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The man who made Mr Cricket

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Tom Fordyce | 11:53 UK time, Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Perth, Western Australia

Mike Hussey, Mr Cricket, The Huss. In a dismal Ashes summer for the home side so far, he has been almost the sole Australian success story. Here in Perth, at his home ground of the Waca, he is primed to lead the long-awaited Aussie fightback.

Except, had it not been for a very stubborn office manager at the local branch of Australia Post 30 years ago, he might never have picked up a cricket bat, let alone been wearing the Baggy Green.

"There was a very competitive annual cricket match that took place at the Post, where I worked, between the planning department and the building department," recalls Ted Hussey, father to the nation's best current batsman.

"I told them I didn't play cricket but they then told me either I'd play or I'd get posted to Wyndham, 3,000 miles to the north, the following Monday. So I had to play."

Ted was a talented young sprinter and athlete but had never bowled a cricket ball in his life. So he went out into the back yard of his house, shoved a lump of wood in the hands of his three-year-old son and started flipping bits of gravel at the wall behind him.

"They were lumps of blue metal that they make roads from over here," he says. "I just wanted to practice throwing these rocks. Then I noticed that Michael was middling them all, every time, with the lump of wood in his hand."

The match did not go well for Ted. He was out first ball, given a token dog's life and then dismissed second ball as well.

"I got in my car and went home, telling myself I'd never ever have anything to do with this stupid game again. I drove up the driveway and Mike is standing there, holding the bit of wood. As I get out of the car, he comes over and says, 'Will you play cricket with me, Dad?' We never looked back."

I am sitting with Ted, a white-haired but immensely chipper gentleman, in the Lillee and Marsh Stand at the Waca. Intrigued by what has made his son the cricketer and man he is, I had dug out a number for him on arriving in Perth and called more in hope than expectation. Two days later, I am enjoying a quintessential afternoon of Australian affability and warmth.

Forty metres away, the groundstaff are putting the final touches to the Test wicket. The outfield is lush, the stands are spotless. Mike learned his cricket on a rather different pitch. The Hussey oval was the concrete driveway at the family's home in Mullaloo, 10 or so miles to the north-west, the equipment basic at best.

"His uncle made him a bat out of an old window jamb," recalls Ted. "Then we got a brick and wedged three stumps into holes in it so he could use it on the concrete."

David and Mike Hussey were always trying to outdo one anotherDavid and Mike Hussey were always trying to outdo one another. Photo: Getty Images

Two years younger than Mike, younger brother David was the next key component. Now aged 33, he has more than 11,000 first-class runs to his name, with a current first-class average of 55 to go with his 40 centuries. Back then, he was merely the junior partner in endless - and vicious - bouts of backyard cricket.

As with garden games many of us played as kids, idiosyncratic rules were invented to take account of the unique playing surface. If the ball went over the fence, you were out. All edges and nicks were assumed caught. The best line to bowl was bang on middle stump, where gaps in the concrete slaps could make the ball jag sharply either way.

"Some people would say the competitive spirit between the two of them was strong. Their mother and I would call it murderous," says Ted.

"Cricket was all very serious between the two of them. Dave would always maintain he was never out, and so Mike would threaten him. I've seen Dave hiding in my car with all the doors locked so he couldn't be got.

"We even had to have an actual punch bag hanging up at the house that they had to take their turns at every day, rather than punching one another out."

Even at that early stage, the characteristics that would define Mike as a Test batsman were evident.

"They were both dedicated to playing cricket well, and doing it properly, but they're two very different boys," Ted told me.

"For Mike, playing a game of cricket was almost a religious experience. It must be done properly. You'll have seen the way he weighs his bat and that sort of thing. Things have to be perfect, in everything he does. Dave being Dave, he was much happier running about and smacking somebody behind the ear, get into a fight, back out and let somebody else finish it off. It was one bit of fun after another. He just wants to beat you."

The two brothers shared a bedroom early on, to leave room for their younger sisters, Kate and Gemma. While David had posters of Australian Rules heroes like Tony Lockett on his wall, Mike's focus was absolute.

"He had his cricket books, histories of the game, histories of the counties in England and all that sort of thing. Lord's was pretty important to him when he was a kid. He always had that sort of ambition that he was going to play in England."

For most of his early life, Mike was a right-handed batsman. But even that most fundamental of traits was open to influence from the greats of the game.

"I can remember the moment when he said it. He was only 11 but he said, 'Dad, I'm going to be a left-handed batsman.' It was because he wanted to be like Allan Border. He's learned a lot off Allan over the years - watching him on television, reading about him."

The Hussey boys' sibling rivalry and the inimitable backyard Tests they inspired are reminiscent of the accidental hot-housing enjoyed by other Australian cricket families. A decade before, the four Waugh boys - Steve, Mark, Dean and Danny - were honing their skills in exactly the same fashion in the western Sydney suburb of Panania. Two decades further back, in a coastal suburb of Adelaide, the three feisty Chappell lads - Ian, Greg and Trevor - were going at each other even harder.

"As they got older and they were playing for [local club] Wanneroo, they'd have their mates coming over and playing cricket on the drive as well, all young teenagers, 11 or 12 of them, all out there," remembers Ted.

"By this stage, they're using a tennis ball with electrical tape on one side to make it swing. Quite seriously, there was no way in this world that I was going to face them. They were downright dangerous.

Ted HusseyTed Hussey had no interest in cricket until his boys took up the game.

"We thought by the time they were playing A grade cricket in their later teens that the competition had subsided a bit because they were leading different lives and had different lives outside cricket.

"Then one Saturday morning, Mike took off for a game at Scarborough for Wanneroo. Then Dave pops his head in and asks me to give him a lift to the game. I wondered why he hadn't got a lift with his brother. Turned out they'd had a fight - a real ding-donger.

"We get to the game. The opposition had virtually a state team playing for them. Wickets go down and the two boys end up batting together. Mike hit a two. Then Dave hit a three. Mike hit a three, so David hit a four. Next time there's one going over the top for six - that's Dave trying to outdo his brother.

"It went on all day. Mike make made a 100, Dave made 80. Wanneroo won the game. They're good mates now - very very good mates. Mind you, they are grown men..."

Ted, having previously had no interest in cricket, used his knowledge of athletics to work on his sons' footwork and fitness. There were sessions on the sand dunes at Mullaloo beach to supplement the driveway epics, all-day nets at first Whitfords cricket club and then Wanneroo.

"By four years of age, they could both run well. If you can run well, you're going to be balanced. If you're balanced, your feet are going to work when you're batting and you're going to be balanced when you're hitting the ball."

While both boys were talented squash players - Mike ranked second in Western Australia as a 12-year-old, David first - and decent Aussie Rules footballers, they both decided to focus solely on cricket from their mid-teens.

By 16, they were playing serious grade cricket against grown men.

Did Ted guess then that both would represent their country? He shakes his head.

"Every father hopes," he says. "But I was too realistic to have an expectation that it would happen. I coached athletics for 25 years to a national level and I know how many slips there are between the cup and the lip.

"What you look for is sound technique, you look for them to be fit and for them to be playing the game as it's supposed to be played. As boys, they were doing that and they've continued to do that as men."

How does it feel now, when one son is his country's best current batsman and the other the leading run scorer in last season's Sheffield Shield?

"You can't help but be proud and I'd be being false with you if I didn't say that we were," says Ted. "The biggest moment in all that was when they both got a game for Australia against India in the first Twenty20 international played in Australia. To sit in the Melbourne cricket ground, 80,000 people there, and the two of them walk out in Australia gear on - mate, that takes your breath away."

And what of the nicknames? If Mike is Mr Cricket, what does that make Ted - Father Cricket? Mr Cricket Snr? The proud father snorts.

"Mike doesn't like that name very much," he says. "I think he holds the greats of the game in too much esteem to ever consider himself to be one of them. Anyway, it doesn't work like that. Dave would do something for Victoria and it would always be: 'Dave Hussey, brother of Mike...'. So his nickname became B.O.M. In our house, my wife Helen is M.O.M, there's S.O.M. for his sisters. I'm D.O.M - dad of Mike, We're all 'of Mike' now."

You can hear the full interview between Tom and Ted on Test Match Special during the lunch session at the third Test.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Wonderful story about one the Game's Nice guys. Hope he makes a pair.

  • Comment number 2.

    Awesome stuff TF! Love to hear this sort of insight into the players. Long been a fan of the Hussey brothers, and although Mike has been a thorn in our sides so far, he has proven his quality.

    @ R-Brooker - "Hope he makes a pair." Had me rolling!Lol

    Keep up the excellent blogs TF, some really great articles so far this tour.

  • Comment number 3.

    interesting on Huss or Mr Cricket ! Its a pity he was playing in the same era as Langer, Hayden and Ponting for Australia to make a belated start in test cricket

    Amazingly his century at the last series in the Oval saved his test career after a poor series much like Hayden's four years earlier.

    Another century in the First test this series again has extended his test career for longing when there were calls for him to be dropped again for good

  • Comment number 4.

    Speaking as a father who has two sports mad sons (who will never play cricket for England) I can relate to Ted Hussey. Everyone is the same underneath, successful or not, but its nice to see success worn lightly and you strongly get the feeling that the Hussey's haven't been spoiled in the process.

  • Comment number 5.

    Remember being coach by him a couple of years ago in Western austalia, he was awesome truely great guy!

  • Comment number 6.

    Excellent blog Tom - great post #1

    As a Notts fan, I have seen David play and he is a great competitor and a nice bloke. Whenever I have seen Mike play, you are always thinking.. please get him out..but at the same time admire his skill and tenacity.

    If the Aussies fail again with the bat, I hope Mike keeps it interesting so at least it will be a test match instead of a walkover.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good blog, must be an unbelievable feeling watching your sons turn out for your national side.

    However, as I have had a substantial bet on England winning the series (not just retaining the Ashes)I'm hoping that Mr Cricket has a bad day for once, if he fails then I would imagine that the rest of the Aussie side will follow, seeing as he's been the only consistently half decent player that they've had so far.

  • Comment number 8.

    Great blog, good insight into the life of Mr Cricket and the 'of Mikes'. Both class players, have wathced in distress as David piled up the runs against Durham many a time. Mike is one of the best players to watch when he's at his best, having said that I must second that earlier post:

    HOPE HE GETS A PAIR!

  • Comment number 9.

    One of the best articles I've read on the BBC in a while. If the rest of the coverage, and the action, from the ashes is this good then we're in for a treat.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think its fair to say M.O.M [Mike of Mike] is a fantastic cricketer who is loved the world over - he is one of those who transcends national rivalries.

    His brother must also be proud of his own record and that of his older sibling.

    However, Mike of Mike needs to get zero runs, drop his catches and fluff his fielding chances for the next 2 months to really remain loved over here. The man hasn't read the script this time, all australia's players are supposed to have a dip in form to payback their glory years.

  • Comment number 11.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 12.

    Slightly surprising that with a faltering batting line-up we've got a guy averaging 56 in first-class cricket not even considered. He's not as good as Mike but he's better than several of the current side.

  • Comment number 13.

    Yep, good one PS

  • Comment number 14.

    Hope he gets a pair!!!

    :-)

    Forders, I'll add to the praise for your blogs and up that with praise for your in-match tweets. Would still like to see you live updating again though in tandem with Mr. Dirs. Bet he's livid that you got to go down under for the entire tour while he sits and types in Blighty!!

  • Comment number 15.

    cheers for turning up papa.

    Really good article, as people have said before this, what a feelign to see your two boys walk out for theair national side. Who are the greatest sporting siblings? They both have to contribute, so Schumachers I think can be ruled out. Molinaris could yet be! Hollioakes? Underwoods? Quinnells? For me it'd be the Williams sisters probably at the moment. Although I've probably forgotten some massive names!

  • Comment number 16.

    The Charlton brothers?

  • Comment number 17.

    But agree Williams sisters probably most successful.

  • Comment number 18.

    Good few cricketing examples especially Aussie, Chappells, Waugh for example. Williams sisters would take some beating as greatest siblings in sport though especially considering their longevity.

  • Comment number 19.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 20.

    #11.

    It's the umpire's job to give batsmen out. Not the batsmen's. Not walking does not in the least detract from a cricketer's character or qualities.

  • Comment number 21.

    It's the Lillee-Marsh stand at the WACA.

  • Comment number 22.

    Great blog as always,

    Papa Shango strikes again. Can't wait for a blog on Tendulkar, Sir Don Bradman, Lara and co so you convince us all why they are all the most over rated players in the history of cricket.

    Keep it up Tom

  • Comment number 23.

    Great blog Tom; very interesting to hear about how the Hussey brothers got into the game.

    #1 - You made me laugh out loud. I've always liked M.Hussey but after 3 good knocks he is due a failure and I hope he gets at least one in Perth!

    A bit of a far out suggestion but if Hughes fails again as a Test opener (which is not out of the question), would you move Mr Cricket up to open and bring in a middle order batsmen, such as Dave Hussey (aka B.O.M.), to strengthen the team? Whilst B.O.M. has not played Test cricket he's got a lot of experience and maybe Australia need that rather than guys with next to no f-c experience.

  • Comment number 24.

    Brilliant article Mr Fordyce. Not only did you allow for the pride of Mr Hussey to shine through, but also talked about previous history of siblings, as well as talked about the true brilliance of both Husseys. I genuinely believe this to be one of the best bits of journalism I've ever read. While you add humour with so many of your articles and updates, it's always nice to see a story that is worth reading, rather than a boring football story. Coming from a passionate football fan, it shows how great cricket writers are. Keep up the good work!

    As for sporting siblings, this ranks just outside the top 3: Charltons, Waughs and Williams'. I would have to say Waughs is the best combination, because although the other two have been at the top of their game, the Waughs were instrumental in one of the greatest test teams of all time.

  • Comment number 25.

    Is Ted Hussey really Bob Willis in disguise?

  • Comment number 26.

    #25. LOL :-)

  • Comment number 27.

    On a totally unrelated note, Tom...or anyone....I completely forgot about it. Any idea where I can download the Langer and Hayden Reunited podcast? Really want it and it's come off the BBC website.

    Ta.

    And roll on 2.30 am.

  • Comment number 28.

    you want Mr Cricket to get a pair ? so do i a pair of hundreds go Huss

  • Comment number 29.

    Made for great reading. The 'online community' is no small part of Cricket's attraction, especially when you're removed from the action. Bring it on.

  • Comment number 30.

    I could never understand why Mike Hussey wasn't called up to the test squad at an earlier age. Granted, it was already an exceptional squad, but I remember as far back as 2003 that this was the Australian batsman that filled me with most fear as an Englishmen. At the time, I was both grateful and mystified that he was being overlooked but that was soon blended with sympathy for a man who clearly deserved a chance to play at the top level. Now there is no-one in their team that I would rather see do well.

  • Comment number 31.

    Articles like this one are the reason why I get all my sports news on BBC Sport. Fine work, Tom, thank you.

  • Comment number 32.

    It's getting late!

  • Comment number 33.

    Interesting story! What a whacker, Mike wouldn't carry Dave in his car, so Dave had to call on his Dad for a lift to the ground. The two bat together and win the game for Wanneroo on the steam of their mutual rivalry!

    Small episodes make legends, hey!

    Good narrative Tom.

  • Comment number 34.

    Ahh! A blog that warms you down to your very bones. Lovely stuff Mr Fordyce. Great effort to get hold of an interviewee who has a relevant, interesting and enjoyable story to tell rather than the majority of modern cricketers (though not all, I hasten to add).

    Agree with many's stated desire for Huss to get a pair. Nice bloke and all that, but still....

    Re. the little debate above about whether a batsmen should walk or wait for the umpire to raise the finger. I'm fairly relaxed about this, esp with the review system, however I do feel that when a batsmen has publicly supported his captain in suggesting that batsmen should trust fielders when they claim a catch hasn't been grounded, then he might want to demonstrate his integrity in all aspects of the game.

  • Comment number 35.

    Yes, lovely story. Thanks.

  • Comment number 36.

    #11
    Your pointless agitating by making ridiculous statements is thoroughly boring. Its blatantly obvious that you're doing it deliberately, but frankly, you are the lowlight of this series. If I never see your name on another BBC blog again, it'll be too soon. I'm sure you are having a great laugh at getting people talking about you, but frankly I'd rather people were talking about the cricket, not you.

    Do us all a favour and clear off.

    On a more positive note, its fascinating how many Australian cricketers started their development in their backyards against a wall or whatever and honed their technique. It's a bit like how footballers in this country of yesteryear would grow up playing football in the street where they lived. Can you imagine how badly Australia would be doing sans Hussey. They wouldn't be making 150, let alone 260 odd.

  • Comment number 37.

    #27
    Go to the cricket page, and the Langer/Hayden podcast is available on there.

  • Comment number 38.

    Re. #11 - please don't feed the troll.

    Once again Hussey rides to Australia's rescue. If it weren't for Hussey and Haddin this series would have been decided by now. And once again Swann makes the vital breakthrough in nailing Hussey.

    Delighted to see that Anderson is still in the rich vein of form he's displayed so far this series, and that the jet lag really hasn't been a problem. And a splendid return to Test cricket for Chris Tremlett. I can only imagine what the Aussie batsmen are thinking seeing that giant of a man thundering up to bowl to them on a nice spicy pitch.

    If England can nail a 450+ total this match is only ever going one way.

  • Comment number 39.

    I really enjoyed this, thanks for a really enjoyable read.

 

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