Friday, 2 January 2009

Haydos: A farewell to arms

England is separated from Australia by more than distance. From afar it's easy to paint Oz as a less nuanced country built on principals of straightforwardness, mateship and a national pride unaffected by nationalism.  

Having lived there for three years a while ago, I think it's more complex than that. We share a lot more than we'd admit to. But yesterday, I found myself doing something peculiarly English: feeling a kind of affectionate sadness for an intractable opponent, Matthew Hayden.

There was lots of coverage in the papers and online of Jane McGrath Day, which was launched by Glenn and Hayden the day before the Sydney Test. There was Haydos, in a pink helmet, shoulder to shoulder with his great mate, letting Glenn's nine year-old son bowl him out in the nets (at least he said he was letting him. Given his current form, one might have crept through). It was a vision of genuine, lasting friendship.

Hayden is emblematic of his country. Imposing, huge, sun-cracked, he bats with ego that sometimes tips into hubris. It's an ego, like many, grown in response to the trials and insecurities of his youth. Years of success seemed to have made it impenetrable. 

But his sudden vulnerability somehow highlights the scale of his achievement. He probably knows, in his heart of hearts, that it's gone, but he still walks back out there, and will again in Sydney. 

Australians love to win. England's relationship with victory, and with winners, is ambiguous. The example that comes to mind is the image of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath walking off the ground together in the sun at the Oval after the last Test of 2005. There was a pride and nobility to their exit that, to this Englishman at least, exceeded the swagger at the end of the rematch. 

Therein lies the difference, I think. Hayden wouldn't have chosen this type of farewell, and he'd probably regard the empathy of the English as about as welcome as a text from Harbhajan, but it somehow makes him greater. 





5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Must be your fab writing.. I feel sorry for the guy I really truly HATE.

Ceci said...

With you there Anon - I want to go and find out more about Hayden now - but I shan't of course, sticking to viewing him as a 2- dimensional villain is much more comfortable. I await with gloomy foreboding, OB, your apologia for Yuvraj Singh.....

The Old Batsman said...

Cheers, it's a disconcerting feeling when the bad guys crumble. Thought the shot that got him out last night was almost despairing.

Don't worry Ceci, I think the Yuvraj piece is a considerable distance off...

Six & Out said...

TOB> You got me all teary eyed over the bloke who speaks about himself in the 3rd person. Damn you and your lovely writing !

The Old Batsman said...

Cheers Six - I thought he was going to crack it yesterday, then he got yet another inside edge...