January 14, 2009

The man beneath the muscle

Hayden was typecast as a batting bully, but he was subtler than that, and the same divergence showed in his character as well
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A fisherman and a pianist, a powerhouse and a new father with children on his lap © Getty Images

And so one of the last big guns has fallen silent. Only Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting remained from the team that pounded so many opponents into submission in the last 10 years. Hayden's retirement will provoke relief among long-suffering bowlers, regret among his peers, and excitement among the new generation of Australian opening batsmen beginning to emerge as the old guard fades away.

Of course his departure was anticipated. He endured a bad trot this summer, a setback that made him vulnerable. To make matters worse, Australia lost two series, in India and at home to South Africa. Inevitably the voices urging change grew louder. Probably Hayden tried too hard to prove himself in those final weeks, blasting away but coming unstuck as feet and eyes, and sometimes luck, let him down.

Eventually he went back to Brisbane and his family and played with his children and picked a few tomatoes and realised that for him it was over. He had spent enough time on the frontline, enough time on the road, had nothing left to prove and nothing else to do except beat a dignified retreat. And so, surrounded by his colleagues in the Australian team, he announced that it was over and wished all and sundry the best of luck. It was the right decision. All good things come to an end.

Of course Australia will miss him, or rather the best of him. Over the years he has been an imposing figure. If Helen of Troy's face launched a thousand ships then Hayden's broad bat started a hundred innings and scared dozens of bowlers. A formidable figure armed with a bludgeon and wearing a tough look, he repeatedly began the innings with an uncompromising onslaught. Always he marched to the crease with intent, chewing gum, swinging his arms, a pitiless look in his eye - an Australian opener to his bootstraps, arguably the best his country has produced. Not that Australia has been as efficient at finding opening batsmen as it has been with fast bowlers, legspinners, glovemen and middle-order daredevils.

If Hayden had doubts, he left them in the rooms. It was not in his nature to give opponents any room for comfort. For most of his distinguished contribution, he set the tone for a side determined to take command, to play the game on its own terms. He won as many battles of the new ball as did Glenn McGrath. Between them and their assistants, these players regularly grabbed the initiative, which Australian cricketers value and protect at all costs.

In some eyes Hayden became the epitome of the hard-nosed Aussie, a label he seemed happy to wear. Certainly he was the least liked of the Australian players, especially in England, where his domineering outlook was resented. Indians, too, came to regard him as a mixed blessing, a match-winner with the bat and yet an abrasive opponent capable of intemperate remarks - a man to turn a cricket field into a battlefield. Closer inspection usually softened attitudes, revealing a warmth hidden in the heat of combat. Opponents might have been cowered or angry, but among comrades the Queenslander commanded affection.

About the only regret in yesterday's news was that Australians will not be able to give Hayden his deserved farewell. His contemporaries made a clean break, surprising observers with their announcements, playing a few more matches and then withdrawing gracefully. Large crowds stood to salute Shane Warne, McGrath and Justin Langer when they waved goodbye. Adam Gilchrist, too, had his lap of honour, as did Steve Waugh.

 
 
Hayden needed to be surrounded by believers, needed to feel he could express himself. Just because a man is big does not mean he is certain. Hayden had to fight his fears, among which failure and rejection sat high. In part that explains his swagger. He had to keep the world at bay
 

Hayden started later and wanted to last longer. Strong of mind and body, he hoped to play another Ashes series, to score a few more hundreds, to end in a blaze. It was not to be. From the start of this year's campaign he looked out of sorts, a player past his time, searching for his path. It all happened so quickly, caught everyone unawares. In 2007-08 he was the powerhouse of the batting. A year later he seemed too old for the company he was keeping. Naturally he waited for another revival, but this time the root cause was mental not technical. His mind was telling him it was over. Perhaps he will not care that he ended with words not deeds, at a press conference, not with a final innings. He has never been a sentimental man and in any case his form has been lousy.

It has been an extraordinary contribution. Among his generation only Langer, his blue-collar workmate, so far surpassed expectations. Patronised in his early years, cast as a leaden-footed and slow-witted thumper of bad bowling, as an antipodean Graeme Hick perhaps (though Hick might have made it in Australia) Hayden became the most formidable opening batsman of his period.

His career had several false starts as he tried to adjust his game to meet the supposed requirements of Test cricket. A secretly sensitive man, he felt uncomfortable in the teams led by Mark Taylor and accordingly tried to make the right impression, pushing and poking around like a vagabond in a rubbish dump. Of course, it did not work. Every man has his voice, distance, pace and role. Not until Steve Waugh took charge did confidence return. Waugh believed in Hayden, believed in his passion, his commitment, his power, and so Hayden became himself. Ponting had faith in him, too, and retained it through his loss of form in the 2005 Ashes series. Both captains were well rewarded. Hayden needed to be surrounded by believers, needed to feel he could express himself. Just because a man is big does not mean he is certain. Gulliver was pinned down by little men with tiny strings. Hayden had to fight his fears, among which failure and rejection sat high. In part that explains his swagger. He had to keep the world at bay.

His breakthrough came on the 2001 tour of India. After experiencing mixed fortunes in his comeback series against West Indies, he was a marginal selection. Many thought the Indian tweakers would make him look like an elephant in dancing shoes. Before the series began, Hayden made the most critical decision of his career. Accepting that he lacked touch, realising that his footwork might appear cumbersome, knowing that it was make or break, he resolved to stop fretting and to attack. Nor had he come unprepared, A few months before, he had paid his own way to the subcontinent to work on his game against spin. He figured out a method founded upon hitting the ball against the spin and aiming at empty parts of the outfield. His strategy played to his own strengths and put pressure back on the bowlers.

It worked a treat. In a trice Hayden was carting the ball around India, repeatedly dispatching Harbhajan Singh over deep midwicket and treating the other bowlers with equal brutality. Hayden was the highest scorer in the series. It was a towering performance and led to the most fruitful period of his cricketing life.

And yet it was also confusing. Thereafter Hayden was constantly trying to find his true tempo, After India he was typecast as a batting bully, but in fact his game was subtler than it appeared. At his best he took his time, worked his way through the gears. By no means was he a Viv Richards, demanding immediate subjugation. Only in adversity did he strike out. His batting looked muscular but was in fact measured.

The same divergence emerged in his character. At once he was a redneck fisherman from the interior of a conservative state and the author of cookbooks; one minute he was snarling at opponents, the next he was crossing himself. In the same frame lived a fisherman and a pianist, a muscular powerhouse and a new father with children on his lap. Hayden was a thinker; it's just that his conclusions about himself and his game confronted each other.



Power and brutality, yes, but Hayden's batting was actually quite measured © Getty Images

In some respects he created a character that could succeed, and never mind that opponents might not care for it. The years of struggle taught him to fend for himself

His batting was built around a withering drive past the bowler's right hand. Sometimes he'd stand in front of the popping crease or else step down the pitch to play the shot, often with devastating effect. Bowlers reacted by dropping short, and their offerings were put away. Eventually captains began to block the shot by placing deep mid-offs and short covers to pounce on miscues. Hayden never quite overcame this tactic and tended to try to hit the ball too hard. In the 2005 Ashes series he lost the shot and his command, and the same happened this season as he lifted his head, or else allowed his bottom paw to take over. His strength became his weakness, and this time the lost ground could not be recovered. He was 37 and could not expect much grace from the selectors.

Hayden did not get much chance to prove himself against high pace, a style of bowling seen sporadically in the last 15 years. If that is to be held against him, then it must be held against every batsman of the era. For that matter, records ought to be divided between the pre- and post-helmet and pre- and post-covered pitches eras. The tendency to pick holes in his record is to be resisted. Like most batsmen his best years were between 28 and 35. Unlike most of his stature, these years roughly defined his Test career. In part that explains his impressive returns. Along the way he constructed hundreds in four successive Test matches and top-scored in a World Cup. But his true standing as an opener is best gauged by the period's premier pace bowlers, among whom only Virender Sehwag creates as many sleepless nights.

And it finished as it began, with the left-hander searching for his game. Towards the end he was too anxious to assert himself. In India he broke his duck with a lofted straight drive, a risk repeated on home turf. Both belligerences spoke of a determination to convey confidence. Both indicated desperation and faltering desire. But Hayden was better than he knew. Certainly he was no mere smiter. In his pomp he batted with authority and massive certainty.

Langer was the hustler, often outpacing his buddy as he cracked boundaries through the covers. Hayden was a presence, a strong man taking his time to settle, building an innings, slowly cutting loose. Lack of self-knowledge held him back and eventually brought his downfall. In between he played a huge part in his country's domination. Along the way he won World Cups and Ashes series, and helped Australia retain top position in the Test and ODI rankings. From anyone it'd be convincing; from a batsman disregarded in his formative years it is astonishing.

Peter Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and the author, most recently, of In It to Win It

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ramky1975 on January 17, 2009, 6:23 GMT

    Australia,for long, has relied on the likes of Macgrath, Warne & the confidence factor on how to win. It was a well known secret that once the cogs are out the rest is going to fall through. Once Warne & Macgrath left and a couple of defeats will make a dent in the Australian confidence. The exit of Hayden and may be Pointing at a latter date will bring down the Australians further before they find their feet again. It will be quite a while before we are going to see a good Autralian side going around. It has happened to West Indies. It will happen to Australia and India.

  • redring on January 17, 2009, 4:45 GMT

    Paullie, He averaged 34 in 18 Test innings in England. Nowhere near enough to be classified as a great. Like I said have a look at other Australian openers performance in England such as Morris, Taylor, Slater, Ponsford and Langer. They're all superior to Hayden - how you perform on seaming wickets is a true measure of technique and quality not on flat tracks, Redring

  • __PK on January 16, 2009, 2:33 GMT

    Redring, if you remove Bangladesh and Zimbabwe from Hayden's stats, his average does not drop "considerably". It falls by less than two runs. And is still higher than Morris'.

  • kingtut on January 16, 2009, 1:03 GMT

    What a barrowload of horseradish cliches and overstatements this Australian manque Roebuck mucks out in every clause. "Cowered" instead of "cowed." Gah. After Harry, it's enough to make you wonder about the chinless wonders who make it to Oxbridge and spend the rest of their lives showing how undeserving those places are of any credit for producing such misbegotten golems. Beats me, as some of Roebuck's victims would say.

  • redring on January 16, 2009, 0:43 GMT

    It's pretty difficult to work out why Hayden has been put on such a pedestal. If you measure his performances against England (which is a commonly used yardstick) he's scored 5 centuries and 2 50's from 35 innings with only 1 century in England. Compare his performances against Simpson, Lawry and later Mark Taylor and even his old mate Langer their performances are all superior - more runs against England, more 100's and more 50's. Arthur Morris leaves them all for dead. Forget about Haydens average of 250 against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh which considerably boosts his overall average. Morris only played against England, South Africa and the Windies and was a far superior batsman and opener. Hayden's far superior performances in Australia and on flat sub continent wickets suggest he was a bit of a flat tracker. Real quality is how you perform on seaming English wickets. Hayden struggled!

  • icecream_snow on January 16, 2009, 0:19 GMT

    For the last 15 years there has been a colossal dearth of world class bowlers. Long gone are the days the days when every side had a pair of exceptional bowlers, an Ambrose and Walsh, or a Waqar and Wasim, or even a Donald and Pollock.

    Hayden was a good player, but he was no great. He played in a great Australian side, had his average inflated by Zimbabwae and Bangladesh, and was Hoggard's bunny in the Ashes defeat. Scoring 380 against a bunch of pie-chuckers isn't any achievement, just confirmation of a flat track bully.

  • JGuru on January 15, 2009, 17:32 GMT

    Excellent article. Well articulated. Hayden had been the Power House of Australian batting order. He had a fantastic technique and he is one of the few opening batsmen in Tests who are willing to attack rather than playing orthodox game. A sharp player on the field. It was very sad to see him dropping a sitter in Sydney. Though he had not got the kind of farewell that he deserved he left impregnable imprints in every true cricket lover. A champ who contibuted significantly in Australia's WC wins. A destroyer and ruthless attacking batsmen has left Australian cricket. We cannot see this buldgeoning cricketer scoring another razy hundred on a boxing day.Time to salute and accord due honors to one of the best entertaining batsmen the world cricket unearthed.

  • pete88oz on January 15, 2009, 14:32 GMT

    One of the first Peter Roebuck articles in a long time that doesn't make me angry, especially given his comments about Hayden only a year ago to the effect that he is an arrogant, ugly, bully and should retire. This is therefore unexpectedly very insightful, I've often felt Hayden didn't quite know himself, and I agree he needed to be backed 100% by those above him and around him. I also wholeheartedly agree with jamesanthony, Christian Ryan's piece was unreadably mean spirited and seemed like a character assassination. Finally, to the Hayden knockers, explain these achievements: The last two sets of back-to-back S.A./Australia series, Australia won 5 in a row and Hayden scored 4 (nearly 5) both times. The first time he did it against Pollock in his prime and the second Ntini in his prime. He carried the Aussie batting in India 2001. He scored plenty of runs against Murali. He was hit in the head by Shoaib, then scored a 7-hour ton in 50 degree heat in Sharjah. He deserves more credit.

  • virtualshah on January 15, 2009, 12:45 GMT

    Hayden will be remembered as "HAYDEN" himself. Its not very easy to compare his way of playing the game of cricket.

  • anandhonnatti on January 15, 2009, 12:35 GMT

    All I can say is, your article makes nice reading. There are things that are brought up which would never be done by others. That's fascinating for me.

    For instance "A secretly sensitive man, he felt uncomfortable in the teams led by Mark Taylor and accordingly tried to make the right impression, pushing and poking around like a vagabond in a rubbish dump. Of course, it did not work. Every man has his voice, distance, pace and role. Not until Steve Waugh took charge did confidence return. Waugh believed in Hayden, believed in his passion, his commitment, his power, and so Hayden became himself " Those small humane things which play a great role in anybody's career find way to your articles. Thanks for enriching cricket reading.

    Thanks Matt for good memeories.

  • ramky1975 on January 17, 2009, 6:23 GMT

    Australia,for long, has relied on the likes of Macgrath, Warne & the confidence factor on how to win. It was a well known secret that once the cogs are out the rest is going to fall through. Once Warne & Macgrath left and a couple of defeats will make a dent in the Australian confidence. The exit of Hayden and may be Pointing at a latter date will bring down the Australians further before they find their feet again. It will be quite a while before we are going to see a good Autralian side going around. It has happened to West Indies. It will happen to Australia and India.

  • redring on January 17, 2009, 4:45 GMT

    Paullie, He averaged 34 in 18 Test innings in England. Nowhere near enough to be classified as a great. Like I said have a look at other Australian openers performance in England such as Morris, Taylor, Slater, Ponsford and Langer. They're all superior to Hayden - how you perform on seaming wickets is a true measure of technique and quality not on flat tracks, Redring

  • __PK on January 16, 2009, 2:33 GMT

    Redring, if you remove Bangladesh and Zimbabwe from Hayden's stats, his average does not drop "considerably". It falls by less than two runs. And is still higher than Morris'.

  • kingtut on January 16, 2009, 1:03 GMT

    What a barrowload of horseradish cliches and overstatements this Australian manque Roebuck mucks out in every clause. "Cowered" instead of "cowed." Gah. After Harry, it's enough to make you wonder about the chinless wonders who make it to Oxbridge and spend the rest of their lives showing how undeserving those places are of any credit for producing such misbegotten golems. Beats me, as some of Roebuck's victims would say.

  • redring on January 16, 2009, 0:43 GMT

    It's pretty difficult to work out why Hayden has been put on such a pedestal. If you measure his performances against England (which is a commonly used yardstick) he's scored 5 centuries and 2 50's from 35 innings with only 1 century in England. Compare his performances against Simpson, Lawry and later Mark Taylor and even his old mate Langer their performances are all superior - more runs against England, more 100's and more 50's. Arthur Morris leaves them all for dead. Forget about Haydens average of 250 against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh which considerably boosts his overall average. Morris only played against England, South Africa and the Windies and was a far superior batsman and opener. Hayden's far superior performances in Australia and on flat sub continent wickets suggest he was a bit of a flat tracker. Real quality is how you perform on seaming English wickets. Hayden struggled!

  • icecream_snow on January 16, 2009, 0:19 GMT

    For the last 15 years there has been a colossal dearth of world class bowlers. Long gone are the days the days when every side had a pair of exceptional bowlers, an Ambrose and Walsh, or a Waqar and Wasim, or even a Donald and Pollock.

    Hayden was a good player, but he was no great. He played in a great Australian side, had his average inflated by Zimbabwae and Bangladesh, and was Hoggard's bunny in the Ashes defeat. Scoring 380 against a bunch of pie-chuckers isn't any achievement, just confirmation of a flat track bully.

  • JGuru on January 15, 2009, 17:32 GMT

    Excellent article. Well articulated. Hayden had been the Power House of Australian batting order. He had a fantastic technique and he is one of the few opening batsmen in Tests who are willing to attack rather than playing orthodox game. A sharp player on the field. It was very sad to see him dropping a sitter in Sydney. Though he had not got the kind of farewell that he deserved he left impregnable imprints in every true cricket lover. A champ who contibuted significantly in Australia's WC wins. A destroyer and ruthless attacking batsmen has left Australian cricket. We cannot see this buldgeoning cricketer scoring another razy hundred on a boxing day.Time to salute and accord due honors to one of the best entertaining batsmen the world cricket unearthed.

  • pete88oz on January 15, 2009, 14:32 GMT

    One of the first Peter Roebuck articles in a long time that doesn't make me angry, especially given his comments about Hayden only a year ago to the effect that he is an arrogant, ugly, bully and should retire. This is therefore unexpectedly very insightful, I've often felt Hayden didn't quite know himself, and I agree he needed to be backed 100% by those above him and around him. I also wholeheartedly agree with jamesanthony, Christian Ryan's piece was unreadably mean spirited and seemed like a character assassination. Finally, to the Hayden knockers, explain these achievements: The last two sets of back-to-back S.A./Australia series, Australia won 5 in a row and Hayden scored 4 (nearly 5) both times. The first time he did it against Pollock in his prime and the second Ntini in his prime. He carried the Aussie batting in India 2001. He scored plenty of runs against Murali. He was hit in the head by Shoaib, then scored a 7-hour ton in 50 degree heat in Sharjah. He deserves more credit.

  • virtualshah on January 15, 2009, 12:45 GMT

    Hayden will be remembered as "HAYDEN" himself. Its not very easy to compare his way of playing the game of cricket.

  • anandhonnatti on January 15, 2009, 12:35 GMT

    All I can say is, your article makes nice reading. There are things that are brought up which would never be done by others. That's fascinating for me.

    For instance "A secretly sensitive man, he felt uncomfortable in the teams led by Mark Taylor and accordingly tried to make the right impression, pushing and poking around like a vagabond in a rubbish dump. Of course, it did not work. Every man has his voice, distance, pace and role. Not until Steve Waugh took charge did confidence return. Waugh believed in Hayden, believed in his passion, his commitment, his power, and so Hayden became himself " Those small humane things which play a great role in anybody's career find way to your articles. Thanks for enriching cricket reading.

    Thanks Matt for good memeories.

  • bustermove on January 15, 2009, 11:30 GMT

    Peter, I can't say that I have really been impressed with much that you have had to say about any Aussies over the last year or so but I have to say that to a large extent I agree with your sentiments here. Those who pull down Hayden's record because he happened to play in an era when there were few quality fast bowlers are I think being a little ungracious. Shall we pull down the record of Tendulkar or Lara for the same reason? Those guys have faced a lot of bowlers other than Glen McGrath but no-one is questioning their records. Those who suggest that Warne and McGrath are responsible for Hayden's success are forgetting how many times Hayden set the tone for the match (and the series) in the first hour. It is hard to think of any player from any era, perhaps with the exception of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who has achieved more with such limited natural talents, except that is for determination. He should be the "work hard and look what you can achieve" model for every junior cricketer.

  • PottedLambShanks on January 15, 2009, 10:44 GMT

    His only achievement was getting in the same team as Warne and McGrath

  • Daps277 on January 15, 2009, 10:15 GMT

    peter has yet again published a wonderful article. .haydos has truly been a gr8 player with a gr8 determination and what a lovely player to watch. .considering he started his career so late he shud b really proud of his achievements. aus is surely gonna miss him i hope they find a suitable replacement pretty soon someone like hughes or marsh shud b the right choice. .

  • SebV on January 15, 2009, 10:00 GMT

    There's nothing good about Hayden that hasn't already been said or written. All of that is true. However, I disagree with the 2nd line of this excerpt from the author: "Hayden did not get much chance to prove himself against high pace. If that is to be held against him, then it must be held against every batsman of the era." During all of Hayden's time, no team could have boasted of any pace attack that even came remotely close to McGrath, Gillespie and Lee. Add Warne to that and you have an attack that could take 20 wickets in no time. Hayden didn't have to face them, all others did. It's the Aussie bowling that won them more matches.

  • henrystephen on January 15, 2009, 9:54 GMT

    Majr, you could just as easily and pointlessly say that Hadlee, Holding and the other great 80s bowlers were fortunate because they didn't have to bowl to batsmen like Hayden, Gilchrist, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Lara, Pietersen. Without being churlish, of course.

  • Percy_Fender on January 15, 2009, 5:05 GMT

    His statistics say that Mathew Hayden was one of the greatest batsman.Without being churlish, a more objective assesment can be made if one considers the bowling attacks he was destined to dismantle in his career. Since his meteoric rise really started in the 2001 series against India,it can be said that he contributed in no small measure to Australia's position in international cricket.Magrath,Gillespie and Warne were the bowlers who ensured that Australia's dominance continued. Hayden never had to play these great bowlers.Hayden's achievements have been against average bowlers who significantly,could'nt push their respective teams up the ladder over the same period. That would show that for all his statistical achievements he never had to face the likes of Roberts, Holding, Croft, Garner,Ambrose,Hadlee, Walsh or others of this lot. The only one who he faced from the truly great was Donald who made him look ordinary. He should be remembered more for his bouncer like personality.

  • surya_adi on January 15, 2009, 0:37 GMT

    Like Sangakkara's piece on Jayawardane a few weeks ago, this piece is right up there - balanced, neutral and paints a complete picture.

  • sundar_revathi on January 14, 2009, 23:18 GMT

    Why was Matt not saying or thinking about his critics 'they are ungrateful, I have done great SERVICE to my country'. He did'nt because cricket has given him lots of money, fame. Some great Indian cricketers need to learn..when you don't produce a fifty over 10 tests, be ready to go, don't be a whimp and start self-pitying.

  • anserazim on January 14, 2009, 21:17 GMT

    You were never out to a good ball or to a bad ball!! I had to pray all the time to get you out (being a Pakistani cricket supporter). Cricket will always miss you. I hope your decision is untrue. best wishes

    anser azim Chicago

  • mac9ue on January 14, 2009, 20:55 GMT

    The article overlooks the real reason that people tend to take Hayden's batting averages with a pinch of salt. True, quality fast bowling declined the world over during the last 15 years, but the only times Hayden faced genuine, sustained pace attacks (tour of England 2005, tour of India 2008, home against SA 2008-09), he faltered dramatically. The gap in performance is not so great for most other batsmen in Australia and around the world.

  • Horrie on January 14, 2009, 20:33 GMT

    Ever the waffler you are ' Robey', despite that the Haydos story is all in there and makes fascinating, if long, reading.. thanks.

  • Ajay42 on January 14, 2009, 18:59 GMT

    He said,"ONE of the last big guns",Kamal_lak and he is right. Leave us not get carried away,though...Gavaskar was a better player and so was Hutton.Maybe the best opener Aus has prduced but there certainly isnt much competition there.

  • jaydee001 on January 14, 2009, 15:45 GMT

    I am an Indian based in USA, and have been an avid fan of yours. You are no doubt the best opening batsman of all times that this game has produced. You will definitely be missed. Hope to see you around in IPL/ICL or locally in the USA circuit. Check out www.philadelphiacricketleague.com if you are interested.

  • CiMP on January 14, 2009, 15:30 GMT

    What I value in Matt Hayden is his willingness to do all that it takes to become a winner. His stint in India to learn to counter spin before the tour began is an example of his application.

    While I wont join the hyperbole (like Ricky Ponting) to declare him the best ever opening batsmen (even of Australia), Matt Hayden was definitely one of the most influential opening bat during 2001-08.

    Farewell. Hayden!

  • czar2008 on January 14, 2009, 15:21 GMT

    Have & will always be a hayden fan!! I personally think he had a lot of cricket left in him, he is, not WAS a big gun. Nice article though, your articles always tells us something more about players we love/hate and their especially their softer/unseen sides of personality....

    I donot like the way aussie management +/- media pressurise its brightest stars to retire, Shane warne proves he has lot of cricket in him, and so will hayden (in IPL format).

    Australia might have a lot pitted against them for the ashes, when they have a depleted bowling side and now not so much of an attacking batting side... England are in a mess of their own at the moment, so might be an interesting battle to see... Oz tho will have difficult times in S.Africa and in the subcontinent(Vs India/SL and even pakistan!) though following hayden's absence.

    Hats off to hayden, u were one of the best openers of your times... wish u well for a happy and fun filled life ahead

  • jamesanthony on January 14, 2009, 14:50 GMT

    What a pleasure to read this well-balanced and perceptive article after having been saddened yesterday when I went through the links relating to Matthew Hayden's retirement and came across the thoroughly mean-spirited little piece(How good was he?) by someone named Christian Ryan. The bad taste in the mouth left by that effort has found its antidote in Peter Roebuck's fascinatingly perceptive writing about one of the great cricketers of recent years. And I say this as a South African whose team has suffered many onslaughts by Matty Hayden's bat. Incidentally, in discussions of batting records set against the allegedly poor crop of fast bowlers in the last decade, mention is not often made that in the days of Greenidge and Haynes, there were not many real quicks outside the West Indies. And how many outstanding opening bowlers, apart from Larwood, did Don Bradman play against ? Well done, Peter Roebuck, on a fine piece of writing.

  • dr_g1998 on January 14, 2009, 14:45 GMT

    Well i must say that i could not appreciate Mr. Haydens style. His whole demeanor was one of a bully and i'm afraid i could not see past it.

    This article may not have changed my opinion of Mr Hayden but it has made me think more of him. Enjoy your retirement Mr Hayden, as a lousy pom i won't miss you :)

  • Youth_Perspective on January 14, 2009, 14:23 GMT

    Hayden was very aggressive. I was just comparing stats and the amazing thing is that Lara has a similar strike rate to him. I think Australia should make the switch to Michael Clarke now to allow him to carve a team and plan for the future.. He is improving at a phenomenal rate.

  • jetthebigfella2009 on January 14, 2009, 13:39 GMT

    A great analysis of Hayden... once again Roebuck has presented an honest, understanding and possibly sympathetic piece. I was one of those English fans who disliked Hayden immensely... and thoroughly enjoyed barracking him from the boundary. He always appeared brash, arrogant, possessed a snear full of contempt for most especially the opposition and carried himself like a man asking for a fight... he was the man everyone wanted (not loved I might add) to hate... there was absolutely nothing this man had that endeared him to anyone. I must stress as a cricketer he was a modern day behemoth and his stats will prove this, but he simply embelished the traditional hate that every English cricket fan has for the Aussies. The above piece has, albeit not warmed me to him, but made me understand a bit more of what makes the man tick - maybe I didn't care when he was playing... anyway, good luck on your retirement Matthew... you, in one way or the other, will be missed

  • henrystephen on January 14, 2009, 12:36 GMT

    Every now and then Peter Roebuck pulls out a gem. On this occasion there is good depth, nice balance when describing a controversial but fantastic player, and only 2 or 3 pointless literary references. This kind of article is why many of us rely on international media rather than the parochial local press that we get at home (be it England, India, Australia or anywhere else).

  • blackerthanyourhate on January 14, 2009, 12:17 GMT

    Hayden's role as an opener has simply excited world cricket more than ever.I am sure the world will never forget the big broad shouldered left hand batsman standing tall against all odds and give his best to his home team with his willingness to stay in the crease as long as possible..He will always be remembered as one of the best opening batsman the world has ever seen. Its sad to see sometimes media misrepresenting snazzy cricket personalities like Hayden and many others for whom i honestly feel bad. In my opinion Cricket Australia should have sticked around with him instead of pushing the brave man for retirement.Everyone has ups and downs in their career and the media should do their role more responsibly instead of coming down to conclusions too early that a batsman cant perform better because of a few poor innings he has had lately.He should have been encouraged to take a break and allow him to settle down by playing a few first class games at home.

  • BullPUP on January 14, 2009, 11:39 GMT

    Yes. The Big guns are heaping up. Though matty was not a technically perfect batsman he is one of the greatest openers of all time. The mammoth figure walking down and lofting the ball over midwicket and chewing gum like nothing happened will be missed. Hope i will see him play for chennai..

  • Abhithen on January 14, 2009, 10:03 GMT

    Peter stunning as usual. We have enjoyed lot of your previous articles. But this one is something special. I don't know whether it is because you like him a lot or the man himself has possessed all the said above. Yet it was a disappointing day for world cricket since one of the major contributors for the runs scored and catches taken had retired. But fan across will be still waiting to watch Haydos bat for chennai super kings in the 2009 edition of IPL atleast.

  • popcorn on January 14, 2009, 9:59 GMT

    Australian selectors are known for their patience,for their common sense to recognize that a batsman cannot score centuries every time he walks out to bat. And they have ALWAYS been rewarded. I am pretty sure that even this time,the selectors would not have tapped him on his shoulder to go. Why couldn't the very same press reporters who are now singing his praise have left him alone? Because their itchy fingers need to write some trash for the public to lap up. And even if Haydos did not want to read this trash,he must have been disgusted by these comments from you so-called omniscient reporters and Test discarded disgruntled television commentators. But the gentle giant is too noble to retort.And with a heavy heart decided to call it a day. It is truly sad for us cricket lovers that we will not see another like him. Adios, amigo.We'll forever be comparing the openers to come, with you as the benchmark.

  • Mr_November on January 14, 2009, 7:13 GMT

    " "And so the last of the big guns has fallen silent." What about Ponting?" Ponting is clearly mentioned in the opening of the article - "And so ONE of the last big guns has fallen silent. Only Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting remained..."

    Really good article. Hayden was a fearsome figure at the top of the order for Australia and is deservedly one of the greats of the game

  • Howie_CrowEater on January 14, 2009, 5:41 GMT

    Well Mr Roebuck I think I have to agree with your sentiments in this article. Your tendency to over think issues has been evenly balanced with practical thought. I only wished you would have been so kind to him when he was actually playing. Focus more on the positive's please, Australian cricket aint that bad.

  • JogeshPanda on January 14, 2009, 4:18 GMT

    Another giant in world cicket hangs his boot in a season which can be seen as change of world order where one generation is passing the baton to the next.When its Matthew Hayden, the first thing comes to mind is sheer audacity of batsmanship.He championed his method of disintegrating any new ball attack by walking down the pitch half way.Some of his innings in sub-continent epitomize his batting powess,be it sweeping everything of bhajji or century in sarjah where his single innigs score was more than the opposition's both inings total.Australia will definitely miss his contibutions to win but world cricket will miss his batsmanship.

  • porotodean on January 14, 2009, 4:12 GMT

    Matt Hayden is one of my favourite cricketers, born in the same state and the same year as him, I have followed his career through its ups and downs. The way he honed and improved his game was inspiring, and he always carried himself well. I will always remember the gruff "get up!" he said to himself when he was choking back tears at his retirement press conference. That said it all.

    Thank you for the years of entertainment and service Matt. You are a true legend.

    By the way, Helen of Troy's face launched a thousand ships. Cleopatra's face apparently had a nose like a ship's beak.

    Glib remarks aside, a well balanced article Peter.

  • anoop5000 on January 14, 2009, 4:03 GMT

    It was not Cleopatra's face that launched the thousand ships, It was Helen's, Helen of Try that is. Cleopatra's face might have sunk a thousand ships.

  • robodowna on January 14, 2009, 3:49 GMT

    Peter,

    I have read countless articles of yours over the years. But never, in all that time, has an article touched me like this one. Having been a Hayden fan for the entire journey, your description of the peaks and troughs of his career is so very appropriate. I'm sure he, as well as the rest of general public, will appreciate this article immensely. Thankyou

  • QUDSI on January 14, 2009, 3:47 GMT

    nice article. there is nothing to say about the champ. without a doubt he was the best opening batsmen that the cricketing world has ever seen.

  • kamal_lak on January 14, 2009, 3:10 GMT

    "And so the last of the big guns has fallen silent." What about Ponting? I know the author is not a big fan of him but he still was/is one of the cornerstones of Aussie domination over the last decade.

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  • kamal_lak on January 14, 2009, 3:10 GMT

    "And so the last of the big guns has fallen silent." What about Ponting? I know the author is not a big fan of him but he still was/is one of the cornerstones of Aussie domination over the last decade.

  • QUDSI on January 14, 2009, 3:47 GMT

    nice article. there is nothing to say about the champ. without a doubt he was the best opening batsmen that the cricketing world has ever seen.

  • robodowna on January 14, 2009, 3:49 GMT

    Peter,

    I have read countless articles of yours over the years. But never, in all that time, has an article touched me like this one. Having been a Hayden fan for the entire journey, your description of the peaks and troughs of his career is so very appropriate. I'm sure he, as well as the rest of general public, will appreciate this article immensely. Thankyou

  • anoop5000 on January 14, 2009, 4:03 GMT

    It was not Cleopatra's face that launched the thousand ships, It was Helen's, Helen of Try that is. Cleopatra's face might have sunk a thousand ships.

  • porotodean on January 14, 2009, 4:12 GMT

    Matt Hayden is one of my favourite cricketers, born in the same state and the same year as him, I have followed his career through its ups and downs. The way he honed and improved his game was inspiring, and he always carried himself well. I will always remember the gruff "get up!" he said to himself when he was choking back tears at his retirement press conference. That said it all.

    Thank you for the years of entertainment and service Matt. You are a true legend.

    By the way, Helen of Troy's face launched a thousand ships. Cleopatra's face apparently had a nose like a ship's beak.

    Glib remarks aside, a well balanced article Peter.

  • JogeshPanda on January 14, 2009, 4:18 GMT

    Another giant in world cicket hangs his boot in a season which can be seen as change of world order where one generation is passing the baton to the next.When its Matthew Hayden, the first thing comes to mind is sheer audacity of batsmanship.He championed his method of disintegrating any new ball attack by walking down the pitch half way.Some of his innings in sub-continent epitomize his batting powess,be it sweeping everything of bhajji or century in sarjah where his single innigs score was more than the opposition's both inings total.Australia will definitely miss his contibutions to win but world cricket will miss his batsmanship.

  • Howie_CrowEater on January 14, 2009, 5:41 GMT

    Well Mr Roebuck I think I have to agree with your sentiments in this article. Your tendency to over think issues has been evenly balanced with practical thought. I only wished you would have been so kind to him when he was actually playing. Focus more on the positive's please, Australian cricket aint that bad.

  • Mr_November on January 14, 2009, 7:13 GMT

    " "And so the last of the big guns has fallen silent." What about Ponting?" Ponting is clearly mentioned in the opening of the article - "And so ONE of the last big guns has fallen silent. Only Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting remained..."

    Really good article. Hayden was a fearsome figure at the top of the order for Australia and is deservedly one of the greats of the game

  • popcorn on January 14, 2009, 9:59 GMT

    Australian selectors are known for their patience,for their common sense to recognize that a batsman cannot score centuries every time he walks out to bat. And they have ALWAYS been rewarded. I am pretty sure that even this time,the selectors would not have tapped him on his shoulder to go. Why couldn't the very same press reporters who are now singing his praise have left him alone? Because their itchy fingers need to write some trash for the public to lap up. And even if Haydos did not want to read this trash,he must have been disgusted by these comments from you so-called omniscient reporters and Test discarded disgruntled television commentators. But the gentle giant is too noble to retort.And with a heavy heart decided to call it a day. It is truly sad for us cricket lovers that we will not see another like him. Adios, amigo.We'll forever be comparing the openers to come, with you as the benchmark.

  • Abhithen on January 14, 2009, 10:03 GMT

    Peter stunning as usual. We have enjoyed lot of your previous articles. But this one is something special. I don't know whether it is because you like him a lot or the man himself has possessed all the said above. Yet it was a disappointing day for world cricket since one of the major contributors for the runs scored and catches taken had retired. But fan across will be still waiting to watch Haydos bat for chennai super kings in the 2009 edition of IPL atleast.