Sport always comes up with moments you could watch again and again and not get bored.
Normally, such events are lavishly scattered over time but I have been lucky to witness more than one such happenings in the recent past. Pete Sampras’s farewell at Flushing Meadows was one such event. Shoaib Akhtar’s proverbially unplayable ball to Jacques Kallis will always remain in my mind. And Hayden now has provided us with many moments in one innings that will never be forgotten. Mark Taylor standing in the commentary box to salute the man who broke his record for the highest score by an Australian, Hayden kissing his Baggygreen and celebrating with his arms raised in the air, whole of the Aussie side, whole of the WACA standing in unison to applaud the superlative effort from Hayden, Adam Gilchrist celebrating as if he himself has got a hundred while running for Hayden’s 376th run, the whole team coming down to congratulate their mate, these scenes will forever continue to have imprints on my mind and those of cricket fans all over the world.
Driven by an iron will and a refusal to accept failure, the powerful Queenslander’s resurrection became complete in Perth. Rejected by the Australian Cricket Academy in his youth, Matthew Hayden has strode to the pinnacle of greatness, to the cricketing immortality, to a niche where his name will be taken in the same breath as greats like Sir Garry Sobbers, Sir Don Bradman and Brian Lara. Fifteen years after he was told he had no future as a first-class cricketer, Matthew Hayden claimed the game’s most coveted individual record . . then dedicated it to the memory of Bali. What a day he chose to bring up the record, the day when the teams wore black arm bands to remember and pay tribute to the victims of Bali bombing. “Those two things, the black armbands and the baggy green just kept me going today,” said Hayden, who had earlier swept past the Australian record of 334 jointly held by Don Bradman and Mark Taylor. “I hope it is something that will bring some joy to those involved in the Bali tragedy at what must be a difficult time for them.
If ever there was a man who had the reserves of strength, patience and determination and still be quick enough to score such a mammoth score in 5 sessions and still give his team a chance to force the result. Strong as an ox, intimidating as a lion, downright dismissive as a middle aged editor and sometimes humiliating for the bowlers, Hayden had all the qualities to break Lara’s record. Hayden also happens to be the man who stands the best chance of scoring a double hundred in an ODI. His physical and mental strength meant that he never got fatigued during the marathon innings. By now, I have watched the clip showing his celebrations seven times and I still crave more. I will never forget the day when an Aussie who looks like a bully but is as laid back as an Australian summer, took over the mantle of being the highest run getter in a single test innings.
Hayden still has years to achieve more, still has time to wash away those disappointing years that he spent out of the reckoning. Hayden has made sure that his, along with Sourav Ganguly’s, will be considered the most heroic comeback of the present generation. Over the coming years, October the 10th of 2003 will be remembered as the day which completed the process of changing the guard in world cricket, the day when Matty Hayden reiterated himself as the best batsman, that is, if someone didn’t believe this earlier.