Sky is the limit for Suresh Raina, says his Chennai Super Kings teammate Michael Hussey, according to whom the Indian has it in him to become a quality Test cricketer, provided he keeps his mind blank and plays with freedom.
Hussey, who is the second highest run-getter in this edition of the Indian Premier League having amassed 640 runs, said the "talented" middle-order batsman does not have any limitations when it comes to his batting but, at the same time, believes it's tough to get into the Indian Test squad.
"I don't necessarily agree that he does have any limitations. The Indian Test team is a pretty tough one to get into. There are some quality batsmen in there. The only thing that I've been telling Suresh is to keep his mind clear and let his instincts take over," Hussey told IPLt20.com.
"He's such a talented player but great players tend to keep their mind blank and play with freedom. If he does that in Test cricket, the sky is the limit for him," he added. The former Australian batsman also dismissed suggestions that Raina is vulnerable to short balls.
"I don't agree with that as well. I have watched him play the short ball very well in T20 cricket. I have seen a lot of teams targeting him with the short ball and he generally dispatches them into the crowd. So, I don't think there's an issue there, to be honest. It's just all mental," he said.
At 37, Hussey has defied age and the common perception that the Twenty20 format is for the younger generation with a string of outstanding performances in this edition, which has helped his side qualify for the play-off stages. Hussey said he doesn't think about being an explosive batsman but just sticks to his role of getting the team off to a good start.
"I'm not sure about being a dangerous batsman. I've got an important role of trying to get the team off to a good start and it's just nice to contribute. It doesn't happen all the time. In T20 cricket, you need a bit of luck along the way and it's nice that luck has gone my way in this tournament," he said. From being a Test specialist to becoming one of the most prolific scorers in all forms of the game, 'Mr. Cricket', as Hussey is famously known among his peers, said the demands of T20 made him more adventurous and bring about changes in his batting style.
"I think it slowly developed over time. I was very much a defensive player when I first started playing. Probably learning to play in different formats of the game and different situations teaches you to try and be a bit more adventurous," he said.
Hussey said playing in the middle-order for Australia helped him develop his attacking game.
"I was an opener for most of my career but then having to move into the middle order was my only opportunity to play for Australia. So, I had to learn pretty quickly and I really enjoyed the challenge. There are so many different situations you came across batting in the middle order," said Hussey, who retired from the international cricket in January this year.
Asked about any adjustments he made to his technique or stance when batting in T20s, he replied, "No, not really. I don't change too much in regards with my preparation and technique. I probably try and clear the front leg a little bit in T20. In Tests you try and stay behind the line and play the ball in front of your eyes whereas in T20s you're looking to free your arms and hit the ball a bit more. That's probably the only small technical change that I make."
Despite growing up batting on Aussie wickets, Hussey has developed himself as one of the best players of spin bowling.
"I've always enjoyed playing on Indian pitches. I enjoy the slower wickets where you've got to time the ball, place it in gaps and try to manipulate the field. It's a great challenge and one that I really love to handle," he said.
Hussey picked South Africa's ODI skipper and Royal Challengers Bangalore's AB de Villiers as one of his favourite batsmen in the world.
"I think, he's a freak of a player! He's one of my favourite batsmen in the world. He can hit fours and sixes all around the ground and that makes him very difficult for the bowlers to bowl to. He has immense belief in his own ability and he's a fantastic player," he said.