In the line of aggressive openers

Records are meant to be broken and that is the great charm about landmarks. With every record, you raise the bar that much higher and this prompts an even greater effort.


The tour to India in 2001 proved the turning point in Matthew Hayden's career. Here he surveys Pune city from the terrace of his hotel during that tour. — Pic. HAMISH BLAIR/GETTY IMAGES-

MATTHEW HAYDEN'S effort in Perth was incredible. I mean, scoring 380 runs off just 437 balls in a Test match is simply mind-boggling.

A world record fell and how! Hayden literally blasted his way past the mark for the highest individual score in Test cricket. I did think Brian Lara's 375 would be on top for some more time.

I am a great believer in positive batting and do feel that aggressive openers, as long as they possess a secure defence, have a place in Test cricket. Hayden is a wonderful example really.

His clean hitting puts the bowlers under so much pressure that their thoughts are trained more towards stemming the flow of runs rather than picking up his wicket. This is where Hayden scores.

The Australian puts the bowlers on the backfoot, dents them psychologically and then it is smooth sailing for him.

This is exactly what the great aggressive batsmen in the history of the game have done over the years. I remember Vivian Richards winning the battle of the mind time and again. Sachin Tendulkar does much the same, so does Brian Lara.

I think Hayden has shown tremendous character in his Test career so far. For someone who made such an ordinary start in international cricket and was written off by most critics, the 31-year-old Australian has made a remarkable comeback.

It is never easy to force your way back, especially into such a strong Australian side. Hayden has done it and with great success.

I was glad that he remembered to thank Steve Waugh in his moment of triumph at Perth; the Aussie captain had played a pivotal role in his comeback. Steve Waugh, despite Hayden's chequered early career, displayed great faith in the Queenslander and the left-hander responded to his captain's call.

A triple hundred calls for enormous powers of concentration, apart from great physical fitness, and Hayden, I must say, stood up to the task really well.

His achievement may have come against one of the weaker attacks in world cricket — Zimbabwe. However, it would be wrong to take any credit away from Hayden.

He has made runs against all kinds of attacks in all conditions, and let us not forget that the Aussie scored over 500 runs in the three-Test series in India, in 2001. That was a series where he handled the threat from Harbhajan Singh better than anybody else, using the sweep to great effect.

Here, his visit to India with the Australian Academy team in '98 — Hayden actually requested the selectors to pick him to enable him to gain experience in the spinner friendly sub-continental pitches — proved a great help.

Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden are the batsmen whom opposing bowlers fear the most. They are ecstatic here after winning the Mumbai Test for Australia in 2001. -- Pic. HAMISH BLAIR/GETTY IMAGES-

The fact that he can cut and pull so well makes him such a destructive player of fast bowling. The feature of his batting is the ease with which he gets into a position to execute his strokes.

The man with the big back-lift does give the ball a real thump and he does represent a huge hurdle to the pacemen of the world.

Hayden's methods blend wonderfully well with the Australian game-plan to rattle up more than 300 runs in a day on a consistent basis to provide bowlers more time to go for a victory.

The two crucial men in this strategy are Hayden and that explosive late middle-order wicket-keeper batsman Adam Gilchrist. These two cricketers have often upset the best laid plans of the bowlers.

Australia has a middle-order of stroke-makers such as Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn, and Steve Waugh too is playing a lot more shots these days, however, Hayden and Gilchrist would be the batsmen whom the bowlers would fear the most.

These two have it in them to change the course of a match in a matter of a few overs, and it was not surprising that when the Aussies won the Mumbai Test in 2001, it was Hayden and Gilchrist who turned the game around for them.

It was a nice coincidence then that Gilchrist was at the other end in Perth when Hayden reached the landmark. Gilchrist himself went on to complete a century. I am sure the duo will cause a lot more damage in times to come.

Let us also not forget the Hayden-Justin Langer opening partnership that has flourished against most attacks. It is a left-left combination, that has gone about its job with a positive mind-set, aimed at seizing the initiative from the bowlers.

That openers such as Michael Slater and Matthew Elliott, capable batsmen with proven Test records, are unable to break into the squad tells us much about the reserve strength of this Australian side.

While Hayden is a hard and tough competitor on the field, he comes across as a wonderfully simple and unassuming person off it. Though his achievements make him a superstar, there are no trappings of a celebrity in him.

With Hayden in such form, the Indians have their task cut out when the Test series down under gets underway in early December. The Indian bowlers will have to look at getting him out rather than aiming to check the flow of runs.

When up against a batsman as destructive as Hayden can be, the bowlers will have to attempt to out-think him rather than contain this southpaw. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh may have a crucial role to perform here.

Records are meant to be broken and that is the great charm about landmarks. With every record, you raise the bar that much higher and this prompts an even greater effort. Growing up, I thought Sir Gary Sobers' 365 would never ever get bettered. However, Brian Lara went one step further. Now Hayden has surpassed Lara. This has become a fascinating race.