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A star in the shadows, legend leaves a huge void

Michael Hussey of Australia celebrates winning the Second Test matchoverSri Lanka at the MCG. Click for more photos

Mr Cricket retires

Australia's most dedicated and loved batsman Mike Hussey calls it quits while at the peak of his powers. Photo: Getty Images

The timing was so Michael Hussey. As the cricket world mourned the passing of veteran and icon Tony Greig, the veteran Australian batsman quietly announced his international retirement.

On any other evening he might have been at the top of the news bulletin. As it was he had to be content with headlining the sports segment.

Being overshadowed is nothing new this year for Hussey, nor does it appear to bother him. While a near-invincible Michael Clarke has dominated oppositions like almost no one before, Hussey has enjoyed his own standout calendar year in the background, averaging nearly 60, scoring four centuries and repeatedly helping steer Australia out of danger.

Legend ... Michael Hussey.

Legend ... Michael Hussey. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

In Sydney in January he was there, with an unbeaten 150, as Clarke pummelled his triple century against India, and Ricky Ponting made his own drought-saving ton.

In Adelaide last month there was another hundred, against South Africa, rendered almost unmentioned by a Clarke double.

In terms of shock value - of course not enormity - the pending exit from international cricket of Hussey rivals the tragic death of Greig.

Because he had been such a late bloomer at Test level, making a belated debut at the age of 30 following a one-day start at 28, the general consensus was that he would play on, probably in all three formats, until he was told he couldn't.

Fitter than many plenty of years younger than him, his body certainly seemed to have more time in it. It is also a huge surprise given the rich form he has been in.

Mickey Arthur, the Australian team coach, tweeted on Saturday night that he was shocked when told in the afternoon by the 37-year-old of his decision.

When Arthur digests the news it will dawn on him how significant a loss it is. Australia soon embarks on the most anticipated Test calendar in memory - a four-Test trip to India, followed by back-to-back Ashes series - and Hussey's departure will leave a giant hole in the middle order. And following soon after the retirement of Ponting, as well wicketkeeper Brad Haddin's dumping, a huge void in experience.

In terms of batting, the onus will now fall squarely on the next generation - David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja - to perform, in a couple of instances, just as they are trying to get their young careers going again. There will also be a greater weight on Shane Watson to provide substantive support to Clarke as the second most experienced member of the batting order.

Hussey, once he finally rose to the Test side after the most lengthy of domestic apprenticeships, began on top, averaging 86 in his first two years and becoming the fastest player to 1000 runs.

Unlike so many others before him, he is walking away truly on top.

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