'Australia late in capitalising on T20' - Matthew Hayden
Matthew Hayden, the former Australia opener, has said Australia missed an opportunity to capitalise on the enormous potential of Twenty20 cricket when the format was still in its developing stages. He claimed the desire to protect 50-over cricket - Australia's own creation - and a primary focus on Tests and ODIs when the IPL was yet to materialise may have contributed to Australia's delay in cashing in on Twenty20. Hayden also spoke of the need to make one-day cricket more meaningful and exciting for fans and players alike.
"As a player, I think we in Australia were slow to react to T20,'' Hayden, who is now part of Cricket Australia as board director, told the Sunday Age. ''We didn't see much of it here for a start. It seemed to be something that was happening everywhere else. England created it and was holding competitions, but the IPL hadn't started yet and our primary focus here was on winning every Test match and being one-day champions.''
A conservative approach in trying to safeguard 50-over cricket, Hayden said, could have prompted the delay in realising the potential of Twenty20. ''There must have been some concern, being conservative as Australians tend to be, that we've got this great product, 50-over cricket, which KP [Kerry Packer] invented and which changed the cricketing landscape, and we didn't want to leave it behind,'' Hayden said. "We were all proud of 50-over cricket, we'd nurtured it and grew it and it was - and still is - good for the game.
"But the little brother, Twenty20, isn't little any more. He's grown up, he's now market leader and yelling from the mountain. Twenty20 is fuelling change.''
The surging popularity of Twenty20 cricket, many believe, has threatened the viability of the 50-over format. Cricket Australia, in order to draw more people to the game, has decided to trial split-innings one-dayers next summer, with games divided into four innings of 20-25 overs each. Hayden said that, in addition to making one-day cricket more exciting, it was also important for administrators to ensure there wasn't an overdose of the format.
''I understand the fans more now than ever because, as a viewer, I want to see a game that's exciting, innovative and entertaining,'' Hayden said. "When I was in the Australian team, I could sense there was meaningless cricket going on. I always struggled to get myself up for matches against minnows. It's not like Freddie Flintoff with his eyes wide open, bearing down on you for the Ashes. I could feel that in the team and now I can feel it from the outside, too. It needs to be dealt with.
''With one-day cricket, people say they still love it, but it doesn't have the excitement it used to, certainly not compared to T20. We have to work out when and how we play one-day cricket. It's a pathway to the World Cup, which is still a valuable property, but it has to be programmed in a way that makes sense. Seven one-dayers at the end of a Test series isn't [giving much] meaning.''
Hayden has compiled his suggestions in a dossier, which he has submitted to the ICC. ''Greater minds than mine will act on this, but these things must be considered when discussing the game's future,'' he said. ''The intention of that dossier was to start conversations. I hope it leads to a more meaningful calendar.
"The game's gone beyond cigars and meetings in cloakrooms. The way it's played and viewed has changed and now we need to streamline what's important and what's not. It brings great challenges. I think CA understands that. They know change is coming and needs to be embraced.''