Michael Hussey has left the cricket world wondering why he is retiring, rather than why not. In the midst of one of his most productive summers and with his place in the team completely beyond question, Hussey, 37, will end his international career at the conclusion of the Australian summer, meaning the New Year’s Test against Sri Lanka in Sydney will be his last.
It was a decision Hussey revealed he had all but made before the season began, and needed only a waning desire for the looming tours of India and England to confirm it. Known universally as “Mr Cricket”, this most intense and diligent Australian batsman could not find his usual enthusiasm for the 2013 schedule, and so will exit the game on top. The hole left by Hussey’s loss to the Australian batting line-up, fielding circle and dressing room is incalculable.
“I’ve known for a while that I probably wanted to finish at the end of the Australian summer,” Hussey told ESPNcricinfo. “I just wanted to see how I felt throughout he summer and my feelings hadn’t really changed. I was looking ahead to the India series and the Ashes and I didn’t have the same excitement or buzz about the challenges ahead.
“So I knew I was making the right decision because I knew my heart wasn’t 100% in spending that amount of time away from home and being excited about the challenges that are going to come forward. Not very many players get to leave on their own terms, so I’m very fortunate in that respect.
“It’s not so much a decision about how I’m playing, I still feel like I’m playing well. But it’s more to do with everything else around the game, time away from home, the constant travel, the constant training, the constant pressures and stresses involved with international cricket as well, that eventually they take their toll on you.”
There was no question about Hussey shelving Twenty20 or ODI matches to prolong his Test career, and in a way this was fitting, for no batsman in the 21st century has achieved such a revered place in all three formats of the game. Starting with the base of a pure technique fostered by opening the batting for Western Australia before he moved down the order, Hussey’s combination of placement, power and matchless running between the wickets made him a man for all situations. He can point proudly to innings as contrasting as his barnstorming 60* to steal a a World Twenty20 semi-final from under Pakistan’s noses in 2010, and his commanding 195 against England in the first Test of an Ashes series later that same year.
“I’d say looks can be deceiving,” Hussey said. “It’s certainly not easy, it’s been very tough. And all three formats are very challenging in their own right. I think it just comes down to pride in your own performance really. I’m very proud to be able to represent Australia, and you want to help Australia win games. Thats what the drive was, no matter what format of the game it was, and so I just wanted to approach every game, no matter what format it was, with that attitude. Wanting to win for Australia.”
Hussey’s sudden retirement means Australia have lost two of their most experienced batsmen this summer, following Ricky Ponting’s exit after the Perth Test against South Africa. The development will lead to a significant reshaping of Australia’s middle order ahead of a tour to India and back-to-back Ashes. While many will fear for the immediate future of the Australian team without Hussey as the glue in its middle order, Hussey is adamant he will not be one of them.
“I’m not worried about the team at all,” he said. “There’s plenty of fantastic candidates to come into the team, and I’m sure whoever comes in will do a great job, score plenty of runs and help Australia win more Test matches in the future. It’s shown in the history of the game that players come and go but the game continues on, and it’ll be no different with me. There’ll be a new player come in and represent Australia with the same pride and passion as I have.”
That pride was personified in Hussey’s role as the singer of the team song after a victory, a role handed down sparingly down the years from its origins with Rod Marsh. Others to have taken the role include Allan Border, David Boon, Ian Healy, Ricky Ponting and Justin Langer – rare company in which Hussey is most certainly not out of place.
“The opportunity to wear the baggy green cap is the proudest thing, and then to prove to myself and the world that I could perform with that cap on, that gives me enormous pride,” Hussey said. “Then being able to play with some of the true legends of the game, guys like Warne and McGrath, Ponting, Hayden, Gilchrist etc, that makes me very proud I’ve been able to play with those guys, and lastly having the honour of leading the team song is something I’m very proud of as well.”
CA chief executive James Sutherland said of Hussey: “Affectionately known as “Mr Cricket”, he has always been thoroughly committed to meticulous preparation and the highest levels of physical fitness which have in turn delivered consistent performances in all forms of the game.
“An incredibly reliable player and leader within the Australian cricket team, Michael will retire from Test cricket with a record that puts him amongst the very best Australian batsmen of all time. Beyond his contributions to team success, he will be remembered for the way he has carried himself on and off the field – and in doing so he has won the respect and admiration of players, officials and fans all around the world.”
Having made his ODI debut in February 2004, Hussey was belatedly awarded a Test cap in November 2005, having scored 15,313 runs at first-class level to earn it. He flirted with losing his place in the Test team during a dip in form during 2008 and 2009, but saved his place with a century in the final Ashes Test of that year, and went on to prove a pivotal component in the regeneration of the team under the captaincy of Michael Clarke.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo.