CHENNAI: Mike Hussey shares a deep bond with Chennai. The former Australian left-handed batsman was a vital cog in the Chennai Super Kings wheel when they won the IPL titles in 2010 and 2011. Back in the city for a commentary stint in the TNPL, Mr. Cricket spoke about the parallels between Virat Kohli and Ricky Ponting’s captaincy, why Dhoni should retire on his own terms and why this is a fantastic chance for Australia to win a series in India.
Do you feel the pay dispute ahead of Australia’s sub-continent campaign will affect the team’s performance?
It wasn’t ideal and things shouldn’t have come this far. I know there were some players who got involved and voiced their opinions. However, the vast majority of the players were focused on training, hoping that the deal got done before the Bangladesh tour. Cricket Australia had its own agendas and the players had different ideas. So, it took a lot of time to get to a place where they were both happy. The players and administrators can now move on and concentrate on the game. With everyone in a happy space, the players would want to go to the middle and play.
Ever since Virat Kohli took over as captain the team has performed well. But do you think bigger challenges await him when India tour away?
I have always enjoyed Kohli’s captaincy. He has got this great will to win and I can see parallels of Ricky Ponting’s captaincy in Kohli. Ponting was always hungry for success and would keep pushing his team. MS Dhoni was a wonderful captain and it was always going to be a challenge for Kohli to fill Dhoni’s big shoes. But the good thing about Virat is he didn’t want to follow Dhoni’s methods. He has been his own man and led the side in his own way. He has been true to his own personality. India have been through the period of transition. But now, the team is a settled unit. These are exciting times for Indian cricket. The players believe in their captain and everyone has the same approach.
You have played a lot with Dhoni. Do you see him playing in the 2019 World Cup?
MS deserves to go out on his own terms. If he believes he can play the next World Cup, who is to doubt him? He is a very modest and honest man. If he thinks he cannot contribute to India’s cause in the World Cup, I don’t think he will be there. At 36, he is still one of the fittest players. He knows his game and he looks after his body well. So he knows when to call it quits.
What would be the key for Australia when they tour India for limited-overs series next month?
India have been a frontier where we haven’t done well. I know the current team is highly motivated to win a series in India. Obviously the Ashes and World Cups are prestigious, but winning in India is a huge goal for us. The hardest thing for Australians is to adapt to slow Indian pitches. But the current players have had great exposure to Indian conditions through IPL.
CSK will be back in IPL from next year. Do you think the team can be the same force again?
It’s going to be a challenge because CSK have to build the team from the scratch. Two years is a long time in IPL and the teams and players have moved on. But CSK was always a well-run team. The owners give the coaching staff complete freedom. So if they can get the right players and support staff in the right place as well this time, I don’t see why CSK cannot dominate.
Now, that you have turned into a mentor, would you be interested in becoming a part of the CSK support staff? Or do you still see yourself playing IPL?
I definitely won’t be coming back as a player (laughs). Once VVS Laxman and I were having a casual conversation and he had told me about India coach’s job. At that stage, I couldn’t devote the kind of time required for coaching India. It was one of the reasons that I retired as a player because I was away from home for 10 months. And I don’t want to be doing that again.
But mentoring is fun and is about building up a rapport. It would be wonderful to get involved. If there is an opportunity, I would be interested.