Strangely, for someone with a reputation of a mid-innings grafter, Mike Hussey’s first Test hunded came as an opener, in his third of the seven innings wherein he has opened for the Baggy-Greeners. Each time, he was thrust the role as a quick-fix solution for the inadvertently injured specialist opener.
In his 157 ODI appearances, only once has opened, when they chased a paltry 91 against Ireland in Belfast. But, for Chennai Super Kings, after Stephen Fleming swapped his bat for the boardroom, Hussey has been a stationary fixture at the top.
With his background of opening for Queensland and Australia though in longer versions, and the unmistakable pedigree, the transition went unnoticed, and this despite not figuring in an entire season through international engagements.
But as he demonstrated on Thursday night in Delhi, he is proficient to the demands of an opener’s role in a format that mocks at specialisations. But not all teams are blessed with options like Hussey, and their wanton experiments are often always fraught with failure.
Like for example Manvinder Bisla, Parthiv Patel and Ricky Ponting.
Bisla, whose claim to flashbulbs was the match-winning half-century in last year’s final, bats at number seven for his domestic team Goa.
And so far this season, his returns have been meagre (38 runs at 6.80) and KKR would be prompted to displace him, should he not ressurect himself.
Cameron White, too, had a fling at the top, but despite his 34 he was reverted to the number four.
Parthiv’s a curious case, and in fairness has reasonably reposed the faith of whoever reckoned he has the requisites to open.
Essentially, a middle-order batsman — that he bats at number three for Gujarat is more an indication of the team’s overall lack of quality batsmen—he has opened for India as well as Chennai Super Kings.
But he is yet to impact a match as openers in this format are expected to.
This brings us back to Hussey’s incredible match-winning ability, irrespective of where he bats and irrespective of the format.
“The reason is simple, he has a brilliant technique, and hence can adapt to various formats and various positions with little difficulty. Like in all formats, opening in T20 is also a specialist’s job, but if you are a makeshift opener, a good technique helps,” opined former opening batsman Anshuman Gaekwad.
The gleaming example is Rahul Dravid, who has opened for both Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals with a fair degree of consistency and stability.
Then this isn’t an odd task for him since has strode down as the opener on 23 occasions for India in Tests. So has Jacques Kallis for both RCB and KKR and Mahela Jayawardene for Delhi Daredevils.
“Generally, number three batsmen can adapt to the opener’s role better than most other,” reckoned Chetan Chauhan.
But this isn’t a sure-shot dictum for success, as would corroborate Ponting, considered one of the better number three batsman in both Tests and ODIs in his era.