Australia news September 20, 2012

Hayden moves from pitch back to boardroom

Matthew Hayden's retirement from professional cricket after one season with the Brisbane Heat in the BBL was no surprise, for he had flagged the strong possibility himself last summer.

"I don't think I'll play again next year...this will be it for me," Hayden had said in December. "There's just so much happening in my life, you can never wind back the clock...I'm a father of three firstly and I have a lot of work to do off the field."

After a holiday at the end of the season, 40-year-old Hayden wrestled with the decision a little more, but it was always likely that his interest in the Heat would move from that of a player to a board member and potential financial stakeholder after the BBL made a successful start in the 2011-12 season.

Hayden's business, The Hayden Way, had flagged interest in becoming a partner in ownership of the Heat last year, before Cricket Australia froze its private ownership plans. Hayden is now set to remain closely linked to the Heat via spot on the team's board, with the possibility of taking up a stake in the team should CA again open the doors to private investors.

"This marks the closing of the book in terms of playing, it wasn't a very easy decision I must admit," Hayden said in Brisbane. "[The Heat coach] Darren Lehmann created a really fun environment to go out and play cricket. It is hard as an athlete to leave your comfort zones and leave something you love as much as I did.

"But every dog has their day and certainly I perhaps wasn't at my best last season, but I definitely was the best I could be, and that was something I was proud of for 20 years."

Hayden had played for IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings in the year following his international retirement, the 2010 Champions League being his last stint with them. He then came out of retirement to play for the Brisbane Heat in last year's inaugural tournament, giving up his responsibilities as a board member of Cricket Australia and Queensland Cricket in order to play again.

While reiterating his support for T20 competitions, Hayden also stated his distaste for much of the international schedule, citing the ICC Champions Trophy as an example of the flotsam and jetsam floating through an increasingly crowded calendar. He also hinted at his support for a World Test Championship, a concept that has been placed on hold until at least 2017 by the game's governors.

"Forever more now the landscape is challenged by the quantity of cricket," Hayden said. "You just as a fan follow different tournaments around the world with great difficulty. There's a consistent lack of focus and direction on some of the major tournaments. There's the World Cup naturally...2015 is going to be a significant year for Australian cricket and New Zealand cricket, but there's other tournaments like the Champions Trophy for example that hold little or no relevance in the context of cricket and the landscape.

"It is hard to make those decisions, and there's lots of angles from which administrators look at those decisions, no more so than commercial aspects of the game. For the fan there's definitely too much cricket, for the player there's definitely not enough relevance to the forms of the game you play. And some of the longer versions of the game as well need some refining and some parameters put around them to make every game as important genuinely as the last one you played.

"If we do get that mix right...we've now got our little brother in T20 cricket who is now really rising up and establishing a connection with fans, and ultimately that's what the game's about."

One area Hayden was more positive about was the effect of club T20 competitions on the options open to professional cricketers. Kevin Pietersen's run-ins with the ECB and his England team-mates over the IPL have been a very public example of this, but Hayden said the emergence of greater choice was constructive.

"Players haven't ever had the opportunity to be challenged in terms of who actually contracts them," he said. "Now you do have the opportunity to play for the Brisbane Heat, for the Chennai Super Kings, for your country or in Kevin's case his previous country as well. There's so much range and it's a good thing for the athlete, because it hones their skill. Someone like Ricky Ponting will say frankly 'I'm relatively uninterested in T20 cricket, but Test cricket is where I really want to be'. Michael Clarke's had a similar view. I think that's great because it does allow athletes a broader range of opportunity."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here