Tom Cruise helped make Hayden a monster
Any international bowlers around the world in the early 2000s who were fans of Tom Cruise might rethink their position towards the actor after hearing how he played a role in making their lives miserable.
Australian cricket legend Matthew Hayden became the dominant opening batsman in world cricket after a breakthrough tour of India in 2001, forming one half of a prolific partnership with Justin Langer as the men in the baggy greens ruled the globe around the turn of the century.
The burly, broad-chested Queenslander took the art of whacking the new ball to another level as he imposed himself on bowling attacks like we’ve rarely seen before in the five-day format.
Test match openers used to grind away and take the shine off the new ball, but Hayden preferred to smash the six-stitcher out of shape. He would bat out of his crease and walk straight at the bowler to thump them over their head.
The left-hander, who finished with a Test average of 50.73 from 103 matches and a one-day international average of 43.8 from 161 outings, became a big batting bully who showed opposition attacks no respect.
But for all the bravado, Hayden’s greatest asset was his mental strength and ability to concentrate only on the next ball, not letting outside issues distract him. It’s arguably a batsman’s greatest challenge, and he mastered the art of clearing his mind when it mattered most at the crease.
At least in part, he says Cruise helped him learn that.
Speaking to former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson on his podcast Lessons Learnt with the Greats, Hayden revealed watching the Hollywood icon in famous film The Last Samurai had a major impact on him.
One scene in particular stood out, involving the Samurai preparing Cruise for the final battle against the imperial army. After being thumped in a mock one-on-one sword fight, one of the Samurai tells Cruise he has “too many mind”, urging him to clear his thoughts.
It was a lesson Hayden needed to hear and apply to his own game.
Hayden was at his best when taking the game on.Source:News Limited
We doubt Cruise was thinking about Australian cricket while filming
The Last Samurai.Source:News Limited
Recalling watching that movie with his kids recently, Hayden said that scene “changed my career forever” as it related to “the mental aspects of the game, which transfer over to the physical aspects of the game”.
“There’s a stillness and a beauty in batting which is a mediation in itself that we all miss, still to this day, that connection purely around having nothing but an empty vessel to work with so that you can absorb and retain information quicker,” Hayden said.
“Because it’s all about that reaction time. It’s about the early pick-up, it’s about being really settled with the conditions. It’s about being confident and personally satisfied.
“These are really difficult things and they’re the 101s of meditation. You don’t get any of those elements right and before you know it your mind starts going in 1000 different directions, often to what it shouldn’t be.”
Hayden dominated Shield cricket for a long time but struggled in his early introduction to Test cricket, debuting in 1994 before playing his second Test in 1996, only to be dropped after six more appearances.
He returned to the Australian side in 2000 and after scoring 549 runs in a three-Test series against India in 2001 turned himself into one of the world’s most intimidating batsmen.
Hayden said the mental side of things finally clicked after he was dropped ahead of the 1997 Ashes tour.
During their chat, Watson repeatedly said he was in awe of Hayden’s mental strength and ability to block out everything but the next ball.
“I understand the importance of seeing each moment and just letting it be,” Hayden said.
PLAN TO PILE PAIN ON POLLOCK
Shaun Pollock found out the hard way Hayden was always looking to improve.Source:News Limited
The 2007 World Cup was a memorable tournament for Hayden, who crunched three centuries in the West Indies including a spectacular 101 from just 68 balls against South Africa in the group stage.
The Proteas’ attack back then was led by fast bowling legend Shaun Pollock, who had Hayden’s measure over the years with his nagging line and length and ability to move the ball both ways off the seam.
“Pollock I spent years analysing. In Test cricket he was very methodical, he was extremely talented, he was a real discipline and force to be reckoned with and if you let him be that person, he was the best in the business,” Hayden told Watson.
“I knew that because he’d got me out so many times in every version of the game.”
Hayden was at his best hitting straight down the ground and pulling anything short, while he was also damaging when clipping through the leg side off his pads. He was less comfortable driving through the covers and cutting through point, so if bowlers wanted to dry up his runs, they’d often bowl wide of off stump.
It was a tactic that often worked, so Hayden decided the World Cup was the perfect time to add another string to his bow – one that would throw his nemesis Pollock off his game and surprise other teams who thought they knew how to contain the hard-hitting leftie.
“You never necessarily show your strengths unless you absolutely have to,” Hayden said. “And what Polly hadn’t realised is that I’d been working … on a cut shot and I knew that Shaun Pollock and the South African team and world teams, they were happy to keep me out of play by bowling wide outside off stump.
“And largely that worked until I knew that this was my opportunity to pounce and show a strength that I’d been, not hiding, but I suppose calculating around taking risks.”
In that game against South Africa Pollock sent the first few balls wide of off stump and Hayden let them go, until he decided to show off his new skill and crunch a cut shot through point for four.
“From that moment on, you could see that was like the first punch and then it was, ‘Guys, that plan’s not going to work, so what next?’” Hayden said.
“That’s the situation where ultimately as a batsman, you want, where suddenly you throw something at an opposition they’re not quite balanced about.”
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