Hussey warns of overkill in biff and bash

'Mr Twenty20' believes IPL is becoming dull and longs for challenge of a Test match for Australia
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The Independent Online

A nickname seems almost to be obligatory in sport, even if the owner of the epithet is its least enthusiastic fan. Take Michael Hussey, the Australian who is invariably referred to as "Mr Cricket" for his unwaveringly professional dedication to the game. It is not a name he likes at all.

At least his brother, David, cannotbe lumbered with the same one. Sooner or later, though, someone is going to call him "Mr Twenty20", in which case he will know exactly how Michael feels. If anything, he would hate it even more.

It might not make him cringe. It is just that, even though it took only four matches on his return to Nottinghamshire to score the 151 runs he needed to overtake Brad Hodge as the most prolific batsman in Twenty20's brief history, he would rather be remembered as a serious player, not the champion of biff and bash. "The record doesn't mean anything at all, to be honest," he said. "I'm not one for taking much notice of individual statistics. I'd like to be remembered as a cricketer who won trophies, not for individual records."

More than anything, he would like to be remembered for playing Test cricket and yet, a month away from his 34th birthday, he has not won a single cap, compared with Michael's 59. David's first-class average, a stately 55.27, is higher than Michael's. Outside India, there is no batsman with a comparable career record who has not played a Test.

"It has been a source of massive frustration," he said. "Test cricket is the ultimate for me, and when I'm 45 or 50 years of age I'd like to look back and know that I have played half-a- dozen Tests – even just one – for my country. There have still only been 400 or so who have had that honour.

"When I was doing well, the Australian team was doing well. I started out trying to emulate players of the calibre of Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh, Damien Martyn. It has been a fantastic time to be an Australian cricketer and I don't feel aggrieved. But you still desperately want to play, so there is a sense of disappointment."

Fresh hope arrived this week when his one-day success earned him a new central contract from Cricket Australia, a year after being dropped. "It gives me a bit of hope and makes me all the more determined to do well for Notts in the Championship to remind the selectors I can play the longer version of the game as well."

He feels it is time to put the brakes on Twenty20 amid signs of overkill. The decision to expand the English season to 16 group games per county was reversed for 2012; Hussey feels the Indian Premier League should follow suit after crowds and TV viewing figures fell for the first time.

"Most of the games I played in were to packed houses, but towards the end of the tournament, when a few teams could not qualify, the attendances did drop. There were too many dead games and they need to address that.

"Every country has the potential to overkill Twenty20 cricket. You don't want too many games. In the IPL there were two games every night on the TV and you could get sick of watching it, you could find yourself longing for a bit of Test cricket.

"There are things I like about Twenty20. I enjoy the challenge and it is great to share a young bowler's excitement when you make a plan to get someone out and it comes off. And there have been other benefits. In Australia, it is bringing in a new generation of kids who wanted to play Aussie Rules or English football but who now want to play Twenty20.

"In England it has made Championship cricket more exciting, with new skills meaning that counties can score 400 runs in a day and there can be 12 or 13 wickets in a day, so you get fewer dull draws.

"But every country has the potential for overkill. In Australia I thought we had it about right, with six teams playing each other once, followed by a preliminary final and the final. Seven games played across two weeks for me was the perfect mix. The crowds got their T20 fix and then it was back to the serious stuff."

Twenty20 takes a big hit

Indian Premier League franchises paid more than $2 million (£1.23m) for four players in the 2011 player auction, topped by Gautam Gambhir, the Indian batsman for whom Kolkata Knight Riders paid a record $2.4m, making him the highest-paid cricketer ever. But TV viewing figures in India for the fourth season of the IPL fell almost 25 per cent compared with 2010, although the numbers watching are still substantial, given that the audience for the opening match of the season was recorded at 19 million.

According to UK-based consultancy Brand Finance, the IPL's brand value dropped by 11 per cent to $3.67 billion (£2.24bn) compared with $4.13bn (£2.52bn) in 2010.

After many counties reported a drop in attendance in 2010, this season's Twenty20 was cut from 16 to 10 qualifying matches per county. Counties have so little money available that none of the top 30 batsmen or top 20 bowlers in the 2011 IPL is playing in this year's Twenty20.

Jon Culley

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