Michael Hussey misjudged the skier a little as he started his sprint from deep backward square. The Australian eventually managed with a full length dive to dismiss Mandeep Singh, but his real contribution would come later; with the bat, when he scored a match-winning 56 off 46 balls in a “high-pressure” chase against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday. Four days from now, Hussey will turn 40. But he showed the energy and exuberance of youth. Great players revel in rolling back the years.
Hussey had to wait for four months to play a game. Retired from international cricket, Big Bash and IPL are his tenuous links to real-time action. He played for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League last season and scored 177 runs in six matches at a strike-rate of 142.74. His age notwithstanding, Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni was very keen to reacquire his services for this year’s IPL.
In his second stint with CSK, Hussey’s role has changed. Now it’s basically about providing experience and tactical inputs, and mother-henning the young players in the team. At the same time, Dhoni knew Hussey could be his go-to man top of the order after Brendon McCullum’s departure.
Hussey’s last match in the Big Bash was on January 22. Lack of proper game-time was a serious issue when he was picked to play against Kings XI Punjab on May 16. He looked shaky and hesitant and got out early. In Qualifier 1 against the Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium, the veteran left-hander showed signs of old. But after hitting a six and a four, he edged one from Vinay Kumar to the keeper.
Chennai kept faith in him. Hussey had to play a substantial role in a win-or-bust contest against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. On a slow and spin-friendly surface, it was imperative that he hung on to see off Yuzvendra Chahal’s threat. Hussey faced 12 balls from the Bangalore leggie and scored 21 runs (two sixes). Hugely important in the context of the game.
After the match on Friday, Hussey admitted it was not easy for him to get into the groove. “It was a difficult job, yes certainly. But I’ve been practising everyday. So I was reasonably well-prepared. It’s great to contribute in difficult conditions and in a big game. It was a satisfying knock. I had to sit and wait for my opportunities. I’m really pleased with the effort.”
‘A balancing act’
McCullum’s job was to provide impetus upfront. Hussey’s brief is to bat through the innings. To repair the damage the way he did after Faf du Plessis and Suresh Raina were dismissed inside three balls. He did the “balancing act” of anchoring the innings and upping the ante to perfection.
Off to the final now. Two years ago at Eden Gardens, he finished on the losing side as Mumbai took the cup. Hussey was cleaned up by a Lasith Malinga special. Does he have a score to settle this term? Mumbai discarded him after just one season, but to be fair to their team management, Hussey didn’t have a great IPL last year, scoring 209 runs from nine matches at a strike-rate of 114.83.
Playing for Chennai, however, is different. He’s part of the fabric of the yellow army, having played all his IPLs, barring one, for them. He will be keen to avenge the 2013 final loss. And Hussey feels this IPL is somewhat following the pattern of Season 6.
“Two years ago, we had beaten the Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 1 and they went on to defeat us in the final. On this occasion, we lost to them in the Qualifier so hopefully, it will be our turn to win the final now,” Hussey said in a lighter vein.