Right time! Nasser: Next only to Brearly?

Written by: Sajith Balakrishnan
Published: Tuesday, June 1, 2004, 14:33 [IST]
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So, after Sonia, it's Hussain's turn to renounce and become a hero. After India, it's now England who has a problem of plenty.

To bow out on a high is every cricketers dream. Nasser Hussain did exactly that. The greatest English skipper since Mike Brearly, Nasser Hussain decided to call it quits after scoring a hundred and ensuring that his team won on the hallowed turf of Lords.

After having retired from the abridged version of the game following the teams' ignominious exit from the World Cup a year ago, Hussain had cherished a dream of playing 100 Tests. Eventhough, he resigned from captaincy in the midst of an English summer, he expressed his desire to carry on as a batsman. But when he realised that he was not getting any younger and the fact that young turks like Strauss were standing in queue to take his place, he didn't want to become a stumbling block for them and decided to make his way out.

The Lords hundred which eventually proved to be his swansong might be one of the gloriest innings that he played, but the Test series victories in the subcontinent under his helm against Sri Lanka and Pakistan is right up there on his CV. Who can forget that dark evening in Karachi when Hussain weathered all odds and flashed the victory symbol.

And the greatest regret for Hussain in his cricketing career, which he himself has admitted is the Ashes defeats that have always been a bitter pill to swallow for him. He still ponders over the fact that he could never become a part of an Ashes winning squad or at least he wanted an Ashes battle to go down the wire with series level at two-all while going into the final Test.

Though Hussain may not be among the best batsman England has unearthed, his presence had a calming and assured influence on the rest of the team studded with impetuous strokemakers and hitters. Even in their recent successful Caribbean conquest that came after a gap of 36 years, Hussain played his role to perfection by guiding the youngsters as well as shoring up the top order in the company of another seasoned campaigner Graham Thorpe. It was quite befitting that Graham Thorpe was the non-striker when Hussain played his last innings.

In the Lords Test, he was accused of having run out Andrew Strauss who was well on course for his second hundred of the match that could have put him in an elite club. Hussain did make amends by scoring a match-winning hundred and he was gracious enough to admit that Graham Thorpe's presence made him feel more comfortable as he could otherwise have been easily carried away by guilty conscience.

Hussain's captaincy had won him laurels and he was supposed to be the next best after Brearly. Though many of his tactics were questionable including the leg-trap theory that he employed through Ashley Giles to nail down Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, there is no denying the fact that he was quite bold and innovative in nature. Or else, no other captain in the contemporary game would have dared to make four field changes in a single over!

For those critics who considered him to be a liability for the team in the Limited Overs Internationals, he proved a point or two by scoring his only hundred in the finals of the NatWest trophy against India. His immediate gesture of pointing the number 3 on his shirt to those in the press box shows another version of Nasser Hussain.

The timing of his retirement happened just the way it happened with his captaincy. In the midst of a series. It's said that one swallow doesn't make a summer. A victory at Lords is no guarantee for a series win. However, Hussain didn't wait for the century of Tests to happen. He decided that enough is enough and saved England from a selection dilemma.

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