Russell Jackson

Hayden the hard yakker

Aka the finest wordsmith from the planet of Australia

Russell Jackson
Russell Jackson
Matthew Hayden speaks to the media at the ICC World Cup net bowler programme launch at the Allan Border Field, Brisbane, October 23, 2014

Listening to Hayden execute his commentary skillset provides you a prideful cultural education in hard-working Australian mateship  •  Getty Images

We really should have seen it coming - Matthew Hayden's star turn at this World Cup. All the elements of his unconventional genius were there - the botched insults (remember Harbhajan the "obnoxious weed"?), the way in post-game interviews he tended to put the English language through a tumble dryer, words clanging around endlessly until big Haydos ran out of breath.
When Hayden was appointed to the Cricket Australia board, Gideon Haigh noted that he brought with him "the experience of 103 Tests and numberless unintelligible press conferences". Bursting through the corporate gates with zeal, our man had no time for naysayers, but he did acknowledge the hurdles ahead:
"The game is definitely at the coalface of anticipated change," stated the earthy Queenslander, then mostly known for his run-making feats and prodigious output of cookbooks. Might the publishers have missed his calling as a corporate soothsayer? Soon he was talking the globalisation of brands and strategic imperatives. If he hadn't lobbed at CA, surely the interest of the ECB would have been piqued.
In his playing days I always found Hayden a mildly unpleasant chap on account of his bullying persona, the bowing at milestones, his general gamesmanship, and tendency to make verbose, undiplomatic statements about his opponents. Now I fear that such prejudices blinded me to his limitless appeals as a pundit. With a microphone in his hand he sounds like a raving maniac. In a good way. No topic is off limit for Matthew Hayden, he'll have a crack at anything. He also makes Danny Morrison sound like John Arlott.
There's actually a rich and deep archive of Hayden's bon mots out there on the Internet. I've since learned that "the distinguishing features of [his] baggy green was the blood, sweat and tears". Haydos saw his homeland, Australia, as "a planet full of Australians" and his former team-mate Mike Hussey as a man who liked to "abuse himself internally in the dressing room after a bad dismissal". He also foretold Kevin Pietersen's injury issues: "Ever since Kevin Pietersen has been running around on the plains of Africa, he would have been wearing out his Achilles tendon." I don't know about you, but now I just want to listen to some Toto.
During Wednesday's game at Bellerive Oval my colleague Geoff Lemon did his bit for the historical preservation of the Hayden commentary oeuvre, transcribing one particularly flavoursome burst of Haydos, in this instance an off-the-wall take on Tasmania's history as a penal colony. We learned, among other things, that Tasmania was "built on the shackles of hard labour" and that most of its original inhabitants - criminals for the most part - looked a lot like David Boon. What a time to be alive the 1800s must have been.
Of course Ramiz Raja was the perfect co-pilot on this magic carpet ride through the Apple Isle.
I'll be honest, I've been patiently waiting for an heir to Navjot Sidhu's throne to emerge, so Hayden's performances during this tournament are welcome. In the intervening time - to paraphrase Haydos - it's been a long, cold, lonely winter full of the sort of harshness you get in southern Australia when you're trying to forge a nation out of Britain's cast offs. Get my drift? Never mind.
In Hayden I think I've also seen a future for Channel Nine's beleaguered coverage of the Australian summer fixtures. JB, Heals and Slats are the commentary version of Meat Loaf. Let's get Sun Ra in the house to unleash his improvisational jazz: free association as match analysis. It's uncertain whether we'd find any more answers to the pressing cricketing questions, but more likely Haydos will unlock the cosmos and expand our minds. If you can't be insightful, at least be bizarre.
The only thing I now fear is that the bores in production jobs will step in and either administer managerial laxatives to Hayden's verbal diarrhoea or else give him the flick. Commentating on one recent game our new hero said that if bowlers continued to stray on to the legs of Indian batsmen, Hayden would jump off a cliff. For the sake of comedy, I really hope they stick to the channel outside off stump.

Russell Jackson is a cricket lover who blogs about sport in the present and nostalgic tense for the Guardian Australia and Wasted Afternoons. @rustyjacko