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Difficult to fill void created by Hayden
January 16, 2009
The time is fast flying as Australia's [Images] dominance is drawing towards cul-de-sac. Another pillar of Australia's edifice has collapsed, though the last nail still remains as strong as ever in the form of Ricky Thomas Ponting.
As widely speculated the burly left handed bat, Matthew Hayden [Images], this time calls it a day. If Australia had lost it sting at the top in terms of putting a formidable first innings total, a lot of that was accounted to Hayden's drought with the bat, since the return at the top of the order.
The 37 year old played "extremely well" by exiting instead of being pushed out. Hayden had a treacherous summer with 149 runs at 16.55 from five Tests while pressure of new players down the throat, was difficult to overlook. He was hindered by a heel injury in the off-season and never regained the zing.
In more than one way he resembled the great Sir Viv Richards [Images] who always looked to dominate, right from the onset. Hayden was the symbol of arrogance, often intimidating the faster men with burly built and imposing stature at the top.
It was often a usual sight of him walking down the track and effortlessly dispatching the seamers over the mid on / midwicket area. At the acme, he hardly presented any opportunities to the bowlers to breathe easy let alone be snared by them cheaply. Needless to say that he made a mark as decimator of bowling attacks all over the world.
Dexterous against high quality spin, Hayden was decisive off either foot and couldn't allow the spinners to get into their groove and force the opposition skipper to take them out of the attack.
With the powers waning due to the heel injury, it was not the same Hayden anymore taking guard at the wicket.
Blessed with unusual technique and a penchant to get on the front foot always Hayden will be remembered most for redefining batting at the top of the order and consistently scoring runs at about four runs an over and to some extent altering Justin Langer's approach at the crease in the Test format. This was instrumental in setting up Australian wins with Shane Warne [Images] and Glenn McGrath doing the rest.
However, it is easy to forget how long it took him to find his feet in international cricket. A heavy scorer for Queensland in domestic cricket and since his debut in 1994 against South Africa [Images], he took seven years to make the opening spot his own, with the Australian-record 549 runs in three matches against India, in 2001.
In Test cricket only five batsmen have scored more than his 30 hundreds and just eight have a better rate of converting fifties to tons, while his ODI record is anything but outstanding with 6133 runs in 141 games. The result of it all is that he leaves with a Test average of 50, and a reputation as one of the greatest Australian batsmen, ever.
Twenty-six months ago, while Australia were handing England [Images] a 5-0 Ashes thrashings, Ponting, the Australian captain, was surrounded by figures that marked the Australian hegemony. Captaining a side when greats like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist [Images], Justin Langer and Hayden were under his control, will make Ricky Ponting [Images] miss those days.
Sitting out on the wicket, looking at things from a different angle the day before a game, visualising how he is going to play the next day was another unique thing which Hayden brought to the game of cricket.
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