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ĎEnjoying our cricket makes a differenceí

Matthew Hayden was just another member of Steve Waughís team when he landed in India for the 2000-2001 series. By the time Hayden left, he was a hero ó 549 runs in the three Tests (average 109.80) and 303 in four ODIs (average 75.75). The left-hander hasnít looked back since.

While the ongoing World Cup hasnít exactly gone his way, Hayden (31) remains a threat in Sundayís final. One who always comes across as fiercely determined, Hayden spoke to The Telegraph over breakfast the other day. Excerpts:

Q His one-day career effectively taking off on that 2000-2001 tour...

A Indeed, I was asked to stay back after the Test series... Fact is, I was a consistent scorer in the domestic limited overs cricket, but never really got opportunities... Being asked to stay on was nice and I was confident because, basically, Iíve always thought I had a good one-day gameplan.

Whether he regards that India tour as the turning point...

Yeah... That trip confirmed to everyone else that I had the ability... More important, that I could deliver in both forms. It certainly helped that I got 549 runs in the Test series. Cricket has much to do with momentum and I didnít lack that while in India. On the flip -side, you can also quickly lose momentum.

His exposure to a spin bowlersí clinic in Chennai (before his comeback)...

Bishan Bedi and (Srinivas) Venkatraghavan were there... I got a bowlerís perspective and utilised that to hone my batting skills. I implemented the tips at Northamptonshire, too... That exposure gave me the confidence to take on the Indian spinners in that last series... A batsman must know what he wants to achieve and must have the courage to take necessary steps. Against spinners, for example, youíve got to have the courage to leave the crease... Your feet do much of the talking.

His rather heavy appetite for runs...

(Laughs) Wanting to do well for Australia does whet the appetite. Not having been a regular, except in the last couple of years, has made me appreciate better the value of playing for the country... Indeed, this appetite keeps you going when you feel a little flat.

Whether, despite this appetite, he still needs to psyche himself given the amount of cricket being played...

To talk of this World Cup, itís important (for the development of cricket) to play Kenya and Holland and Namibia but, from a psychological and professional point, you will win those games and, so, itís hard to stay up... Such periods, then, do come about... Itís important to conserve energy and get it going during the business-end ó which is now, the final.

The years he wasnít a regular...

Playing for Hampshire in 1997 and Northants in 1999 and 2000 proved a boon... Helped me understand my game, helped me understand myself... Actually, helped my cricket gather momentum. Of course, itís the international action that I was focussed on... Seeking to earn recognition at the highest level is what kept driving me, not the financial rewards.

Being a good analyser of the game...

Iíve always been so. In the early years, though, I would over-analyse. Now, with experience, I just try to be competitive... If Iím competitive, my natural game will dominate anyway.

What prompted him to analyse from the very beginning...

I didnít have as much talent as some of the others... Didnít see myself as naturally gifted and, so, had to work hard... Analysing was a passion, yet a time came when I had to say enough was enough and that I should just play... That Iíd developed and it was time to move on. This came about when I was the Northants captain.

His form in this World Cup...

I would have been happier with more runs, definitely, but this is it... The final isnít many hours away and... For us, the tournament really began with the semi-finals.

Opening with Justin Langer in Tests and Adam Gilchrist in the one-dayers...

(Smiles) Justin and I have been through the hard times together, so thereís a natural bonding. We understand the frustrations, understand the importance of working together as a combination... Weíve always been great mates... Adam and I are different, itís like getting two cords to unite and... Itís an instinctive partnership, itís happened... We love playing shots.

Whether thereís a shot-making rivalry with Gilchrist...

We look to keep our respective tempo on track... The reality, however, is that Adam has shots at his discretion earlier than I get into the act. Against spinners, though, my tempo will be more pronounced... I donít look to be ahead of Adam and, likewise, Iím sure Adam doesnít consciously look to be ahead of me.

What goes into the making of a good opening firm...

Youíve got to be mates on and off the field. Then, youíve got to be honest with each other. If the ball is swinging about, itís possible an opener can get lost technically. Thatís when the partner comes into the picture... Thereís a saying in our dressing room that the opening combination forms the Engine Room of Australian cricket. Thatís a huge responsibility, but we battle the hard times and enjoy every success that comes our way.

The Ďnervesí associated with opening...

Canít be avoided... The best way of overcoming a butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling is to quickly sink into the match and to get on with the job.

Whether he respects any one bowler...

(After a pause) Andy Caddick was very good when we toured England in 2001... Shoaib Akhtarís pace has been a challenge... The runs, though, have come easy as he creates so many angles. Generally, I donít think Iíve faced a better bowler than Wasim Akram... Tremendous control, gets it to swing early and late... He has such a lovely action, doesnít he'

Whether he is conscious of records and averages...

Doesnít drive me, though I have an idea of where Iím placed. What Iím conscious about is treating every ball as an event in itself. (After a pause) I donít concern myself too much with what happened in the last series/tournament... I look to the next game, the next series/tournament.

Steve Waughís role in getting him back into the Australian team...

The time I was out, but would continue doing well in domestic competition, was also a time Steve would regularly call and say ďkeep going, keep going.Ē I wonít forget that... Steve must have felt I had the ability, but didnít have opportunities... As captain, he was determined to give me that. It makes a huge difference when somebody wants you to be there.

Allan Borderís influence...

I played with him at different levels and enjoyed the way he went about the business of getting runs... He wonít be remembered as the most talented, but heís got the most number of Test runs. Allan showed you donít need to have every shot in the book to play Test cricket. Having the mental toughness and realising your limitations is important. He fought hard, which fits into my ethos.

Whether he gets to unwind...

Do try and make the time... If Iím to only think of cricket, that will weigh me down. Where I can, I head for the beach and surf... Iím also fond of fishing... At home, I like spending quality time with my wife (Kelly) and infant daughter (Grace).

Finally, being such an important member of a powerful Australian side...

(Smiles again) Yeah, we donít say ďnoĒ too often and win a lot of games... That we enjoy our cricket, I believe, makes a difference. Also, the fact that we are such good mates ó the Australian dressing room has that culture.

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