Big Bash League 2015/16: Mike Hussey's mission to add lightning to Sydney Thunder

As captain of Sydney Thunder's Big Bash League team, Michael Hussey's mission is to help the squad's younger players overcome the doubts that tormented him - including the secret fear he wasn't good enough to play for Australia. But, there's a catch.

The players have to come to him or South African great Jacques Kallis, another mentor who is prepared to share the secrets of surviving what can be a brutal life as a professional cricketer.

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"As a player, the game is hard enough," said Hussey ahead of the BBL season's opening match on Thursday between the Thunder and Sydney Sixers at Spotless Stadium. 

"You see so many good and talented players and they don't know how to handle the external distractions; dealing with the media, being in the spotlight, travel, playing different formats and performing under different coaches.

Experience: Mike Hussey (pictured with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in October) is looking forward to a mentoring ...
Experience: Mike Hussey (pictured with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in October) is looking forward to a mentoring role with the Thunder's youngsters. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

"You see so many talented guys and think 'far out', you wish you could shake them to disregard those distractions and focus on the game because that's one of the biggest challenges of having success at the highest level. 

"I never thought I was quite good enough, certainly not when I was playing for Australia. When you come back a level you know you're good enough to be [back] there but [for Australia] there's that 'am I good enough?' fear. 


"I've had that throughout my career and I reckon many people are crippled by those fears and doubts and can't get the best out of themselves. Although, I learnt to deal with them over time."

At 40,  Hussey wants his farewell BBL campaign to be remembered as a time when the Thunders' players grilled him for insights.

"But they have to want it," he said. "That's one of the philosophies at the Thunder, the players have to ask and while I know some people might say it's intimidating for a young bloke to talk to Jacques Kallis about batting, that's the environment we're creating here ... if you want to learn you have to come and talk to us.

"We want to create an environment where that's the norm, an open forum where players feel as though they can grab Kallis, grab Usman Khawaja and talk about batting and any fears and doubts they may have.

"What a lot of people didn't see last summer was how good [Kallis] was off the field because quite often you'd see a [teenaged] Jake Doran sitting next to him talking about the game. Jaques provided a lot in team meetings, plenty on the field with his all-round abilities but he gave so much of himself off it, which was fantastic."

The Thunder start their season determined to make an impact after finishing their first three BBL campaigns with the wooden spoon. While they finished seventh last summer, the ladder didn't reflect how far they had come in terms of spirit, performance and off-field progress.

The team's management, headed by chief executive Nick Cummins, has worked tirelessly to win over the hearts and minds of the western suburbs by establishing leadership programs; sending players to schools to discuss "real issues", such as cyber bullying, and forging strong networks in the district's many multicultural communities is making a difference.

However, Hussey is painfully aware his team needs on-field success to underpin the efforts that have made the Thunder relevant to thousands of kids through the likes of Gurinder Sandhu, Pat Cummins and Afghani-born Hameed Kherkhah, who was in last summer's squad, addressing them at school assemblies about "belonging".

It's a world away from two years ago when the Thunder was dismissed as a "basket case" and Cricket Australia threatened to intervene to ensure the sport didn't lose its chance to turn the western suburbs into a stronghold. Hussey said he was inspired to take up the fight because it mattered.

"I love Perth, I love the Scorchers but they're a very successful team, very well run, very well led and enjoyed a lot of success," he said. "I saw the Thunder as a chance to help build something we can all be part of and that's respected throughout the competition.

"I saw the western suburbs as a huge market, but it was an untapped resource. The challenge drove me and I've probably got a few more gray hairs. But I saw it as a bit like [AFL's] Kevin Sheedy going to the GWS Giants. That resonated with me, knowing Sheedy went to Greater Western Sydney with the goal to build it up and be successful.

"We've been trying to build something from below ground zero and we want sustained success. It's a motivating factor for me to see what [management] has done and I want to see the fruits of that labour.

"I have to contribute but it's about building a squad, developing a culture and getting good characters. [Management] has done all the hard work off the field, now it's up to us to perform and to win. That would give me far more satisfaction than scoring runs."

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