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The mysterious case of Mr. Cricket

February 22, 2011 09:34 IST

Cricketer chosen for world cup squad. Gets injured. Is axed. Resurfaces before teams first match and says he is fit and is ready to play for his state team. National selectors embarrassed. Rumours abound. Controversy erupts, leaving everyone involved red-faced.

- Complete Coverage

Sounds uncannily like a story about from Indian cricket circa 1990. But, surprisingly, this is an Australian story. And it involves one of modern cricket's giants and the most hated man in Indian cricket. Mike Hussey and Greg Chappell.

On Monday, the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Hussey, who was axed from the side because the selectors did not think he will recover in time for the initial matches of the world cup from a hamstring injury he sustained in January, as saying that he was fit and he was ready to play.

'I'm ready to play,' the paper quoted Hussey as telling Western Australia's selectors ahead of their domestic match against Tasmania. 'It's up to you to decide whether to pick me but I won't let you down if you do.'

Hussey eventually was not named in the team sheet.

Asked about the mix-up about Hussey's recovery time and whether his absence will hurt Australia's prospects later on in the tournament, skipper Ricky Ponting said he understood Hussey was disappointed but that there was nothing he as captain could do in the situation.

"Hopefully not (suffer from Hussey's absence)," he said after Australia's 91-run win against Zimbabwe in Ahmedabad.

Mike Hussey"We've got a side here. All we can do now is move on, do our best and back ourselves to do well and reach the semifinal. I understand Michael is disappointed. But it was up to the medicos and the selectors to decide," he added.

The Hussey saga started when just before the team flew out for the world cup, he was axed from the side.

The Daily Telegraph reported on the day the Australian team flew out that Hussey had sent mails to each selector and medico saying he will be fit after the first two matches of the World Cup. He even got the surgeon who performed the hamstring operation to vouch for him.

Then on the eve of Australia's tournament opener against Zimbabwe, Hussey shocked one and all by appearing for Western Australia's training session.

But the Western Australian selectors overlooked him at the last minute.

Reports in Australian newspapers Australia's national selectors forced Western Australia's selectors to not pick Hussey and that selector Greg Chappell even told Hussey that he should retire.

Hussey was withdrawn from the squad later in the night and speculation suggested Cricket Australia's medical team had forced him out, although Western Australia coach Mickey Arthur rejected those claims.

"Mike called me last night and said perhaps we'd all been a little bit ambitious and we needed to follow the program that had been prescribed for him," Arthur said.

"Ultimately it was his decision. Mike knows his body better than anybody else and ultimately he felt he'd be better served waiting until the Queensland game (in early March), which I accepted," he added.

Greg Chappell too denied he ever asked Hussey to retire.

"In the nets yesterday he was pretty excited by the way he pulled up, but in discussions between Cricket Australia medical staff and West Australian medical staff, they decided it was probably imprudent to try and rush it," said the former India coach.

"They decided to stick to the original plan — try and play some club cricket on the weekend and resume on March 3. They jointly agreed to stick to that plan," he added.

But another thing that Chappell said could rile Hussey even further. Chappell said Hussey will not be considered even if a player from the touring party got injured.

"It is out of the question that Hussey could re-join the World Cup squad should a player suffer an injury in India," reports quoted Chappell as saying.

"Once he's been withdrawn he can't come in, even if it is to replace someone else," he added.

Australia's yesteryear stalwart, Allan Border said though the star will be missed sorely, the selectors took the right decision by not including him.

"Just the fact that he's had an operation to re-attach the hamstring to the bone, that tells me it just would have been a massive risk to take him. I know he was talking it up with his doctors, but I can understand the selectors' reluctance to take him," Border was reported as saying.

Krishnakumar Padmanabhan