It doesn’t happen that a team comes to Australia and makes a clean sweep, in any format. India, however, achieved the impossible in the three-game Twenty20 series.
They began with two comprehensive wins at Adelaide and Melbourne, when they put the pressure on the home team with huge totals, and capped it with a thrilling chase at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have bedazzled the Aussies this winter.
Hindustan Times spoke to iconic Mike Hussey on the impact of MS Dhoni’s team Down Under. Known as Mr Cricket, the former Chennai Super Kings’ stalwart remains one of the biggest draw cards here after leading Sydney Thunders to the Big Bash title last week.
How do you rate India’s performance in this series?
They have played excellent cricket, getting a bit of momentum leading into the World T20 Cup, to be played back in India on home soil. Confidence is a big thing in sport, particularly in cricket. A confident team, with the skill and talent they have in the dressing room, is a very dangerous thing. They got a nice blend of youth and experience there as well. Some good senior heads there, who are calm under pressure, who have great experience in playing T20 cricket, and some exciting youngsters - you can see the energy coming out of it. I think they have got a lovely balance at the moment.
Dhoni started slowly, but you feel he came into his own at the end of the tour?
He is a class player. It (lower order) is one of the toughest positions to bat in T20 cricket, that No 6-7-8, to come in the last overs, we expect him to do it all the time but you can’t do it all the time. His record is phenomenal and plus he had the captaincy on top of that, where he is always planning about the game. He has been incredible really. And when he is confident, there are not too many destructive batsmen (like him) in the world. He has his confidence back up, which is pretty dangerous for the world.
Is he that type of a captain when he is performing well with the bat, he leads better?
That’s one of his strengths really, that he is very calm and he is level-headed and level-minded. Whether the team is going well or he is going well, he is a very even character. That consistency is one of the key ingredients to be a good leader. He is certainly very good at that. Particularly in a country like India where the fans are really passionate and want success all the time, for Dhoni not to get too carried away with all the hype and exposure. He is very consistent, calm and measured and an even sort of character, and that is very important.
Would you rate India as one of the favourites for the World T20?
Without a doubt: Just watching them here in Australia, seeing the balance in their squad, the blend of youth and experience, if they are confident and get on a bit of a roll, they are going to be hard to beat.
Conditions will be different in India; what will they take from these three games into the World T20?
Well, they have kept a pretty stable team, so they will have a bit of continuity about how they will be going about it, who bowls where. The role definition for each player is very important, so that each player knows who plays where. That clarity of role plus the confidence side of things, they have come to Australia and beaten Australia, it is not an easy thing to do to come here and win. They can take enormous confidence from that and take the confidence and momentum into conditions that they know a lot better. And they know they can play in these conditions probably better than anyone in the world. That is a huge advantage. But it is still going to be tough, you know T20 cricket is very tough with only small margins. A little bit of luck with you or against you can be the difference between team’s winning and losing a game.
The feature of this series has been the way the Indian top-order has batted, what’s been your impression?
They have been outstanding, I think the selectors need to be given a bit of credit there as well, particularly, how they stuck with someone like Shikhar Dhawan, who was a little bit up and down to start with when he came first here. I remember last year he came here and his performances were a little bit inconsistent but the selectors’ stuck with him, because they know he is a class player and he can come up with some match-winning performances. They performed really well. Because they know they have the faith and backing of their selectors and captain and they can out there and play their natural game.
What about Virat and Rohit?
We have known they are world class players for a long time. They are obviously very hungry, they love the contest, they love coming out here and playing in Australia. As a cricket fan I love watching both of them bat. They are different types of players but they are both very, very effective and as a lover of batting, I just love the way they go about their work.
And what about your career… great season for you in the BBL, but is this where it ends?
Yes, certainly in the BBL. But, I would like to come and play in the IPL, it is great tournament, I am in the auction so we will see what happens. I am the same like the Indian players, I love the contest between bat and ball, I like to win cricket games, while your body allows you to do it, why not? It gets harder and harder, I must admit, but it still very enjoyable when you come on top.
India may be looking for a coach post-World T20? Your name has also been doing rounds...
I haven’t even thought about it. Probably not, because it is a huge commitment, I retired from international cricket to spend more time at home, if you take that job you will be away from home for close to 12 months of the year. My initial reaction is probably not, but it certainly will be a great challenge and it will be very exciting job, but you need to be ready for that. I am not sure if I am ready for that just yet.
The advantage you have is you know a lot of these guys from playing in the IPL? That would be great for a coach coming in?
Sure, I do know quite a few guys and I have a good rapport with them. I think the most important thing is to understand the Indian culture and understand how the Indian players take and try and motivate them in that respect, rather than just coming in all guns blazing, so, who whoever the person (new coach) is should be wary of that.