Wednesday 14 January 2009

Haydos and Hick: Time's Arrow

Great players tend to create a consensus, at least about their greatness. The reception for Matthew Hayden has been ambiguous. Opinion has been less keen to coalesce, but there has been plenty of it. Perhaps the best measure of what he achieved is the desire the world has to write about him. Don't read it, Matty, weigh it.

Peter Roebuck at Cricinfo and Richard Hobson in The Times danced around the subject of Haydos as belligerent bully, one more lightly than the other. Roebuck dwelled on his divided character: 'his conclusions about himself and his game confronted each other'. Hobson touched on two incidents from Hayden's underwhelming Ashes tour of 2005; the England players surrounding him as he attempted to stare down Simon Jones in the Edgbaston ODI - Hayden was dismissed without further score - and his bleak, festering mindset after being accused of swearing at a child in the guard of honour in the same game. He thought England had stitched him up.

Both pieces implied that Hayden's persona was, to varying degrees, a front, and usually a very effective one. 

Roebuck also drew a comparison that hit home, with Graeme Hick. He was talking about their early careers, parallel lives that featured the battering of first class attacks before a chastening entry into Test cricket. 

Hayden reinvented himself, Hick did not, and Roebuck put it down to Hayden's location. 'Hick might have made it in Australia,' he wrote.

It's a tantalising thought, but I'm not sure it's true. It's more an accident of time than location: Hick is five years older, and just caught the last wave of great fast bowling: Ambrose and Walsh, Wasim and Waqar. 

Hick debuted in 1991, Hayden in '94. Hick played all but 11 of his 65 matches before 2000. Hayden played 96 of his 103 from 2000 onwards. 

King Cricket nailed the point. Hayden averaged 21.75 during that time. Conversely, Hick had a three year spell from 1993-6 when he averaged 45. 

Ambrose retired in 2000, Walsh in 2001, Wasim and Allan Donald in 2002, Waqar in 2003. Hayden may have learned how to succeed against these men; it's unfair to assume that he wouldn't. But he would have been a different kind of player, and opinion might not be quite so divided.

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