Former Aussie star a consultant in SA clothing
SOUTH Africans and Australians would have been stopped in their tracks by the sight that greeted them at SA’s cricket training session at Junction Oval in St Kilda yesterday.
Yes, that was Mike Hussey. And, yes, he was wearing an SA shirt.
Hussey’s appointment by SA as a consultant for the World Cup was reported earlier this month. Yesterday was his first day on the job.
The former Australian batsman was seen in earnest conversation with Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy.
With Du Plessis, the talk was punctuated by plenty of bat-waving, mostly to mimic the backlift and the pull shot. When Hussey and Duminy spoke, no props were in evidence.
Du Plessis would seem to be more in need of Hussey’s help. He has made it clear that his role is to score centuries, but he has gone 13 innings, all but one of them completed, without reaching three figures.
Duminy is fresh from scoring 115 not out in SA’s World Cup opener against Zimbabwe in Hamilton on Sunday, but that was only his fifth innings after returning from a knee injury that had kept him out for more than a month.
Du Plessis and Duminy will be key figures in SA’s bid to beat India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
But Hussey had to share the coaching spotlight with Gary Kirsten, who also joined the squad yesterday in his capacity as a consultant after attending the Indian Premier League player auction on Monday.
SA selection convener Andrew Hudson was also out there in training gear and brandishing a baseball glove.
Dale Steyn was conspicuous by his absence because of a dose of flu.
SA’s spearhead has had a quiet World Cup start, being hit for 40 runs in seven overs in one of SA’s warm-up matches, missing the other, and taking 1/64 in nine overs against Zimbabwe.
Steyn will want to change that status on Sunday when SA will need him to keep India’s powerful batting lineup in check.
SA’s training session yesterday was vision only in media speak, meaning no interviews would be conducted. But that did not stop about 30 members of the Indian media contingent from studying the players’ every move as if they were live dinosaurs in a zoo.
Every time a player or a coach ventured too close to the press pack, he was pounced on for anything approaching a quotable line.
Stand by, no doubt, for “exclusive” quotes that say little beyond “hello”.
Two SA reporters who had turned up to watch the practice were assailed by their Indian colleagues, some of whom they had never met but who treated them as close friends. Unlike squad members, this poor pair had no easy escape onto the field, where journalists were not allowed. The questions came thick and fast, and more than once: “Why has Kirsten not been with the squad all along? Is Paddy Upton still involved? Are SA using a psychologist? Who is he?”
The last brought a sharp retort from the SA reporter: “You need a psychologist.”
The world seen in the eyes of many Indian cricket journalists is a strange and sad place, invariably Indocentric and never without cricket as its be-all and end-all.