RIP Matthew Hayden: Respected but Never Revered
This morning Matthew Hayden announced his retirement from international cricket. After 103 tests and 161 ODIs for Australia, Hayden bows out with a career test average of 50.73 and a ODI average of 43.80, with 30 test and 10 ODI hundreds.
In a sport where statistics are particularly revealing, Hayden's stand up in comparison to any others. Here is a man who holds the record for the highest individual test score by an Australian, 380 against Zimbabwe, and the highest individual ODI score with 181 against New Zealand.
He was an essential part of the all-conquering Australia team of the past decade, and his aggressive style and powerful stroke-making often put Australia's opposition on the back foot from the off.
Yet as Hayden departs, there are few outside of Australia who are shedding any tears for him.
Hayden as a man tended to split opinion, and many dismissed him as a "flat track bully" while others bemoaned the aggressive, dog eat dog attitude that he took to the field with him. This is a man who dismissed Harbhajan Singh as “an obnoxious weed.”
This attitude has always jarred with his off-the-field persona: a strict Catholic, an avid cook with a published recipe book, a keen fisherman, and a surfer.
Perhaps it was his style of batting, the sheer cocky arrogance as he walks down the wicket to smash the best ball the opposition could bowl for four. If ever someone's batting reflected his side's mood then it was Hayden—assured, confident, and successful.
Whatever it is, Hayden shares little of the acclaim that men with records far inferior to his enjoy. When compared to the statistics of Sir Viv Richards, Allan Border, or Adam Gilchrist, Hayden has a higher batting average, yet shares little of the acclaim that these men do.
This has always seemed rather perplexing. Hayden's eye-catching play has him scoring quickly and heavily against all opposition and in all corners of the globe for more than a decade. Though he has gone through fallow periods like all batsmen, he has always bounced back to emerge bigger and stronger than ever, as all the greats tend to do.
Perhaps history will treat him more fondly. His records are hugely impressive. Maybe when those who didn't suffer at the hands of his batsmanship are looking at his career, they will grant him the acclaim he merits from his contemporaries.
But now the world of cricket must simply say farewell to Matthew Hayden. Though we may never have revered you, by god did we respect you.
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