The news making headlines in Australia today is that Matthew Hayden is retiring from all forms of international cricket. After reading over the weekend Hayden saying he will retire on his terms I can only suspect this is what happened: Hayden played out the last test, and failed again; administration people spoke to him to find out his intentions, to which Hayden said he will have something to say over the weekend; Hayden states his intentions to stay on; Monday, the selectors paid him a visit and said if he didn’t retire soon, he would be pushed out at his next failure, perhaps not even taken to South Africa, and urged to give serious consideration to stepping down now; Mathew Hayden called today’s press conference. I have nothing to back that up, but everyone knows of a couple players previously where something similar has happened. It’s just strange to thing that over the weekend he says he will retire when he wants to, and it turns out he wants to 2 days later? Strange.
Now that he has moved on from the game, I’ll remember him, like I do other players who are frequently derided by some I know, for his prime playing day. His start was much like his end – not nearly true to his skill and the havoc he would cause to opposition. He played 6 tests in 6 years to begin with after a lack-luster debut in (of all places) South Africa. In 2000 he won a permanent spot in the Australian team – opening the batting for the next 8 years, majority with Justin Langer – the pair becoming the second highest opening partnership for runs scored (5654) behind Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes from West Indies, who scored 6482 runs between them. In 2001, when Australia toured India, an often quiet Hayden blazed onto the scene with 549 for the tour, and an average of a whopping 109.80. All those stats and Australia still lost the series. This would probably be the reasons Indian hated having to bowl to him. Next Summer, against South Africa, Hayden hit 4 consecutive test centuries, and nearly made it five with a 96 in the Cape Town test. In 12 months he has amassed 1509 Test runs with an average of 71.85.
In the 2001 calendar year, he set an Australian record of 1391 Test runs. These efforts won him the Alan Border Medal in February of 2002. In 2003, he won the Wisden Cricketer of the Year, and living up to the label, scored the record 380 that kept him place in the team until now. While the opposition (Zimbabwe) was hardly a dominant team in the world, it was the endurance more than the technical demands that would stand out. It was the highest individual test score for a whole of six months – Brian Lara scored a 400 to reclaim the spot. But Hayden still holds the highest individual score for an Australian in the test arena.
In 2005, Hayden repeated his 4 centuries in 4 matches against England (at the back end of the tour where he failed with the bat (showing his first signs of slipping in form) and the Australians lost the Ashes), West Indies (two), and the World XI. In 2007, Hayden, who had opened for the Australian ODI team, then was dropped in the wake of the Ashes loss to England, then regained his spot when Simon Katich was dropped, scored the highest ODI score for any Australian – 181. He did it with a broken toe as well.
On the World Cup scene, he was the highest scorer in the 2007 tournament with 659 runs at an average of 73.22 and scored the fastest century in the history of the World Cup (66 balls). In doing so, he became the third player only to score 3 centuries in a single tournament. This would be the last time he ran amok with opposition bowlers.
He had another moderately successful tournament against India when they toured here in 2007/08, but an injury to his Achilles tendon was the first sign that age had caught up to this Australian mainstay, and his dominance had begun to wain. Since then, the big opener has struggled with form, and stayed around looking for it beyond when he should have probably retired on a high note. Unfortunately, many people will remember him in much the same vein as other greats of the modern game – Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor – who stayed on too long. But, for the sake of this great player, I would hope that with time people can look past this (which I blame more on the selectors more than the players) and remember his stellar performances.
A big thanks to Matthew Hayden who helped to steer the Australian cricket team to some of its highest highs.