Saturday 22 November 2008

The executioner's song

Conventional wisdom says that the greats wake up one day and just know. But how? How can they? Because often the quality that separates them from the rest is belief, and that rarely ever dies, bound up as it is with ego and self-image.

Some go gently into that good night. Others rage against the dying of the light. You won't get two more opposing departures than those of Justin Langer and Steve Waugh, for example. But they had the inevitable in common. They both understood they would have to go, one way or the other. 

Matthew Hayden knows it, hears the whispers. Like the old soldier, his talk is all of his fallen comrades. 'When they leave,' he sighed this week, 'a part of you goes with them'. His winsomeness contrasts with the thousand yard stare that Katich wears as standard. That guy's desire is the property of the unfulfilled.

Hayden has scored so many runs even he must be almost sated by now, and the numbers carry their own hints. 

It has been ten innings since his last hundred. Those innings have been: 0, 13, 0, 29, 83, 16*, 16, 77, 8, 0, an average of 26.88 against a career 52.04.

Steve Waugh's last hundred came nine innings before the end: 78, 61, 0, 56*, 30, 42, 19, 40, 80, an average of 50.75 against a career 51.06.

Justin Langer's last hundred came eight innings before the end: 4, 7, 37, 0, 27, 26, 20*, an average of 20.16 against a career 45.77.

Waugh averaged a hundred every eight innings (32 in 260), Langer one in eight (23 in 182), Hayden one in six (30 in 177). Hayden's stat is leant more weight by the fact he once went 30 innings without one.

The statistics say Hayden is waning. Waugh raged. Langer knew. Hayden hears the song, too.

When the Australian war machine was at its peak, they surrounded your castle and used Hayden as a battering ram. He has been the most okker of Aussies, and therefore not the most loved elsewhere, but it's impossible not to salute him. 

The best compliment I heard paid to an Australian from an Englishman came from Mick Jagger to their opening bowler. 'Glenn McGrath,' he said, reclining in his chair in the pavilion at Lord's. 'What a bastard'.

You knew what he meant. Matty Hayden, what a bastard too.


No comments: