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SHEFFIELD SHIELD 2016-17

David Hussey: The best without a Baggy Green

06 February 2017

David Hussey hits one of his 14,280 first-class runs in a 2013 Sheffield Shield match // Getty

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The stalwart bows out with the highest first-class batting average of any Australian never to play a Test

About the Writer:
 @LouisDBCameron

A Victorian fast bowler who has played Shield cricket, Louis joined the cricket.com.au team with assistance from the Australian Cricketers' Association's Internship Program

He might always be remembered as the lesser-known younger brother of an Australian Test legend, or even a pioneer of the game's shortest format, but David Hussey should firstly go down as one of the finest batsmen to never pull on a Baggy Green.

The 39-year-old, who announced a low-key retirement in the wake of the Melbourne Stars semi-final loss to KFC Big Bash League champions Perth Scorchers last month, bows out as the third-most prolific Australian Twenty20 batsman (only Brad Hodge and David Warner have scored more than his 6097 T20 runs).

Quick Single: Hussey calls time on BBL career

And while his aggressive batting and useful off-spin saw him also make 108 appearances for Australia in limited-overs formats, Hussey's career in the whites is arguably the most deserving of acclaim.

A prolific 192-match journey that saw him plunder 14,280 runs at 52.50 for Victoria, Nottinghamshire and Australia A (for just two matches), plus four Sheffield Shield final victories and a County Championship title.

Hussey aside, no Australian without a Test to their name has finished with a first-class batting average that high (minimum 50 innings).

All of which might not have been possible had a 24-year-old Hussey left brother Mike and the home comforts of Perth for a job in Melbourne as a fund manager with a bank. He caught the train to work every day, played for his new club Prahran on the weekend and soon caught the eye of the Victorian cricket hierarchy. 

BBL|06: Hussey in a hurry in the Melbourne Derby

"The line in the sand moment when everything sort of twigged was a winter in Melbourne when I was lucky enough to work with (Victoria's then-assistant coach) Greg Shipperd," Hussey told cricket.com.au.

"He basically said, 'just work on your forward defence and back foot defence. You've got every other part of your game covered but your defence needs a lot of work. Once you get that sorted out, you'll be a very a good player.' 

"So for the whole winter, I just worked on my defensive game.

"That winter was more about time management, waking going to the gym, going to work then doing a skills session or a fitness session right after. It made me accountable."

The routine, one unlikely to be replicated today by young batsmen given the demands of the shorter formats, kick-started Hussey's career. A prolific season at club-level earnt him a call-up to Victoria's Sheffield Shield side in 2003 to make his debut against a Steve Waugh-captained NSW side.

It didn't take long for him to find his feet at domestic level, scoring 800 runs the following summer and passing triple-figures four times to help Victoria to the Shield title.

But it was a stunning double-century – his first in Shield cricket - in January of that 2003-04 season that put him on the radar for higher honours. With Test captain Steve Waugh again leading the Blues, Hussey blasted 212 in a six-hour fourth-innings knock to see Victoria run down 455 to win.

Stuart MacGill looks on as Hussey acknowledges his maiden Shield double-century // Getty
Stuart MacGill looks on as Hussey acknowledges his maiden Shield double-century // Getty

Having engineered the second-highest run-chase in the competition's history, coupled with the post-match admission from Waugh that he may have witnessed a future Test teammate, the usually-grounded Hussey allowed himself to dream of bigger things.

"That innings in front of the Aussie captain at the time, in front of Mark Waugh who was my idol, Stuart MacGill, Simon Katich was a good friend – it was a breakthrough moment," he said.

"I was like, 'yeah, give me a chance, I want to play, I want to play (for Australia).' And the next tour (to Sri Lanka) was picked and I wasn't there. I was pretty disappointed. 

"I'm was normally pretty realistic about things but I was thinking, 'maybe I could have gone on this tour.' I was focusing on the tours, and more focused on it than actually playing for Victoria. 

"In my next six hits for Victoria, I think I averaged about two. It was a really good lesson, a sharp learning curve."

Quick Single: Pick on performance, not potential: Hussey

With a Test berth not forthcoming, Hussey took up an offer to play for Nottinghamshire for the 2004 northern summer. While he'd later be described as one of the best overseas players the club had ever had, the dashing right-hander had a somewhat daunting welcome from coach Mick Newell at an introductory function.

"When I first got to Notts in 2004 it was freezing and we had a season launch," Hussey recalled. "The head coach gets up in front of everyone and says, 'our overseas player this year is Stuart MacGill.' MacGill stands up and everyone claps. 

"Then he says, 'and we've got this young kid from … uh, where are you from?' No one had heard of me. 

"'Yeah, he's our other overseas (player), we don't know what we've got here.' I stood up and no one clapped, it was really awkward. 

"The first game we had was a practice game against Oxford University. (Newell) said, 'by the way, if you don't get any runs, we won't make any runs. You better have a good season.' 

Hussey playing for Notts in a 2005 County Championship match // Getty
Hussey playing for Notts in a 2005 County Championship match // Getty

Having been told in no uncertain terms that his job was to "score runs and catch the ball at slip", Hussey kept up his end of the bargain.

A successful first season at Trent Bridge saw him move to a tally of 11 tons from his first 32 first-class matches. But openings in Australia's dominant middle-order - anchored by the likes of Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann and a young Michael Clarke - over the coming years were few and far between. 

He watched with pride as his brother Mike grabbed hold of one of those rare opportunities in 2005, quickly becoming a vital member of an imposing batting line-up. And with a host of veterans retiring in the wake of Australia regaining the Ashes that summer with a 5-0 demolition of England, the prospect of two Husseys in the Baggy Green appeared a possibility.  

Selected on Australia A's 2007 tour of Pakistan, David crashed hundreds in both four-day games. With a proven track record in Australia, England and a more-than-encouraging debut for Australia's next-best XI on the subcontinent, Hussey felt he'd done all he possibly could.

Although it was enough to earn him a debut in Australia's 50-over side, Hussey says the fact he never got the chance at Test level is the only source of lament in an illustrious career.

March '15: Hussey flays the Redbacks

"I was probably at the height of my game at that stage (after the Pakistan 'A' tour)," he said. "I wanted to play Test cricket desperately.

"I'm not saying I deserved to get picked. I was more annoyed that the people they were picking at the same time, I was probably outperforming them. That probably irks me the most.

"(It might be) a rocking chair moment in 10 or 15 years' time, where I might be like 'I wish I had that opportunity'.

"I wanted to play Test cricket desperately. 

"But I'm very content with what I achieved in the game."

While there were occasional calls for his inclusion in the Test side in the coming years, he instead found his calling at national level in coloured clothing, carving out a successful career in Australia's ODI and T20 teams. 

The Hussey brothers would go on to play 67 games for Australia alongside each other, something Mike reflects on with great pride.

David and Mike Hussey at the 2009 World T20 at The Oval, London // Getty
David and Mike Hussey at the 2009 World T20 at The Oval, London // Getty

"It was great, amazing to think you could be playing with your brother for Australia," the older Hussey brother told cricket.com.au.

"You never set out thinking you're going to play yourself, let alone with one of your siblings as well."

When asked for his best memories of playing with Dave, two stand out for Mike; their backyard Tests as kids, and a 115-run partnership at Adelaide Oval in a 2009 ODI against New Zealand.

"When we were young, (cricket games) would generally end up in fights because he wouldn't go out," the older sibling recalled. "So I would chase him around the house and he would lock himself in the car. That was pretty funny.

"The other one is I really enjoyed a big partnership with him in Adelaide. We had a one-day series against New Zealand and we were 2-0 down in the series, a must-win game to keep ourselves alive. 

"Dave and I batted for a long time together. I think he might have got out just before the end but we'd done enough to win the game. 

"To play a significant role as a pair to help Australia win a game was really rewarding."

Just like the backyard: the two skippers ahead of the BBL|05 final // Getty
Just like the backyard: the two skippers ahead of the BBL|05 final // Getty

David was nothing if not versatile. The veteran became one of the most sought-after T20 players in the world in the twilight of his career, cashing in on the first seven editions of the Indian Premier League. All the while, he continued his stellar career with the Bushrangers, bowing out with his fourth and final Shield title in 2015, and he remains an assistant coach with the state that saw something in him all those years back.

True to character, the unfailingly modest Hussey's retirement from all formats of cricket was announced by someone else (Melbourne Stars teammate Kevin Pietersen spilled the beans on Twitter) despite having decided the recent KFC Big Bash League would be his final playing campaign before the tournament started.

Meaning next summer, for the first time in 23 seasons, Australian cricket won't feature a Hussey on a domestic scoresheet.

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