Class vs flamboyance
Mike Hussey is a complete batsman while Suresh Raina is a talented one with a fatal flaw not addressed formative years
One of the more intriguing aspects of a game that has changed drastically in the last five years is the on-going effect the T20 explosion will have on the art of batsmanship. There's no doubt the huge increase in the number of 50-over matches since the beginning of the nineties has had the flow-on effect of speeding up scoring in Test cricket.
Mr cricket: Michael Hussey. Pics/Getty images
This in turn -- along with other factors like making up lost time -- has seen a welcome spike in the number of results achieved in Test cricket. While there's no doubt this makes Test cricket more marketable, there's a danger an obsession with quicker scoring could obliterate the desire for technical efficiency. Taken to its logical conclusion this imbalance would have a detrimental effect on, not only the aesthetics of the longer game, but also the thrill of the contest.
Young & restless: Suresh Raina
The bowlers have always been the more efficient innovators and boundary obsessed batsmen would play right into their hands. Suicidal stroke play and the increased instances of lbw, facilitated by the DRS system, would put the balance firmly in favour of the ball on all but the flattest of pitches. No one wants to endure the tedium of five-day cricket on flat pitches. Therefore the even keel between bat and ball will only remain a reality through even-handed law making, rational scheduling and commonsense coaching.
While we haven't yet seen a batsman bred on a steady diet of T20 cricket reach the Test arena, it's interesting to compare the current careers of India's Suresh Raina with Australia's Michael Hussey. Raina is a left-hander of the modern generation and Hussey a port-sider from the old school. Raina has played a role in India's success in the shorter versions of the game but was also part of the problem in their recent abject failure in the Test series against England. Raina can thrash an attack with the best of them when the field is spread and the bowling restricted. But crowd him and apply the threat of short-pitched bowling and it brings a similar reaction to Superman exposed to Kryptonite.
Hussey can survive and then prosper in alien conditions, as he showed on a difficult pitch in Galle. His disciplined innings set up Australia's first Test victory in the series against Sri Lanka. Contrast that knock with his whirlwind stroke play which helped Australia snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the second semi-final of the 2010 World T20 against Pakistan.
Hussey is a complete batsman; a player who can easily adapt to the game situation. Raina is a talented batsman with a fatal flaw that wasn't addressed in his formative years.Hussey did benefit from starting out in an era where the system provided an opportunity for the vigilant batsman to fully develop. Raina is maturing in a cricket world where the ethos seems to be; "More haste, less care." Now is a good time for good cricket minds to invest some thought in the way young batsmen are prepared in the future.
The aim should be to produce players with Hussey's assets; the ability to preserve his wicket when needed and dash a bowler's hopes when the situation demands. That coaching aim, allied with the vision to let batsmen retain their natural tendencies, would be a good starting point.
It's crucial for a batsman with international ambitions to be able to play all the shots. What then sorts the successful players from those who fade quickly is knowing when to utilise the different weapons in his armoury.
A wise army general doesn't order machine gun fire when the situation calls for heavy artillery.A batsman's duty is to score runs quickly in order to allow the bowlers sufficient time to take the twenty wickets required for victory.
There's no doubt the more time you allow batsmen the longer they'll take to score their runs.Who knows, with judicious law making and a sensible advancement of scoring rates the game could take a step forward by recalling the past. Test cricket started out as a three and four-day game and a reduction in the time taken to play the modern game would make it more palatable in a fast moving world.