Michael Hussey retired from international cricket in 2013 but has since been involved with the game in various capacities. He was active as a player till the Caribbean Premier League in 2016, even at the age of 41. Off the field, he has taken up roles as batting consultant with South Africa and Australia for short periods, apart from serving in some administrative capacities; he was director of cricket for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League and also appointed to lead a review of Tasmanian cricket after a sustained period of underachievement.
Outside of all this, the former Australian batsman has also tried his hand at commentary, as he did for a short while in the Champions Trophy in England and Wales. On the sidelines of the tournament, Hussey spoke to Wisden India about his retired life and how he adjusts to the constantly changing roles. Excerpts:
You’ve been handling very different roles since your playing days for Australia. How has retired life been?
I guess that was my plan really. It’s a difficult time when a player retires, that transition period into something else. Half the battle is figuring out what you want to go into and what you want to do. My plan was to try out a bit of everything and see what I love the most. Still working my way through that. I’ve loved all the different roles to be honest. I’ve really enjoyed the coaching side, I’ve enjoyed the media side and I’ve also enjoyed some of the administrative side of things as well.
From a cricket point of view, I’m still no closer to figuring out.
On what happens to South Africa in crunch games
If somebody had that information, they would probably be well employed by Cricket South Africa now. But it’s bizarre really, because they’ve got so much talent in that team and so many quality players. I’m sure it’s got to be a mental thing. It has to be about just being able to let go and play freely and play with confidence in those big matches.
Not even a slight hint?
I’m finished playing but I’m still mixed up with the Sydney Thunder team as director of cricket there. I’m still actively involved with the game in that way. But no, maybe just keep doing as much as I can is the way to go. Don’t need to lock down to one particular job, just do a bit of everything. I’m not sure, I don’t know!
Your roles as consultant have been short and specific. How do you adjust and approach such roles when there’s no long path?
It’s difficult, I must admit. And it’s not ideal. You know, coaching is about developing relationships and building rapport and trust with the players, and it takes time. So to come in for such short bursts is not ideal. But in the same breath, sometimes for teams it’s good to get fresh eyes, a different voice because sometimes they just get the same voice all the time. Sometimes it’s nice to mix that up with a fresh face coming in.
Those short bursts are probably easy within the Australian set-up, but how different was the stint with South Africa?
I really enjoyed it actually. I knew the Australian set-up and how Australian cricket runs but it was good to see how a different nation runs things. In a lot of ways it was very similar but in a lot of other ways it was very different. Particularly on the cultural side of things with different religions, races and colours of players in there. So that was a real eye-opener for me. I probably learned a lot more off them rather than the other way around!
But such roles are created for them to learn more from you. Did you feel that happened?
You probably have to ask them! I think basically it was in the 2015 World Cup which was in Australia. And they wanted some insights into playing in Australian conditions, playing one-day cricket and getting some background info there. So from that point of view, I hope it was helpful. But then also, they’ve got some really new young players that I had an opportunity to just start building a rapport with, start talking to and start building a relationship with watching their games and adding some insights. And also talking about different match situations and how to handle pressure situations in one-day cricket. Yes, I was willing to give as much as I had.
You mentioned pressure situations. You’re from a country that lifts themselves in such situations. What happens to South Africa?
If somebody had that information, they would probably be well employed by Cricket South Africa now. But it’s bizarre really, because they’ve got so much talent in that team and so many quality players. I’m sure it’s got to be a mental thing. It has to be about just being able to let go and play freely and play with confidence in those big matches. That’s the thing they’re working on all the time but at top level sport, it’s tough. You just have to be one per cent off and the other team can come through and win.
I think the more you make of it, the more of an issue it becomes. Whereas if they just keep going about playing their natural games, I’m sure they’ll be fine. And they’ll break the hoodoo, I have no doubt about that. They’ve got the quality there.
On batsmen becoming more dynamic
They’re taking the game forward a lot quicker. They’re not scared if they’re chasing down 11 or 12 an over in the last 15 overs. When I was coming through, those situations were panic stations!But these guys don’t seem to panic. They back their ability and back their skills to smash the ball out of the part.
Do they complicate it too much by going on talking about it?
It’s hard for them because the media bring it up every single time.
Yeah, we do that…
Well I’m in the media too now! It comes up all the time. And rightly so too I guess, until they do get over the hoodoo I’m sure it will always be there, but, as I said, I’m sure they will break it because they’ve got the quality there.
Did Australia approach such tournaments differently?
I don’t think we necessarily ‘lifted’ our games. We just kept trying to play as well as we possibly could. It’s another game and it’s another opportunity to go out there and express your skills. We try not to put any more on it because you don’t need any more pressure on you as an international player. It’s about going out there, playing another game of cricket, putting all those external distractions out of your mind and playing as hard as you possibly could. We were lucky that we had a lot of great players that were very good at that. They were very good at just not worrying about all the external pressure and just going out there and playing as hard as they could, and they obviously had the talent to be able to execute it.
Tell us about your experience in the commentary box. Do you prepare meticulously – like how you did during your playing days?
I just love to come to the game and watch the different players. It gives me an opportunity to go out there and talk to the players coming through now and get their insights into the game. I just love sitting up here, watching the game and pass my insights to the public out there. It’s almost like trying to educate and coach the public out there, really! I prepare, I keep an eye on all the games but I don’t want to think too much about it as well. I just want to call what I see out there.
Watching from the outside, were you surprised there weren’t been too many massive scores in the Champions Trophy?
I guess it goes to show that these are quality teams. You look at Pakistan, they were ranked No. 8 and they knocked over South Africa. The difference between No. 8 and No. 1 and 2, there can be not much in it. A lot depends on the pitches – if they have not been as true, you’re going to see lower scores. But it makes the cricket outstanding.
On being a short-term batting consultant
Coaching is about developing relationships and building rapport and trust with the players, and it takes time. So to come in for such short bursts is not ideal. But in the same breath, sometimes for teams it’s good to get fresh eyes, a different voice because sometimes they just get the same voice all the time.
Do you think this is turning into a batsman’s generation?
I don’t necessarily agree. I think the pitches have been pretty good and they’re bringing the boundaries a little bit inside and the bats have got bigger, which has helped them.
The thing that really stood out for me in the last couple of years is that the players are a lot more dynamic. They’re taking the game forward a lot quicker. They’re not scared if they’re chasing down 11 or 12 an over in the last 15 overs. When I was coming through, those situations were panic stations! But these guys don’t seem to panic. They back their ability and back their skills to smash the ball out of the part. Having said that, sometimes if you go too hard, you can get bowled out very cheaply as well.
But the bowlers are starting to come back a bit, they’re developing new balls and finding different ways to get batsmen out. Plus the bat restrictions are going to come in now so that will help bring the bowlers back into it a bit as well.
You’re happy with that?
I think so. We just want to see a good contest between bat and ball. We don’t want to get too far away, so I honestly think the bowlers will certainly come back stronger from this period.