Australian cricket legend Michael Hussey has not ruled out a final hurrah for former Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has not played competitive cricket since the 2019 World Cup semi-final.
“You should never write off champions and champion players, and (Dhoni) has given so much to the country as a player and leader,” Hussey said on HotSpot: The Cricket Podcast hosted by sports journalist and broadcaster Chetan Narula.
“He still keeps himself in very good shape so as long as he keeps himself fit and healthy, and maybe this break is really helpful for him to rest and get a break especially from the physical side of things… because he has so much experience.”
Hussey is also fearful of the prospect of Australia hosting the T20 World Cup in October-November and thinks a 16-team event amid the Covid-19 pandemic could prove to be a logistical nightmare.
Cricket Australia itself has termed staging the T20 World Cup as per schedule an “unrealistic” target under the current circumstances but the International Cricket Council is yet to take a final call on the matter. Hussey too, doesn’t see the showpiece event taking place this year.
“I am really fearful about the T20 World Cup to be honest and the reason for that is I think it is okay to bring out one team to play international cricket and get them to isolate and stay safe and prepare well for a series,”
“But having to bring a number of teams and getting them to isolate to prepare and then move around the country to different venues I think that will be a logistical nightmare. From what we are hearing, perhaps, the T20 World Cup will have to be postponed for 2021 or even 2022.”
Hussey, though, is optimistic about India’s tour of Australia, scheduled after the T20 World Cup, going per to plan.
“I am a lot more positive about the Indian tour of Australia going ahead and the reason is bringing one team to tour here and getting them to a hub is easier. For example Adelaide Oval has just built a hotel connected to the stadium, so the Indian team could base themselves there, train and prepare for a series, and play against Australia.
“We have all got our fingers crossed, as we know that this pandemic keeps throwing these curve balls and we need to adapt and move quickly,” said Hussey.
You can watch the full interview here:
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
On India’s tour of Australia later in 2020:
I am salivating at the prospect of this series. India were sensational the last time they came to these shores, it was great to seem them win and it gave them so much belief that they could win in Australian conditions. This is going to be a different series, obviously throwing back in Steve Smith and David Warner makes Australia a much better team. The Indian bowlers will have to work harder, no question.
Although it was such a terrible situation with Smith, Warner and Bancroft going through the sandpaper saga, what it did do in that period was expose some guys to international cricket who couldn’t get an opportunity previously. You talk of Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, who were able to get back into the team and it gave them an opportunity to play a number of Tests and believe that they are good enough and grow into their roles because it is not easy just coming into Test cricket and dominating. It has helped to build the depth of the Australian team as well and I think the Australian team coming into this next Indian series will be far stronger. They have a world class bowling attack with Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon. So I think India will have to be at their best to knock off Australia this time.
On a shortened IPL window, preparation of franchises and players with lack of playing time:
It is going to be difficult and challenging but the good thing is it is a level playing field and everyone is in the same boat. So it will be the team that can adapt quickly enough to wherever the IPL is held, whether in India or in the UAE or anywhere else. You would need to adapt to the conditions very quickly and need to get our plans and preparations very sharp and switched on.
One of the advantages Chennai Super Kings will perhaps have is that we have a very experienced squad. Players that know their own game extremely well and who have played all around the world and are used to adapting to different conditions. Hopefully that will hold us in good stead as we have also had a very consistent team for a number of years, so players will know their roles and adapt accordingly.
On CSK’s strategy to build a team with older but experienced players:
We have identified that experience can be a bit under rated in T20 cricket. When we first started playing T20s, everyone thought it was going to be for the young men and women, you need to be agile and athletic, but what we sort of found that experience plays a big role. Because in T20 cricket it is a highly pressurized game and you need to be thinking clearly and making good decisions under enormous pressure.
It is a strategy that has worked for us but it will be interesting to see what the squad looks like going forward after this three-year cycle. Lot of players quite elderly so not sure if they will go another round and it will be interesting to see what direction CSK takes in the next phase because it might look very different.
On MS Dhoni’s future and if he will ever play for India again:
I am obviously not an Indian selector but I don’t think you can discount MSD. You should never write off champions and champion players, and he has given so much to the country as a player and leader. He still keeps himself in very good shape so as long as he keeps himself fit and healthy, and maybe this break is really helpful for him to rest and get a break especially from the physical side of things… because he has so much experience. It will take time to get his skills to the required level but not as long as other players who don’t know their game as well. He has a great understanding of his own game and the whole game in general. I am not worried from the skill perspective.
The only question is it is up to MSD himself really. Whether he is willing to be physically and mentally fully engaged to play for the country at the international level, then I have no doubt he can still do it. But does he want to do it? I can only talk from personal experience… once you get to a certain age it is more a mental thing. You think I don’t know if I want to put myself through that mental and physical agony that you have to go through as an international player. So you get to that stage where you have had enough of mentally doing it.
Maybe this forced break for MSD will give him an opportunity to mentally refresh and get that hunger to want to do it again. I am not writing him off no question whatsoever, but I think it is up to him, and in his mind, in his heart, whether he still wants to do it (at the international level).
On difference in captaincy styles of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma (captains he has played under) and the style of captaincy he prefers:
They are all very different characters. Ricky Ponting was so competitive and led from the front and backed his players 100%. He wanted to win so badly and dragged the whole team along with him. I would say Michael Clarke was very tactical and very good brain on the cricket field, knew when to bowl certain bowlers and things like that. MSD… he has a great intuition for the game but he is also very calm and cool, backs his players enormously and shows a lot of faith in them, and Rohit was much the same. He is very calm under pressure and tactically very sound as well. All of them had this ability to take pressure off players and I think that was a good thing.
Whether the team is going really well or going poorly, they are just consistent and calm with their personalities. Ricky, for example, whether he scored a hundred or scored a duck, he was just the same person. MSD, whether won four games in a row or lost four games in a row, he is exactly the same person. I think that is a very good attribute to have from a leadership point of view and it rubs off on everyone else on the team. If you have an emotional character as captain who is always going up and down, the team rides those waves with the captain, but if a captain is control and calm, and consistent with his personality, then that really helps the team.
An IPL XI Mike Hussey would not like to face:
In batting order (only 4 foreign players allowed):
Rohit Sharma (vice capt)
AB de Villiers
MS Dhoni (capt)
KL Rahul (12th man)
Cricket Australia financial woes...
I was surprised and a bit disappointed that Cricket Australia had a knee jerk reaction laying off so many of the staff who had worked so hard for Cricket Australia, including a lot of the coaches.
Cricket Australia have lost a bit of trust in the community with their staff, and if they want to bring them back in the future, they might have some issues there. I do understand though it is an opportunity to look at the game in Australia, and look at the programmes and structures in place and review them and see if they had got a bit fat and whether they can be sort of trimmed a little bit, just to make sure that they are not spending that they don’t need to spend.
On ICC’s substitute rule for Covid affected or symptomatic players:
If someone is not well or showing symptoms, they have got to get away from the grid whatsoever. Because of how contagious this virus is, you would think if one person has got it or is affected, with how close everyone is in proximity, it is probably going to be passed on to a number of people in the team. What are you going to do? You will have to replace 5-6-7 members of the team, that will be very tough. If someone does test positive or shows symptoms, they have to immediately call off the game. The teams will have to be separated and isolate as soon as possible. Because at end of the day, health and safety is the paramount thing. That’s the most important thing. Cricket as much as we love it, and it is important to all of us, is secondary in all of this. Health and safety is the number one thing and we don’t want to be passing on this virus to our parents, and young children, and endanger their lives.
On the ban on saliva in international cricket:
Not using saliva on the ball will be a hard habit to break. As players we have been brought since we were young to use saliva on the ball. You do it without even thinking about it. It is second nature to you and it is difficult to stop doing that but the players are aware (of the change). Thankfully they can still use sweat on the ball. Some places around the world like New Zealand or England can be a bit cooler, but generally you have some players in the team who sweat a lot. So hopefully the players can still use that to their advantage and shine the ball, because we want to see a great contest between bat and ball. That’s what the game is all about, we don’t want it to tip too far in favour of the batsmen or bowlers. We love a great contest.
For me, personally, for all the talk of ball and saliva, that’s all fine but for me, the pitches are the most important thing and what we need to pay most attention to. If you can get pitches that encourage good bounce, and has a bit of grass on it, helps the bowlers with extra swing or seam movement, if you go to India, enticing turn and spin, then that creates a great contest between bat and ball as well. One of the criticisms we have had in Australia is with drop in pitches, and they have become very much the same. They are flat and don’t do much for bowlers, are not fast and bouncy, and it really didn’t create a good contest.