Hayden traces spin success to 1999 camp
Matthew Hayden has attributed his remarkable success against spin in India to a camp held under the supervision of Bishen Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna in Chennai in 1999. Before Hayden toured India in 2001, he tallied only 536 runs in 13 Tests at an average of just over 24 but he accumulated more than 500 runs in the three-Test series.
"It [the spin camp] was a very important camp. Based on that experience I was able to formulate a gameplan and batting strategy," Hayden said. "Importantly, I came to understand the mindset of a spinner. I practised a variety of shots, tried out lots of options and developed my game against spin."
Prasanna remembers a young Hayden, pushing for the ball and not allowing it to come to him. "We told him, either you take the ball on the full or wait. And we also talked about his sweep shot. Some batsmen usually take the left leg out and expose the middle stump. We asked Hayden to get in line a bit more before he plays that shot forcefully. He was obviously a very keen student."
Hayden later asked Ross Harris, then the curator at the Allan Border field in Queensland, to replicate Indian conditions for practice just before coming to India in 2001. "He asked me to try and make a slow turner for him ... well, the first week we tried it rained, so that didn't work, and the next week was the weekend of the A Grade one-day final," Harris once told ABC. "It was dry and we got him a wicket. I think he just decided to believe in himself, and that's why he asked me to try and prepare some wickets."
Moving on to the current series, Hayden said Australia are likely to adopt the same defensive approach that brought them success in their 2004 tour of India. Unlike their earlier tours, Australia set deep defensive fields right from the start and preyed on the patience of the Indian batsmen. "Most likely that's the way we will go about it here. It's actually difficult for both teams; it's against our nature to play a defensive game but we did taste success with it last time," Hayden said. "In India, the game can seem to meander for quite a while before it suddenly changes in a session. So patience is very important to succeed here. It's going to be a very interesting series."
|I am feeling very comfortable and confident with my game at the moment. The Indian series is one of the great challenges in cricket and I feel up to it mentally|
Hayden said he believed the sweep - which he developed with help from Border and Bobby Simpson - would remain his most productive shot against spin in the current series. "As I had told you before, that was something I practised a lot for the previous series as the 'go-to shot' for scoring against spinners. It has worked very well for me and I will continue to do that."
His inspiration, he said, would be his performances on previous tours. "My tours here have been the greatest preparation. I am feeling very comfortable and confident with my game at the moment. The Indian series is one of the great challenges in cricket and I feel up to it mentally. Yes, I didn't play in the West Indies but I'm back from injury and I have worked hard. And I have, as you know, had success in India. Even in the IPL - I did really well here. So I'm feeling pretty confident actually."
There has been speculation in the media over Hayden's retirement from ODIs and he stressed that he sees a role in the near future. "Look, I won't be playing in the next World Cup for sure but I am still very keen to play in the immediate future."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo