Matthew Hayden – The “Butcher” Who Played as an Opening Batsman
Matthew Hayden, the very name instilled fear in the minds of bowlers. The strongly built left-hander was a combination of an intimidating personality and an aggressive attitude and established himself as one of the world’s best opening batsman of his era. He was a consistent scorer at the top of the Australian side that dominated the sport under the captaincy of Ricky Ponting. He was also a regular figure in the slip cordon. The Queensland-born southpaw etched his name in the history of cricket, in a career that spanned 17 years.
After making his debut in 1993 against England, in the first seven years after his debut, he played just seven matches for the Aussies senior team and apart from his century against the West Indies at the Adelaide Oval there was nothing to shown in his resume, to be preferred above the likes of Mark Taylor and Matthew Elliott.
The retirement of Mark Taylor in 1999, and Hayden scoring heavily in the first-class cricket for Queensland and English county teams Hampshire and Northamptonshire led the selectors to give him one more chance.
In the 2000-01 tour of India, he was the specialist opener of the side that was coming on the back of 16 consecutive Test wins. Even though the Australian side ended up on the losing side and the series is more likely known for India’s comeback win at Kolkata and young Harbhajan Singh’s bowling; it was Hayden who was the find for the Aussie side. He scored 549 runs at an average of 109.8 in 3 Tests which is a record that stands for the most number of runs by an Aussie batsman in a 3 Test series.
Making the spot his own
Since the Indian tour, Hayden had no looking back, he went on to score a record 1391 runs in Test cricket in 2001, including centuries in four consecutive Tests matches against South Africa. These performances led to him being awarded the Allan Border Medal and he was also named as Australia’s most prominent Test Player of the Year in 2002.
Hayden was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2003 and in September 2004 was named by the ICC in the World Test Cricket Team of the year. In 2005, he became the first batsman in the history of the game to score more than 1000 runs in 5 consecutive years.
Impact in Test cricket
In the first decade of the 21st century, the Australian batsmen took Test cricket to a new level by trying to score at four runs per over and improve the chances of getting a result of the game, and Hayden was the force behind this shift. He was a brute who constantly looked to get forward so that he could drive you powerfully down the ground or clip you over mid-wicket. Only a genuine pace bowler could escape the wrath of this batsman, others were made to look like school boys.
He also overtook Sir Don Bradman in the number of centuries scored; which is the benchmark for most of the players.
Man of big tournaments
Along with his immense number of records in Test cricket, Hayden has also done well in the one-day version of the game.
He was part of the World Cup-winning Australian squads of 2003 and 2007. In the 2007 World Cup, he had provided a number of rollicking starts for the team. It was absolute dominance against almost every team he faced. He scored three centuries and also became only the second player in World Cup history, after Sachin Tendulkar, to surpass 600 runs in a single tournament. He scored 659 runs for the tournament at an average of 73.22. He was by far the best batsman of 2007 World Cup beating the second placed Mahela Jayawardena by more than 100 runs.
He has proved his worth in the shortest format of the game as well. In the inaugural ICC T20 World Cup, he played all the matches for Australia. He almost single-handedly kept the Aussies in the hunt for a place in the final against the Indian attack. He ended up as the tournament’s top scorer, with 265 runs.
Partnerships with Gilchrist and Justin Langer
His brute performances meant he didn’t care much about the format of the game or who his partner is at the other end and was instrumental in Australia dominating the game in the first decade of the millennium. He had legendary partnerships with Justin Langer in Tests and Gilchrist in ODI’s.
Hayden and Langer are the fourth best pair in terms of the runs aggregated, scoring more than 6000 runs and was instrumental in keeping the invincible status for the team in the Test arena.
In ODI’s, Hayden and Gilchrist are the second best opening pair with more than 5000 runs scored between them and was instrumental in Aussies winning the World Cup in 2003 and 2007.
Scoring the highest individual score in a Test inning(380), and the holder of the highest score by an Australian batsman in ODIs (181) are some of the best memories of his career.
After his retirement in 2009, ‘Haydos’ is now an active cricket pundit and commentator, but cricket lovers certainly miss his walking down the track and pulling fast bowlers over the mid wicket.