New Delhi: Mike Hussey, who has a fair idea about the current crop of India players, feels that all-rounder Hardik Pandya’s absence will “hurt” the visitors in the upcoming Test series against Australia. The series starts on December 6 in Adelaide. Pandya is undergoing rehabilitation after suffering a lower-back injury during the Asia Cup in Dubai last September.
“I think Hardik is a wonderful talent and I am sure his game style would have been suited to the Australian conditions. Add to that, the balance he offers the team with his all-round abilities, yes I think his absence will hurt India,” Hussey told PTI in an exclusive interview. India have a good chance of doing well against a depleted Australia but ‘Mr Cricket’ is confident that the home team’s seasoned bowling attack will test some of the younger batsmen in the visiting team.
India are being dubbed as favourites in many quarters primarily due to the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner. But India could face a different challenge with the likes of Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant and Hanuma Vihari set to face Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon for the first time. “I do think India have a good chance as they have an excellent team with some very good fast bowlers. However, I think Australia’s bowling attack is world class and will challenge the Indian team, particularly the younger players in Australian conditions. Australia always play well at home and hence will be very hard to beat.”
Virat Kohli remains the biggest threat to Australia having scored four hundreds during the 2014-15 series and Hussey reckoned that the home team bowlers need to be patient against the Indian skipper. “The Australians will prepare well against Kohli, but it comes down to execution. In my view the Aussies need to be incredibly patient and disciplined for long periods of time against a world class player like Kohli,” said the 43-year-old, who has played 79 Tests and 185 ODIs for Australia.
India’s 1-4 series defeat against England will have no bearing on the Australia series as the scoreline is not an accurate representation of how well India competed, said the former left-hander. “It’s a completely new series in completely different conditions. I think India played some brilliant cricket in England but unfortunately, the results didn’t go their way,” opined Hussey.
The ball-tampering saga is a thing of past and Hussey has faith in the current team’s abilities even though Smith and Warner’s absence will continue to be a big factor. “It has been a tumultuous period for Australian cricket both on and off the field but I think the controversy is behind us now and everyone involved can just focus fully on the cricket. Australia will of course miss Warner, Smith and Bancroft.”
Unlike some of the experts who are still not convinced about Tim Paine’s leadership skills, the current Test captain has Hussey’s vote of approval. “I wouldn’t underestimate Tim Paine, he is an excellent competitor and will be up for the fight against India. Yes, he has the mental strength to lead this Australian side,” he asserted. There were talks about an early return of Smith and Warner but Hussey made it clear that he doesn’t see that happening with the duo requiring to play Sheffield Shield to stage a Test comeback.
“Personally, I don’t see that happening, however I would love to see them integrated into domestic cricket earlier, in particular the Sheffield Shield competition.” The Indian bowling attack has been top notch in all away series but Hussey wants the Australian batsmen to look at the upcoming series as an opportunity to cement their place in the side.
“The batting will be tested against an excellent Indian attack but there are some great opportunities for Australian batters to cement a place in the team with some big runs. So motivation will be high.” Hussey doesn’t believe in terms such as ‘x-factor’, which is a buzzword in cricketing sides across the globe.
“There doesn’t need to be an x-factor player, Australia need all players down the list to contribute to the team cause and play their role well.” Australian cricket is going through transformation and a cultural review has been done, which has been critical of earlier teams’ theory of “win at all costs”.
Words like “Elite Honesty” adorn the dressing room walls but Hussey revealed that this is nothing new with Australian cricket teams, only that it’s now out in public domain. Has there been an over-correction? “No, I don’t think there has been an over-correction as there were all these kind of statements and quotes around when I played also but ours weren’t put out there in the public domain.”
So will the Aussies sledge? Hussey replied: “There will be an adjustment period for the team with regards to how far they can push the line but they will compete very hard.”