SPORT

Hussain is incredible, says Brearley

BANGALORE, DEC. 22. When Nasser Hussain's men leave for England after the third and final Test, they can very well say ``Merry Christmas''. A team that grappled with star abstentions and a desertion (Graham Thorpe), now believes in conquering new horizons.

Perhaps history gifted them the right cues. Waltzing into the past, Nasser's men would have read about David Gower's men who in 1984 culled new heroes-Mike Gatting, Graeme Flower and Tim Robinson-and side stepped Laxman Sivaramakrishnan's guiles. England won the series 2-1. Nasser might have ignored Graham Gooch's shoulders that shrunk with three defeats in the 1993 tour.

Nasser Hussain's hopes, pockmarked with a rain- drenched M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, may still grope in the Mohali defeat. But his cerebral approach earned him praise from the man who whipped the term `man management' into cricket diction.

Mike Brearley, with a laptop nestling close and eyes that say `trust me', cut a picture that said, `English cricket smacks of strawberries and cream.' ``Nasser Hussain is incredible. I want to doff my hat,'' he said. ``His ruthlessness yielded results. But sometimes that could translate to being stubborn, which is bad,'' Brearley added.

However, the rein-Sachin bid with Giles firing on the leg side paused Brearley's smile. ``May be I would have done it for just a short while. Perhaps it was Nasser's way of paying tribute to Sachin Tendulkar. The way out is to change the rules that would tell Nasser that he can't do it,'' Brearley said.

Brearley's Sourav-watch was measured. ``No glaring mistakes but I haven't seen much of him. Going in with just one seamer in this match was lunacy,'' he said.

The former England captain, who let Ian Botham's brilliance waft firmly in crescendo-mode, gazed at new stars. ``Foster can keep wickets for ten years, Hoggard is steady and Flintoff is a revelation.''

Brearley's grin found an ally in Duncan Fletcher's ``talk-business-cut-the-frills'' look. The coach said, ``Sachin got stumped for the first time. We are 130 runs ahead. Isn't that good ?''

And the query on negative tactics stumbled into silence. The aces were held close while he said, ``Tomorrow morning we will decide on our plans.''

Alec Stewart's shadow flitted past. ``Heard he stated his availability on television. All who have put up their names will be considered for selection in the one-dayers,'' Fletcher said.

The Fletcher report card ticked `excellent' for his wards. ``They have come along well. I'm happy for Foster. The English media's criticism was unfair. The selectors backed him and he has improved,'' he said while a reluctant smile flickered.