Mike Hussey is many things: a fine batsman across all three formats of the game, a solid fielder and a decent enough fill-in bowler. Plus a genuinely nice bloke by all accounts. Sadly, one thing he certainly isn’t is a raconteur. His autobiography is one of the driest books we’ve ever read. That’s not a criticism of the man – the world needs sensible people to balance out all those loonies – but it lends itself to less than fascinating insights like this:
“When we made 4/434 in our 50 overs we were pretty confident of winning. Unfortunately South Africa came out and chased it down. Ricky was angry.”
The story of Hussey’s rise to the top is particularly tough going. There’s very little in the way of tales of the misadventure of youth; instead it was school and cricket all the way for the Hussey brothers (although Dave is hardly mentioned at all). There’s a misunderstanding about foreign players going between Perth and Northamptonshire, a couple of complaints about matches ruined by horrendous umpiring (both of which also involve the words Harper and Darryl) and an ill-advised jibe at his now wife’s choice of clothing when they first met, which presumably led to Hussey spending a night or two becoming acquainted with the guest bedroom. Other than that it’s a man working hard at his cricket and eventually getting his reward.
Once Hussey has finally found his place at the top table things get a little more interesting, due to the situation in which Australian cricket found itself. Suddenly every second page is a retirement: Damien Martyn just buggers off in the night, while Warne and McGrath have a more traditional finish, basking in the adulation of the SCG after the Ashes win of 2006/7. Ricky Ponting just decides he’s had enough one day, while Marcus North just sort of melts under the pressure of being an international cricketer.
Of course, what everyone really wants to know about is the behind the scenes drama. Why did Michael Clarke and Simon Katich really fall out? That was apparently Hussey’s fault, although mainly due to a slight misunderstanding, rather than anything malicious. And the infamous boat story around Hussey’s retirement? Another minor breakdown in communication, escalated into something much more newsworthy by an email from a banker in Sydney that was mainly guesswork and largely inaccurate.
Without any real headline grabbing stories, it’s left to the cricket itself to maintain the reader’s interest. There aren’t even any pictures of Hussey mingling with celebrities, something which helps prop up even the dullest stories.
All of this sounds rather negative, as if we didn’t enjoy the book at all. Of course, that’s simply not true – who could fail to enjoy the story of Australia gradually descending into being crap, particularly when Devereux gets a couple of mentions, such as this glowing testimony to the great man during the 2010 T20 world cup semi-final vs. Pakistan:
“Steve Smith came and went, and then Mitchell Johnson came out.”
Plus there’s an amusing anecdote about an injured James Pattinson getting dressed up in whites and baggy green in order to join the team song via video link. That’s on page 300, if you just want to read it in the shop, rather than parting with your hard-earned cash.
The real disappointment is that the book doesn’t really teach us anything new about Michael Hussey. He’s reliable, dependable, sensible and lots of other things that end in -able or -ible; a real team man, always putting the needs of the team above his own; basically a coach’s dream and a publisher’s nightmare. Australia are clearly a much weaker side without him (both on and off the field), while his views on the progress of the Sheffield Shield are unsurprising and probably not far off the mark.
So there we are. Like a typical Hussey innings, the book is well put together, never rushed and goes on forever. Unfortunately, like a typical Hussey innings, it’s also driven us back to the extra-strong gin we use when we’re trying to forget what’s just happened.