Harbhajan-Sreesanth row

Hayden calls spat a stray incident

Sriram Veera

April 30, 2008

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Matthew Hayden: "In any given side, there are always two or three people that look to sledge" © Getty Images
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Matthew Hayden has said the Harbhajan Singh-Sreesanth row left him upset but is confident it was a stray incident. Hayden, the Australian opener currently playing for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League, also said he wouldn't use this to sledge either of them when Australia tour India later this year.

"I was very upset, I just think we play this great game, in a great competition and both these guys are young men with enormous responsibilities as two fine players and prospects for the country that adores cricket and its cricketers," Hayden told Cricinfo. "So I am sure they will feel remorseful as any player would. Because I think any player who has risen to the top of the game obviously has enormous respect and enormous discipline to get there. Honestly, I think it will be tomorrow's headlines and life will move on. The game has always moved on."

Asked whether he thought this was just a momentary lapse of reason Hayden said, "I think so, yes. I didn't think this was ever going to happen and I don't think it will happen again either. Hopefully not."

Hayden had a famous run-in with Harbhajan during India's tour of Australia, where he called the offspinner a "little obnoxious weed". Would he use the latest incident between Sreesanth and Harbhajan as a sledging tool when Australia visit India in October? "No, I won't be," he says with emphasis. Is he drawing a moral line to sledging? "Yes, I think so. That is an incident between two individuals and I don't want to comment on their relationship and where they are at and how they are going. There is no point. All that does is just create another headline and I don't want to do that. I love the game of cricket and I have been really successful at the game of cricket, so I don't think I need to push that barrier.

"It's the beauty of our game really; there is a gentlemanly aspect to the game and we get challenged on this. Australia has been nominated as the best sledgers and we get asked the question a lot of time but in reality its actually a mis-truth or certainly an exaggerated truth.

"What the world has done following the success of Australian cricket is to try and vilify us. And that's fair enough as the best in the world need to be taken down. So we always had to be on our guard and understand within that we need to address the issue before anyone else does.

 
 
"You choose your targets, really. I would never say anything to Sachin [Tendulkar], Rahul [Dravid] or Anil [Kumble] or anyone like that. I believe they have marked the test of time" - Hayden on sledging
 

Hayden also said the Australian team has discussed the image of being the bad boys of international cricket and the ways of sledging. "You tell me what are these incidents of bad boys. I don't think we are. But yes, we senior players do sit together and work out where we want to go and how we want to play our cricket. Also, making comments can be distracting to some characters. If someone is forced to do that without it being a motivating factor then its trouble."

He believes every team has a few characters that get involved in sledging. "I think in any given side, there are always two or three people that look to sledge. For e.g. In the Indian side, it would be Sreesanth, Harbhajan and [Robin] Uthappa. You wouldn't hear a boo out of Rahul [Dravid], MS [Dhoni] and [Anil] Kumble though they are all fiercely determined."

Hayden also spoke about the art of sledging and how he would pick certain individuals for the treatment. "You choose your targets, really. I would never say anything to Sachin [Tendulkar], Rahul or Anil or anyone like that. I believe they have marked the test of time. We have been in battles together so many times and there is an enormous respect. Not that making comment is disrespect; making comment is trying to unsettle a player because you don't know whether that guy has the skills to deal with it. And that was exactly the same when I was young coming into the game. You expect to get that."

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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