|Player:||MEK Hussey, B Lee, RT Ponting, MG Bevan|
|Event:||Commonwealth Bank Series 2006/07|
DateLine: 23rd January 2007
His career was at the crossroads the last time Australia was preparing for a World Cup, but now batsman Mike Hussey is shaping up to be a pivotal player in his team's tilt at the tournament. In Australia's last two triangular series matches, Hussey has enhanced his reputation as one-day cricket's best finisher by steering his side to victories in tense run chases despite the failure of his team's top order. Against England last Friday, the top-ranked one-day batsman in the world teamed up with Brett Lee to get Australia home, while on Sunday against New Zealand, with just two wickets in hand, he struck a six to claim victory. In both matches, the man they call "Mr Cricket" for his thorough professionalism, remained typically cool in a crisis. The performances lifted his one-day international batting average after 52 games to a remarkable 79.94, with an equally impressive strike-rate of 91.94. There are an increasing number of experts who believe Hussey is wasted batting at No.6 in limited-overs cricket, but the man himself said he was most comfortable in that role. "I really enjoy and relish the situation (at No.6) where I can come in and try to have a positive impact on the team," he said in Sydney on Monday. Many comparisons have been drawn between Hussey and fellow left-hander Michael Bevan, who played a similar role late in the middle order in Australia's 1999 and 2003 World Cup successes. Bevan, who recently retired because he was overlooked for Australia's 30-man provisional squad for the West Indies, averaged 53.58 with a strike-rate of 74.16 in 232 one-day internationals. But Hussey has Bevan covered is in his ability to clear the fence, as evidenced by his vastly superior strike-rate. Speaking after the win over New Zealand, Ponting said Hussey was playing great cricket and had clearly emerged from the shadow of Bevan.
"He has managed to win us a lot of games off his own bat whether it is Test matches, making hundreds batting with the tail, or controlling one-day games," Ponting said. "He has just adapted to international cricket unbelievably well. He is a very good finisher. He has certainly stepped into the Michael Bevan role, and is doing probably as well as Bevan ever did." Hussey said he was flattered by the comparison. "He's an absolute champion of the game," Hussey said. "To be held in similar regard to him is very pleasing." It is hard to believe that Hussey was axed by the West Australian selectors in early 2003, after some indifferent form at domestic level. And, despite being on the fringe of international selection for some time, he was not selected for the 2003 World Cup after being named in the provisional 30-man squad. The opener took the blow on the chin and worked on reviving his career, including reinventing himself as a middle-order batsman in one-day cricket. Less than 12 months later he finally was given a chance at international level in a limited-overs match, making 17 not out to guide Australia to victory in front of his home crowd in Perth in a hint of what was to come. Hussey did not cement his berth in the Australian one-day side for another 16 months and even his strongest supporter could not have foreseen the rise in his fortunes that has followed, culminating in his recent promotion to the vice-captaincy when skipper Ricky Ponting was rested.