Michael Hussey had scored 6235 Test runs in 79 matches at an average of 51.52    Getty Images
Michael Hussey had scored 6,235 runs in 79 Tests at an average of 51.52 Getty Images

Benjamin Franklin, the multi-faceted genius, once said, “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” The quote sits perfectly on an Australian cricketer who made his First-class debut as opener for Western Australia (WA) in 1994-95. He had to perform consistently for over a decade till when he was finally given a breakthrough in the Australian Test side in November 2005. Michael Hussey replaced his friend Justin Langer in the squad against West Indies, who had suffered a broken rib. The experience to witness one of the world s most hardworking, energetic and focussed batsman in the sport was about to begin.

With just one run in the first innings against West Indies on his debut and 29 to follow it up in the second, Hussey did not have a good start to his career. There was no indication that one of the finest left-handers of the 21st century had arrived in international cricket.

The Hobart Test that followed was Hussey s moment. West Indies were bowled out for just 149. Matthew Hayden and Hussey walked out. After a nervy start, Hussey found confidence and started middling. The short deliveries were pulled easily to the boundary as he neared his fifty. The cover-drive, the straight-drive, the glance all followed; Hussey s innings had everything. A nudge off the pads to the boundary took Huss to his first Test century. He took his helmet off and hugged Hayden, raised his hands and shouted in delight. The smile was infectious. His teammates clapped and crowd acknowledged, for the road had been tough. He was out for 137 but had put on a 231-run stand for the 1st wicket along with Hayden who also scored a hundred. Hussey was named the Player of the match.

Over years, Hussey came to be known as Mr Cricket despite his own disapproval. The moniker was perhaps a result of his tremendous enthusiasm for the game and his encyclopedic knowledge of the sport, and his stature as match-winner, team player and true gentlemen of the game. An excellent player of spin bowling, a useful finisher and quick runner between the wickets, Hussey made everything look easy not just with the willow, but while flying in the air to grab blinders as well.

He could bat all day; In the nets, in a match, anywhere; and never get tired. The only time anyone saw him fatigued was during an ODI against Bangladesh in the 3-match series at home in 2008. While still at the crease having scored 83 off 85, an exhausted, drained-out Hussey (yes, you read it right) told Cameron White, who had just made him run three runs the previous delivery: Whitey don t take another three; fours and sixes, please .

What struck the most though about Hussey s technique was his balance and follow-through. He was also an elegant stroke-maker who could get going right from the first ball, and liked to stay busy at the crease. His cover-drives were better than almost anybody’s. The way Hussey paced his innings was worth a watch as well.

There were three reasons behind his success across all three formats. First, the manner in which he varied the tempo of his innings. He began at run-a-ball but quickly raced on to put pressure right back on the opposition. Secondly, his exceptional understanding of the game (the coaching and batting consultancy offers bear testimony to this). And thirdly, the way in which he manipulated the field. Is it difficult recalling a memory of Hussey counting the number of fielders in and out of the circle, trying to spot a gap? No.

Hussey has done pretty well in the T20 format too. A format, in which not many thought he would do well. He took IPL 2013 by storm scoring 733 runs for Chennai Super Kings and finishing as the leading run-scorer. His 60 off 24 balls in the T20 World Cup 2010 semi-final against Pakistan is a part of T20 folklore. With 18 needed off the last over Hussey dished out Saeed Ajmal the worst possible treatment. He also captained Sydney Thunder to their first BBL win in 2015-16 before retiring from all formats. And if you just thought ‘Huss’ can’t bowl, he can do that too. Here’s how he sent Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara back to the pavilion.

Hussey the man is a role model for youngsters out there. He is the one whom his team looked up to as a cricket geek, a professionalist, a perfectionist. Damien Fleming s quote after Hussey announced retirement summed it all up: “Mr Cricket = efficiency, excellence, adaptability, modesty, passion, team man, Aussie + singer of Southern Cross. Well Played.”

He might have arrived late to the international cricket arena, but has certainly left his mark on the followers of the sport.

Happy 43rd Birthday Michael Hussey!

(Karan Dewan, a reporter with CricketCountry, loves following and playing sports. He is a Team India fan and loves winning. Follow him on his twitter handle @karan13dewan.)