Author: Mike Hussey (and David Sygall)
Rating: 3.5 stars
By Stuart Wark
02 Jun 2008
Cracking the Australian batting order over the past decade has been harder than finding a way into Fort Knox. The stability of the Waughs and Ponting has meant that openings for places were very limited. Players like Jamie Siddons never got their chance in spite of being well worthy of a shot, while others like Stuart Law did well in restricted opportunities and were still cast aside. Mike Hussey had to score over 15,000 first class runs before he got his first call-up for Australia. However, he has certainly made every post a winner since being given a chance. Boasting the second best test batting average in the current team (behind Mitchell Johnson), Hussey is now firmly entrenched in the Australian side. And coming with such security is the mandatory book tie-in. Happily though, Hussey's book is not the usual skim-read trashy biography that has sadly become commonplace in recent years.
Hussey's book, co-authored by sports writer David Sygall, focuses as much on how Hussey approaches the game as his actual achievements. It is clear that Hussey has a very keen determination to both win and to also improve his own performance. This attitude shines through in the book, and Hussey explains his own thought processes prior and during games.
John Buchanan was not a technical coach. He did not provide the players with routines and repetitive skill development programs in the way that a Bob Simpson did. Instead, Buchanan challenged the players to analyse their own abilities, and to consider alternative approaches and options. This type of approach would seem to fit Hussey down to a tee, and it is not a surprise to find out about their mutual admiration. It is interesting to read Hussey describe how he develops written plans in order to constantly evaluate and improve his on-field performances. The chapters cover a large variety of different concepts, and his explanations of issues such as goal setting and mental fatigue are particularly intriguing.
One of the interesting themes is Hussey's own self-doubt, and how he struggled to overcome his feelings of inadequacy. He explains his mental approach to writing down the problem, and listing possible solutions and ways to improve. Hussey details a letter he wrote (but never sent) to Steve Waugh, asking for assistance in learning how to overcome the on-field pressure that is exerted by the opposition. Within the narrative therapy approach in counseling, there is a technique called therapeutic letter writing which can be used to overcome personal problems and to develop solutions. The process that Hussey outlines in the book is quite similar to this methodology, and it would be fascinating to further examine the usefulness of such concepts within a sporting environment.
This is not a bog-standard ghosted autobiography. There is little of the boring 'recitation of match statistics' that plague so many other books of similar type. Hussey explains and examines his reasoning and thoughts, and this is the particular value of the book. Hussey is clearly an intelligent man, something that you wouldn't necessarily say about all his current and former team-mates, and he is able to articulate his thoughts well. As such, I have to admit that I am a little disappointed that the book was co-written, as I feel this can detract from the 'genuineness' of the content. Hussey would have the ability to write this book independently, but I would assume the pressures of time meant it was expedient for a journo. to lend him a hand.
The book has a number of quotations from fellow players and others influenced by Hussey. These are presented in text-boxes, and whilst there were interesting to read, I felt that they got in the way of the story by disrupting its flow. By reading the passage, you tend to forget where the main story was up to, and you had to flip back and forth a bit. I found this quite disconcerting. Other books have done a similar thing, but they including the quotes either at the start or the end of the chapter, and the primary content was therefore less disjointed.
Hussey's book is recommended, and is an above average effort. It will not go down in history as a great work of literature, but the information contained in it is certainly fascinating, and the reader gains a greater appreciation of what mental application goes into becoming a Test cricketer.