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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 15:14 GMT
Hussain echoes the past
By BBC Sport Online's Thrasy Petropoulos
It does not seem possible that Nasser Hussain, whose charm offensive has won over the hearts of many Indians, could be likened to Douglas Jardine, the authoritarian and ruthlessly successful England captain of the 1930s.
And yet Mike Brearley, popularly referred to as the best England captain of modern times, has said that Hussain's leadership during the recent Test series in India showed similarities with Jardine in Australia almost 70 years ago.
Writing for Wisden Cricket Monthly, Brearley said: "Hussain was spectacularly good all series, blending, motivating, using his sense in both conventional and unconventional ways.
"He is afraid neither of the orthodox nor the unorthodox. There is a tough streak in his make-up, and, dare one say it, a slice of that British steel most notably displayed by Douglas Jardine, also, suggestively, born in India."
Jardine, best known for his employment of the 'Bodyline' tactics when England successfully - and controversially - regained the Ashes in 1932/33, is legendary for his cold and calculating demeanour.
Bill Woodfull, the Australia captain, was hit a sickening blow over the heart by Harold Larwood during that series, to which Jardine responded: "Well bowled, Harold."
And when Plum Warner, the England manager, informed him that Eddie Paynter was in hospital and could miss a Test match, Jardine merely asked: "What about those fellows who marched to Kandahar with the fever on them?"
But there were, Brearley argues, some similarities in Hussain's approach before Christmas in India to that of Jardine.
"One of Hussain's chief skills on the tour was to make the best use of what each player had to offer and to arrive at a realistic appraisal of the realities of each situation," he said.
Leg theory 2001
"Here he reasoned that if the little master (Sachin Tendulkar) could with such consummate ease deal with ordinary lines of attack, he would go the other route, leg-side.
"So England operated for periods of time with Flintoff bowling to an on-side field, round the wicket, with two or three short balls an over.
"This was bodyline bowling, though nowhere near so ruthless as Jardine's to defeat Bradman."
Though Hussain's tactics were not as controversial as Jardine's, they still prompted debate around the cricket world - and no little criticism from many observers.
Brearley also questions this form of attack should be viewed.
"On the one hand one may praise the determination. It is also a tribute to Tendulkar's genius. To lesser players, Flintoff reverted to the orthodox. And Tendulkar was restricted, almost, by his standards, reduced to a crawl.
"A psychological duel like this is fascinating. Hussain clearly relishes a stand-off. Opposition makes him more stubborn. I understand this. I too would have been tempted to do some of what he did.
"On the other hand, leg-side attack precludes almost all the classical strokes of batting.
"It becomes impossible to swing the arms freely at the ball if it is constantly leaping at your ribs, or scuttling around behind your calves. The sweep is hard to control because the bounce of the ball is so unpredictable.
"These methods also rule out, almost totally, most of the game's methods of dismissal: lbw is virtually out of the question, bowled is only likely from freak turn aided by parts of the pitch which have been reduced to a ravaged, cratered, stud-damaged surface.
"Too much is left to chance."
He concluded: "I feel a deep uneasiness at this technique, except when used sparingly. The legislators must act on behalf of the glories of the game."
There is, of course, one crucial distinction to be made between the tactics used by Jardine in Australia and by Hussain in India: Jardine succeeded where Hussain failied.
But as Brearley said: "Jardine won the Ashes but nearly lost an Empire. Hussain saved and might have won a series."
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