Drop Hayden, says Rixon
Steve Rixon, the former Australian wicketkeeper and New Zealand coach, has joined the call for Matthew Hayden's exclusion from the Australian team for the fifth Ashes Test, which starts at The Oval on September 8. Hayden has struggled throughout the series, scoring only 180 runs in eight innings at an average of 22.50, and Rixon reckoned it was time for Simon Katich to move up the batting order as Justin Langer's partner.
"I'd be leaving Matthew Hayden out and letting Simon Katich open," Rixon told The Sun-Herald. "I've no doubt Ricky [Ponting] will want him in the team, but it shouldn't happen. I'm a fan of Matthew Hayden. He's been sensational for Australia. But this is a one-off Test with everything - and I mean everything - at stake. It's the biggest match Australia has played for as long as I can remember. Matthew is a frustrated batsman. Even he would have to admit he's out of form. It's been too long since he's made a big score." Hayden hasn't scored a hundred in his last 15 Tests, and averages only 30.23 over that period.
"He can come back for the next Test, but he shouldn't be in this one," Rixon continued. "I've never seen him play the way he is at the moment. Some of the balls he misses, he wouldn't have hit it with two bats.
"If Hayden plays, I hope he gets runs and proves me wrong. But we need batsmen to go out there and fight to save the series. Katich will do that. He was ready for the innings of the life before he was taken out through no fault of his own," Rixon said, referring to Katich's 183-ball 59 at Trent Bridge, an innings which was cut short by a dubious lbw decision. "Simon showed that's it's possible to bat for a long time against these bowlers when you get tough. The selectors need to be strong on this."
Meanwhile Jason Gillespie, another Australian who has been struggling throughout the tour, rejected suggestions that there will be wholesale changes to the Australian team after the current series. Gillespie was dropped from the fourth Test after taking just three wickets at 100 apiece in the first three.
"I honestly don't believe there is a feeling of a sea change within the team," Gillespie told The Sun-Herald. "There is talk of this being an older team but you're only as old as you feel. We all feel fresh, the batsmen are hitting the ball well, the bowlers are doing well, it's business as usual.
"So, I don't know if I buy into that sort of talk. That sort of talk always happens when you're not playing well. "We've played a couple of bad games, we haven't played to our usual standards, and you have former players in the media having their bit to say, which is fine. We know we can do better, it's time for us to fine-tune our skills and we'll silence [the critics] when we win at The Oval."