Mr Cricket pads up for a fond farewell

AS THE audience of 10,505 found their voice on Sunday afternoon, chanting ''Hussey, Hussey'', the focus of their adulation sat uncomfortably on the Australian team balcony in the SCG members pavilion.

Ed Cowan and Michael Clarke were in the middle, chugging towards the modest victory target of 141 in the third Test against Sri Lanka. It was nothing in particular against those two batsmen, simply a demand for an encore, in his 79th and final Test, from Michael Hussey.

''I was sitting next to Mickey Arthur telling him could we get on the loudspeaker and tell them to all be quiet,'' Hussey said. ''I wanted the two out there to just do the job and I could sit back and relax.''

The clamorous crowd got their wish when Hussey, with 37 runs required, marched to the centre. His 27 not out, the last of 6235 Test runs at an average of 51.52, steered Australia home, and it was typical of his selfless character that he did not mind that it was not him, but Mitchell Johnson, who with a push through the infield scored the winning runs.

''I was telling Mitch the over before, 'If it comes up that you hit it, I'm more than happy, let's just get this over and done with','' Hussey said. ''I just wanted the job done. I'm more than happy just to be out there when the winning run was hit. It's a dream come true.

''In a way I'm quite relieved that it's over now. All good things have to come to an end at some stage.''

Clarke and Cowan had heard the chanting loud and clear as they batted together. It was one of those rare occasions where a home crowd was actually wanting the demise of one of their one. The batsmen understood the sentiment.

''To be honest, I said to Ed, 'I know the feeling', I guess 12 months ago I was booed every time I walked out to bat in Australia so it was nothing new to me,'' Clarke said. ''They just have the utmost respect for Michael Hussey and they wanted him out in the middle, to be there at the end.''

After being carried from the ground on the shoulders of Peter Siddle and Johnson, Hussey added: ''The crowd support in general has been a bit overwhelming really and I've been a little bit embarrassed by it to be honest.''

Hussey's international career ended abruptly on Sunday. It was coming, of course, since his shock retirement announcement after the second Test in Melbourne, but there had been every expectation that the 37-year-old would feature in Australia's one-day campaign before bowing out. Pragmatism at the selection table killed off that swansong.

Hussey was disappointed at missing out, but being a team man, said victory in a Test series whitewash was the ultimate way to go out.

''I would have liked to have played but the selectors spoke to me and said they're starting to look forward to the 2015 World Cup, and that's fine,'' he said.

''It would have been nice to play but I totally understand where the selectors are going. I've had a great opportunity here. It couldn't have ended any better.''

The gruelling international schedule ahead for Australia this year was the straw that broke the camel's back for Hussey. He simply could not bring himself to spend more than six months on the road. A more simple life is in store - interstate cricket, a sortie to the Indian Premier League, and family.

''I'm looking forward to having a bit more of a normal life as such,'' he said. ''I'm looking forward to watching the children grow up really and being part of their lives.

''William loves his cricket, so being able to go out and help him out with that. Jasmine loves her netball and gymnastics. Molly is the same, she loves her swimming. So to be able go there and support them and be part of their lives is something I'm really looking forward to.''

His brother David, at 35, is a leading contender to be his replacement in India next month and you get the impression that would give the elder sibling just about as much satisfaction as if he were playing himself.

''I guess the emotional [replacement] would be for Dave to come in and play Test cricket,'' he said.

''I know he's wanted to do it for a long time and that would be pretty amazing.''

This story Mr Cricket pads up for a fond farewell first appeared on Brisbane Times.