The veteran Australian batsman was wary of the threat India offered, and said his team would have to adapt quickly
Group 2 of the Super Eights at the ICC World Twenty20 2012 is the veritable Group of Death, comprising India, the 2007 champion, Pakistan, the 2009 winner, Australia, the four-time ICC Cricket World Cup title-holder, and South Africa, always a force in global tournaments.
Qualification from this group to the semi-finals will be arduous task, but as Mike Hussey said on Wednesday afternoon, any team desirous of going all the way had to prove that it was the best.
“If you want to win the tournament, you got to play pretty much every one,” said Hussey, ahead of a training session at the P Sara Oval. “I don’t think only this pool is tough, the other pool has teams like West Indies, a dangerous side, and England, which is the world champion. Like I said, we got to beat the best teams in the tournament to win it.”
First up for Australia, on Friday night at the R Premadasa Stadium, is India. Hussey admitted that with the match getting closer, the pressure was building. “We are coming to a very important stage of the tournament and probably that first game is very crucial,” he said. “If we can get a winning start, then it puts us in a good position to make it to the semi-final. That first game is massive.”
India put out a revamped bowling attack against England, and saw Harbhajan Singh grab his chance with both hands. Hussey was understandably wary of the threat that India offered. “I am not sure which make-up of the team they are going to go for,” he said. “They have quality players all the way down that list and we got to adapt pretty quickly. I do suspect that they will bowl a fair bit of spin to us – not just the frontline spinners, maybe the part-timers will also bowl at us. Guys like Yuvraj (Singh), (Suresh) Raina and Rohit Sharma can bowl a bit. Even (Virender) Sehwag can bowl. We have to adapt very quickly to whoever they are going to bring on. It can be a tough challenge.
“Of course, Harbhajan is going to strengthen the team. He is a class act and has been that for a long period of time. He is someone that we respect but when you play Twenty20, you’ve got to be aggressive as well and try and put him under pressure. He did a fantastic job the other night, but I think we can play better than the English team.”
The general perception has been that with the tournament being staged in Sri Lanka, the subcontinent teams had an edge, but Hussey had a completely different take. “Not necessarily,” he said. “I think the Australian side has played very well in these conditions, especially in one-day cricket. We have had success in India, in the UAE and we have had success here, so we come in with a lot of confidence.”
Hussey has been a vital cog in the Chennai Super Kings’ wheel in the Indian Premier League, and said that experience had helped him gain better knowledge of key Indian players, especially with Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Raina in the same IPL dressing room. “It does help in getting a better knowledge, definitely,” said Hussey. “Seeing how those guys prepare and play, seeing their strengths and weakness, seeing how they train for these subcontinent conditions, it is going to be a positive. But at the end of the day, I don’t think it is a match-defining advantage because they know our players very well as well.”
Australia is heavily reliant on its top three, with Hussey coming in at No. 3 behind the explosive opening tandem of David Warner and Shane Watson. “Those two players are crucial to our chances,” he said. “If they get off to a quick and positive start, then we are in a great position. The top three or four positions in our batting order are very crucial.
Despite being one of the seniors, Hussey has adapted easily to the requirements of the newest format. “For me personally, it is great fun,” he said. “It is about challenging yourself with new skills and by being innovative and doing it under pressure. I really enjoy that. It is still a relatively new game worldwide and I am still learning and getting better. It’s about developing your game and showing those skills under enormous pressure. It is really enjoyable.”