is totally focused around T20 cricket and not on the longer formats of the game.
Have you been working on any of the outrageous T20 shots now that you don’t have to worry about hampering your Test technique?
Ha! Not really, I still think your basic game needs to be in good working order and then you try and adapt according to the situation of the game.
Have you considered mastering the switch-hit? It might come easier to you considered that you are a righty with the ball.
Ha, no way, I don’t know how they have the courage to play that shot.
A well known facet of your career has been how seriously you take your cricket. You’re often the first to appear for the net session and the last to go. It is said when you take something so seriously, it is difficult to enjoy what you’re doing. Does it stand true for you?
I think I have mellowed over the years and have enjoyed the game a lot more in my last few seasons. Maybe there is a lesson in that as I feel my performances have been better the more I have relaxed and enjoyed the game.
What is tougher: to take cricket out of Mr. Cricket or take Mr. Cricket out of cricket?
I think I will always be involved in cricket, I do love the game and the people involved.
Did you suffer from withdrawal symptoms after leaving Test cricket? Will playing T20s for a while longer ease you into the eventual life after cricket?
No, quite the opposite actually. I don’t miss the stress, pressure, expectation and media attention. T20 is fun and easier on the body as you get older.
Will you be exchanging some thoughts on life after international cricket from one recently retired Sachin Tendulkar?
I hope so. I am really looking forward to spending time with him and talking about life and cricket. He will probably be sick of me by the end of the IPL.
A renewed Irfan Pathan will take the field in the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League, this time for the Sunrisers Hyderabad. The all-rounder, who has had quite a few trysts with injuries over the years, has once again worked his way back to competitive cricket after another layoff late in 2013. Now, the left-arm pacer is looking forward to bowling in tandem with Dale Steyn for the Shikhar Dhawan-led side.
While speaking to iplt20.com ahead of the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2014, Irfan spoke about comebacks, his new captain and sharing the stage with the likes of Darren Sammy and Steyn.
Excerpts from his interview:
You will be donning a different jersey this time around. How does it feel?
I am looking forward to it. It is going to be very exciting. The team has done well last year and there is some exciting talent there in the team as well. There are a couple of people in the team who I know very well. It’s going to be great. I have heard they are a good franchise, and the setup there is also good.
Will you be looking forward to bowling with Dale Steyn?
That’s going to be exciting, because at the moment, he is one fast bowler doing well in all formats of the game. With the amount of effort that he gives in, there is obviously something that we all can learn from it. He is always running in hard and is always prepared. It is going to be a great experience sharing the new ball with him and sharing the ball whatever the situation is. He is the key when it comes to death bowling.
What do you expect to pick from coach Tom Moody?
I have worked with him before in Kings XI Punjab. He is knowledgeable and hard working. I am looking forward to working with him again.
You will be sharing the space with Darren Sammy, another big-hitting all-rounder.
It will be great working with him. The way he is hitting the ball, there is going to be something exciting as well. There is something very special given the way he is hitting at more than 200 percent strike rate (in the ICC WT20) right now. As a team, you can’t expect much more than that. He comes from the Caribbean, and the cricketers from there are very exciting and talented. And he is the vice-captain here, so I am looking forward to the fun and exciting times ahead.
How do you see Shikhar Dhawan as a captain? And how has he evolved over the years?
I haven’t played under him so far. He had a really great last year, and that confidence will take him a long way in terms of playing. The confidence will help.
He has evolved big time. When I played against him in 2011 and then again the next year, he was a completely different player in the way he was hitting the ball. One thing that stood out was that he was always confident. But later, he was also very clear in terms of his thought process. The way he was playing, he was very clear in that. So that actually was big advantage for him; that’s how he has evolved, I think. He is clear in his shots, clear in terms of what to do, what not to do, and is getting to know his strength. So I think knowing that has helped him in becoming a better player than what he was.
Since your comeback, you have been creating breakthroughs with the new ball in the past few games. How have you worked to be so impactful?
It is never easy when you comeback from a break, but God has been kind. Things have been working out with the work I put in with my experience and with the way things have been since I am fit now. Things have picked up and the amount of hard work that I have put in is a lot as well. I am trying to make sure that I work and concentrate on my good areas. I am making sure that I keep the basics right, like the position and the basic action. I am keeping it very simple and keeping with my basics right. Those things are helping me. I am actually trying to make sure that I make good use of the new ball; that’s very important.
What are the challenges you faced while making yet another comeback?
First of all, you need to be mentally strong when you come back from a break. Because sometimes you think about how you have to do everything again. You have through go through the process all over again. The process of coming back is very difficult. You have to put in the hard yards and you have to make sure you work from zero. After a five-month layoff due to injury, the first few sessions of bowling are hard work and you don’t know what you are doing; you have to go through that process again. Mostly what takes the toll is the mental side of it. But God has been kind and I have a good family. So that helps.
Did you have to make any changes or adjustments to your bowling style?
Obviously, I had to make a few changes in my action. There are a few adjustments that I made. Trying to make sure that I don’t throw much in terms of delivery stride. And that is actually making me bowl very efficiently with less amount of effort.
My loading, which is from the back of my head, I am trying to get it in front. When you do that, it does help because then things become very simple – you are mainly focused towards the target rather than going through side-on, and you avoid putting a load on your body as well. It makes things biomechanically simpler.