The only Australian who has outscored Hussey this year ... Michael Clarke. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
MIKE HUSSEY'S abrupt retirement signals the end of the apprenticeships for Australia's batsmen, opener Ed Cowan has declared, and leaves them nowhere to hide during tough tours of India and England.
Cowan will miss more than Hussey's runs, having identified with the fine attention to detail in the veteran's preparation and appreciated his warm welcome to the dressing room when he entered the team a year ago.
The combined experience of Ricky Ponting and Hussey, amounting to 246 Tests and 19,561 runs leading into the West Australian's SCG swansong, can't be replaced. But Cowan said their sudden departures, within a month of each other, had left the emerging batsmen in the team with no option but to lift their games on the toughest of tours. ''We don't really have a choice, do we? I think it's called the deep end. It's the way it's going to have to be. Some of us have done 12 months which is, I guess, a nice apprenticeship, and there comes a time when you become fully accountable. There's certainly nowhere to hide in Test cricket, and now more so than ever,'' the opening batsman said.
Captain Michael Clarke, the only Australian who has outscored Hussey this year, will be the only batsman entrenched in the team when the West Australian has gone.
Hussey's departure also leaves a leadership void, as he had been pencilled in as vice-captain for the third Test against Sri Lanka, in Shane Watson's absence, before taking Clarke and Mickey Arthur aside and quietly breaking the news to them of his retirement in the MCG dressing room on Friday night.
''Like Ricky, he's the ultimate professional, and has set standards in regard to not only performance on the field but preparation off it … It's up to the rest of us to let that be their legacy and continue to prepare well,'' Cowan said. ''We're obviously going to have to, particularly the batsmen, lift our work rate in terms of pure output. That is up to us now.''
The loss of a No.6 batsman who averages 80 this summer not only pulls the safety net out from underneath the top order but sends a rallying call to the next echelon of first-class batsmen. Although Usman Khawaja is notionally the next in line, the departure of the team's two most experienced players could persuade the selectors to pick a proven century maker such as David Hussey for the Ashes.
Former Australian captain Mark Taylor applauded Hussey for leaving the game at the peak of his powers but said his retirement would make the India and England tours a more difficult proposition.
''The batting order is weakened, no doubt, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It's up to Australian cricket, and it's up to the young guys out there, to become the next Mike Hussey,'' Taylor said. ''There's been too much of, 'We need this guy because we've got no one else.' That's rubbish. The bottom line is someone will fill that spot, it's up to that person to grab it and become a better player. Then if he doesn't grab it, it's up to the next person.''
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