The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Raising the bar comes easy for Hayden
- Hard work pays rich dividends for intense pro
Bradman and Taylor, second highest among Aussies.

Calcutta: Scrambled eggs, muesli, sausages, orange juice… Matthew Hayden is pretty particular about breakfast. Actually, he doesn’t have a huge appetite for runs only.

It was over one such meal, on the eve of this year’s World Cup final, that Hayden spoke at considerable length to The Telegraph.

He didn’t duck and, characteristically, was frank. At times, brutally so.

As the 35-minute interaction was drawing to a close, one asked whether he was conscious of records and averages.

Grinning, Hayden replied: “Doesn’t drive me, though I have an idea of where I’m placed. What I’m conscious about is treating every ball as an event…”

Over two days (Thursday-Friday) at the famed WACA Ground, in Perth, Hayden himself became the event. And, by the end of his amazing 437-delivery stay, had relegated Brian Lara to No.2 in the highest individual (Test) scorers’ club.

Frankly, in this Australian side, captain Steve Waugh and Hayden alone had the best credentials to get past the genius from Trinidad. The latter did so with intensity that was often frightening.

Incidentally, had Steve not called upon the selectors to pack his 2000-2001 team to India with “strong characters,” it’s possible the men-who-matter would have overlooked Hayden.

And, then…

As has been well documented, Hayden made the most of that trip: A phenomenal 549 runs in the three Tests and handsome scores in the ODIs. Even today, he regards that tour as the turning point in a career which began a decade ago.

Besides cementing a Test berth, it brought Hayden (who turns 32 on October 29) back to the ODI XI. He continues to be a certainty.

Unlike most who attempt to be ignorant about their own limitations and, thereby, reach a dead-end all too soon, Hayden identified his at an early stage and improved every season.

Not many years ago, for example, he couldn’t quite sweep. To overcome that, Hayden literally begged Cricket Australia (then the ACB) to send him over to Chennai for a week at Bishan Singh Bedi and Srinivas Venkatraghavan’s clinic.

Thanks to that entirely self-driven effort, in the late Nineties, he can now sweep any opposition out of the game.

In fact, while speaking that morning, Hayden acknowledged he never quite fancied himself as the most gifted around.

Specifically, Hayden said: “I didn’t have as much talent as some of the others… Didn’t see myself as naturally gifted and, so had to work hard…” Inevitably, that encouraged much analysing — however, when that seemed to go out of hand, he put a stop to whatever was unnecessary.

Much in keeping with the approach of the two cricketers who have had the biggest influence — Steve and Allan Border — Hayden never stepped back from constantly raising the bar. Often, he challenged himself.

It’s not surprising, then, that Hayden wasn’t overawed at the prospect of crossing the ‘sacred’ 334 before setting sights on 376 and beyond. Absolutely no disrespect to Mark Taylor, but sentiment shouldn’t really have too high a priority in a pro’s game plan.

Of course, it’s not that Hayden is sans emotion. Overseas, for instance, he specially misses infant daughter Grace and wife Kelly. Moreover, he can’t do without the beaches for long.

Taylor, for his part, was the first to present Hayden with a bottle of champagne. Just as Lara was among the quickest of callers (on manager Steven Bernard’s cell) to congratulate him.

Once the bubbly was uncorked, Australia’s newest cricket-icon fulfilled Media commitments and parked himself before the dressing room TV, rooting for the other Australian side in action (at the rugby World Cup, in Sydney) during the day.

[The hosts, by the way, won big at Argentina’s expense.]

As of now, Hayden’s teammates will be making a formal presentation once the Test gets over. The champagne, though, won’t stop flowing.

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