Matthew Hayden sent a scary warning to New Zealand bowlers anticipating his international comeback by saying he's the "hungriest" he's ever been. When Hayden talks about food the opposition should listen.
A big man with his own tasty cookbook, Hayden spent most of the 1990s gorging on interstate runs in an effort to prove himself to Australia's selectors. Once he returned to the national team for the third time in 1999-2000 he chewed with his mouth open in a feast that brought him 20 centuries in his first 55 Tests, and a frightening limited-overs partnership with Adam Gilchrist.
While missing the finals against Pakistan he spoke of serving up a "platter" of runs to Trevor Hohns and Co, and whatever he did during the break certainly increased his appetite. By picking Hayden for the five-match one-day series the selectors have given him the opportunity to turn mouth-watering metaphors into an extended career course. "This is the hungriest I have ever been," Hayden told the Courier-Mail. "I've got a lot of fire in my belly and I want to convert that and score a lot of good runs."
Hayden will be reinstalled as Australia's one-day opener in New Zealand in a plan to re-heat his cold-soup form. The selectors named a 14-man squad yesterday for the five matches and decided against dumping him alongside Darren Lehmann. Michael Clarke replaced Hayden for the finals but is expected to slide down the order to accommodate him.
"We certainly want to give Matthew the opportunity to come out of this slight hiccup and give him a bit of experience in the conditions which might prevail in the Tests," Hohns, the chairman of selectors, told The Australian. "He will certainly get plenty of opportunities in the one-day side over there."
Hayden believed he was not the only batsman to find the season difficult to stomach. "The top order, excluding Damien Martyn, has felt a little flat," he said. "It's been a long campaign. We have to dig deep as a partnership and work hard together at that."
The season's toll showed when Hayden's final warm-up match before the tour was abandoned due to a viral infection. He was desperate to play for Queensland against Western Australia in the ING Cup match at the Gabba, but was ruled out this morning. "He will be monitored over the coming days but at this stage is expected to be fit to depart with the Australian team to New Zealand," Dr Trefor James, Cricket Australia's medical officer, said. Hayden was replaced by Lachlan Stevens, who will make his debut.