Adelaide (The Telegraph): Matthew Hayden, one of the all-time great openers and a triple centurion in Test cricket, spoke to The Telegraph from his Brisbane residence on Monday evening.
The following are excerpts
Q Did you expect India to be 0-3 down going into the final Test?
A Well, India are a much better side than what they’ve performed in the series... It’s kind of funny... We went through the same experience some years ago when it was announced that Steve Waugh would quit at the end of the 2003-04 series... There was a lot of noise about it and, unintentionally, it became a distraction... We didn’t, of course, lose that series (to India)... The world will be better off when Sachin Tendulkar gets that (100th International) hundred.
Is that a reason why India haven’t done well?
That impending milestone has certainly been a distraction. However, to give credit where it is due, our bowlers have done a very good job in helpful conditions. The surfaces have been the same for India’s bowlers, but they haven’t exploited the conditions as well.
What are the other reasons for India’s below-par performances?
Chiefly that the openers, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, haven’t provided the launching pad... Of late, the openers had been doing just that... Both Sehwag and Gambhir have looked ordinary and haven’t challenged our bowlers... Unless you get a start, it’s difficult for the batsmen who follow.
So, no sympathy for India?
Some, in a way... Sachin, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman won’t be playing another Test series in Australia and their CV won’t show a series win at our expense in our backyard...
They’ve been great batsmen, among the greatest to have visited our shores, but they failed in their mission.
Could the final Test be Laxman’s last?
I don’t know enough to make a comment... Having said that, Laxman will leave before Dravid does. That’s the feeling I get.
Australia’s bowlers have been stupendous...
Absolutely... An on-song attack has made a huge difference... The selections have been well-timed... Twelve months ago, Ben Hilfenhaus had fitness issues and wouldn’t have done anything. Now, he’s the leading wicket-taker in the series (23 victims).
But is Australia’s balance right?
With Shane Watson not fit, we’re lacking an all-rounder... We must also have a quality leg-spinner, otherwise we’ll be rather vulnerable in places where the wickets will turn.
What’s your take on David Warner?
Oh, I love the way Warner bats... Sehwag, too, when he gets going... (Sir Donald) Bradman must be turning in his grave seeing the Warners hit so many lofted shots. But Warner, like Sehwag, is an entertainer and if they aren’t there, then it will be the death knell of Test cricket. Warner, if I may add, has scored two very fine Test hundreds in conditions which helped the fast bowlers (Hobart, Perth).
Your thoughts on the other opener, Ed Cowan?
He’s been leaving the ball nicely... Has been playing decisively and letting people know that he realises the importance of building an innings.
You must be pleased with Michael Clarke’s captaincy...
Yeah, he moves the game forward, plays a good brand of cricket and has been so successful in this series... He’d been wanting to captain Australia and has brought a new wave of energy in the dressing room.
What’s the future you see for Ricky Ponting?
He’s been batting beautifully in this series, isn’t it?... Ricky appears to be a mirror image of Sachin... He’s a sort of mentor and his kit-bag carries a lot of history... He’s being subjected to a lot of scrutiny, though.
Is that unfair?
No, our players do get scrutinised a lot... They need to perform and they need to entertain, play that brand of cricket. I don’t have an issue there.
The last one... How do you see the final Test going?
There’s a pressure release when a series is lost... India have nothing more to lose, except pride... I expect them to play good cricket and, because of the conditions, that’s possible... But don’t forget that Clarke has ambitions of making it 4-0. That can’t be ruled out.