"Mr Dependable" ... Phillip Hughes. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
PHILLIP HUGHES overcame his demons against pace bowling this summer to become ''Mr Dependable'' for Australia, but Dean Jones says a similar challenge awaits the batsman against spin in India.
After starting the season in the international wilderness, Hughes has become a vital member of the Test and one-day sides and is considered a key to Australia's chances of regaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in India.
Since the start of the Test series against Sri Lanka, no player has represented Australia more than Hughes, whose 13 games place him ahead of the 12 played by Matthew Wade - one of the few in the country who plays all three forms of the game at international level.
Jones, one of those responsible for rebuilding Hughes's game, could not be more impressed with how the 24-year-old has responded since being recalled by national selectors in December. ''The great thing about Phil Hughes now is he's Mr Dependable,'' said the former Test and ODI star, now a part-time batting coach at Hughes's new state, South Australia.
''He's not a brazen young kid who threw the bat outside off stump and smashes out. He's pulled his head in and tightened everything up.
''There's not a huge X-factor about the way Hughes plays. What he does do is when they bowl a bad ball he smashes it. Everyone's realised he paces his innings very well now and has a good defence. He's now unbelievably strong on the leg side if you bowl at his legs or short to him.
''He's worked that out with the quicks, and has to work it out with the spinners - that can take a bit of time.''
Hughes, who flew to India on Monday, has just the one match - a three-day tour game - to adjust to sub-continental conditions before the first Test starting Friday week.
His unconvincing display against Sunil Narine last Friday would not have gone unnoticed by India although they do not boast a spinner with as many mysterious variations as the West Indies off-spinner.
''He doesn't have to worry too much because there aren't too many who bowl the doosra over in India - what you see is what you get,'' Jones said. ''The Indian boys don't have too many scary packages about them.''
But Jones, one of the best Australian players against spin during the 1980s and '90s, warned Hughes against becoming ''predictable'' and over-reliant on the sweep shot.
''You won't make a lot of runs. What we can learn off [England captain Alastair] Cook is he did come down the pitch occasionally, he did sweep, he did have a go … when under pressure, he knew when to get a single to get himself off strike,'' Jones said.
''He knows he has to improve in certain areas but he couldn't ask for a better start to do an Indian and England campaign.''
Hughes has studied Cook's strategy against M.S. Dhoni's team late last year when England became the first touring side to win a Test series in India since 2004.
''I looked at a lot of the footage when England were there, and a couple of wickets were extremely flat, and guys went on to get big scores,'' he said. ''A couple of wickets were very challenging, and they brought on spin early … sometimes you don't really know.
''I feel like I've had a very good summer behind me, so I'm going over there with runs and confidence. In saying that, they are different conditions.''