Rockhampton visit brings back memories for Test great
CRICKET: Australian cricket great Matt Hayden's mind flashed to his early rep playing days during a visit to Rockhampton at the weekend.
The promising young left-handed batsman was a regular in South Burnett teams that would play in Queensland carnivals across the state, a number of them in the Beef Capital.
"My kid memory of here is eating Jelly Tip ice creams until I couldn't breathe because it was so darn hot,” he said.
"Pity they don't play cricket in the winter up here because it is and can get very hot.”
Hayden, an ambassador for and board director of Mahindra, was in the city for the grand opening of Ian Weigh Mahindra on Saturday.
He arrived a day after the 2019 barramundi season started but did not get the chance to wet a line.
"I do love my barra fishing. I spend probably a better part of a month a year chasing these elusive fish,” he said.
"I'm embarrassed to say that my biggest fish after 25 years of fishing for these mongrel things is 83cm.
"Rocky, this is a pledge. If you can guarantee me a fish better than 83cm, I'll come up here.”
Hayden said regional centres had produced some of the country's best players and it was essential for the future of the game that country cricket remained strong.
"I can't remember playing with too many Australian cricketers that were not of the bush,” he said.
"I think what people in the big smoke don't realise is that cricket is not just a game - it's a way of life, it's your weekend, it's your summer, it's your community.
"You'll get your dentists, your doctors, your farmers, your fishermen - they'll all come and play our great game.”
Hayden enjoyed a celebrated 15-year career, playing 103 Test matches and 161 one-day internationals.
He believes the emergence of T20 cricket is changing the way today's players approach the game.
"It's challenging for regional communities to sustain the longer formats of the game so there's a real swing towards the shortened and revised versions, T20 cricket in particular,” he said.
"I guess we'll be sitting here in another 20 years' time and trying to work out if that's a good thing or not. I think technically it has some issues with the longer format of the game.
"A lot of players I would have influenced would have based their game on attack because we became quite attacking cricketers and yet our upbringing and heritage was very much around defensive cricket.
"We learnt defensive cricket before we became attacking cricketers where it's almost like the polar opposite now.”
Hayden and current Australian coach Justin Langer enjoyed one of most prolific opening partnerships in Test cricket, and he cannot speak highly enough of his former teammate.
"He's a really solid individual, he's a great fella. He's got a fantastic work ethic, his morals and overall principles are superb and that's what you need as a leader of your organisation from a high-performance point of view.
"He's bringing all good ingredients to the recipe.”
Hayden identified Matt Renshaw as a player to watch, saying he had reached only 20 per cent of his potential.
"He's already had a taste of Test match cricket. He's doing it hard now in Sheffield Shield cricket, he's had a pretty average start to the season but that will all stand him in great stead because he's a fine young cricketer.
"He's just not getting his runs, but that's the hardship that you need to make you hard as steel when it comes to the national game.”