Hayden Factor | sports
MMatthew Hayden serves as a mentor for the team in Pakistan. It’s an indefinite title, which gives him more freedom to think about a wider variety of subjects than, say, a bowling coach or batting advisor who was at the men’s T20 World Cup last year. Two days into the 2022 Men’s T20 World Cup final at the MCG, Hayden was stretching that freedom almost to breaking point, bringing up issues as wide as the absence of a footballer in India’s semi-finals for Mohd Rizwan and. Babar Azam’s Commitment to Islam.
There’s a strong sense of sentiment tactics to the character that Hayden brings to this Pakistan side, though that comes as no surprise given that it was PCB boss Ramiz Raja who brought him to the role. Raja, who is in Melbourne for an ICC board meeting, hauled the catch that saw Pakistan win the Men’s 50 World Cup at the same venue thirty years ago. He strikes up a chat with reporters, too, at the MCG, but it’s Hayden who steals the show. However, his sociable personality should not detract from his cricketing sharpness of mind, and almost thinking out loud, Hayden found himself taking stock of the scale of the task Pakistan faced in the final.
“You’ve got quality fast bowling against good batting. That’s why you want to watch the match,” Hayden said. “We have four highways – not just Shaheen [Shah Afridi] And a breeze [Shah] – Who can deal some sustained damage within 20 points. One thing that I think India was really missing last night also in the Spin-Bowling department was the leg-spin option, really a bowling sixth choice. This aspect has six true options and the seventh also, as you know, should be Ifti [Iftikhar Ahmed] be required. The bases are covered.
“I think both sides actually have a very even range. So you look at the England lineup as well, they really have six bowling options and a useful option to attack all batting as well, with Moeen Ali and also [Adil] rightly guided. So yeah, it’s just Stevens. At the start of this tournament, I always thought England would be a big threat for this tournament. And here we are on the eve of the final.”
If the last time Hayden faced a press pack is any indication, his pre-final appearance will be particularly fitting for the side he now directs. On Tuesday, he launched an impassioned defense of Babar ahead of Pakistan’s semi-final match against New Zealand, warning that a huge contribution from the Pakistan captain was too close. In the semi-final, Babar – and fellow great Rizwan – returned to near indomitable best form, reaching 105 runs in 12.4 overs, putting the match out of New Zealand’s reach.
Analysis done, and Hayden reaches for his bag of sentiments. “The stats are amazing when you look at these two things and their performance,” he said. “It just says so much not to their relationship on the field, but you know, the chemistry and relationship off the field. Both [are] Very good leaders in their own right. Both men are highly geared towards national pride and their commitment to Islam as well. And I think they both play cricket, they get each other, they get cricket.
“They realize there will be lulls, but in general, they have each other’s backing. Two are always better than one. That’s why great partnerships are recognized.”
By this stage of last year’s T20 World Cup, Pakistan had been eliminated in heartbreaking fashion by Australia after looking like a team in the group stages. This was a more complex campaign, starting with losses to India and Zimbabwe, before counting on a South African defeat at the hands of the Netherlands that allowed Pakistan to slip through to the semi-finals, almost through the back door.
Hayden, who has always valued personality and courage over data points and graphs, took particular pleasure in the way Pakistan had grown “as a team”.
“There was a lot of positive energy mixed in with some criticism as well,” he said. “I think this deserves an international team. You can’t come to a tournament like this and expect it to just go your way. Our last wicket was very smooth in the T20 World Cup. We won every game convincingly, a bit like our semi-final performance [against New Zealand]. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything until you hit the big matches. We’ve enjoyed successes and failures alike, and I think we’re ready to play.
“I really like the struggle. I think it gives you an opportunity to be able to grow and think as a team. One of the greatest challenges Pakistan faced in the last World Cup was their on-field efforts; this year and this time, it really mattered in the way they progressed. It’s physical spaces.” Big here: Borders 80 square metres, 65 per straight. It’s essential to have good mathematical ability. For me, one of the key moments was the shaddap [Khan] Running into the semi-finals. You get one of those surpluses, and all of a sudden you’re in the game.”
Haydn can sometimes appear as a man who is always rocking in the role, hitting all the notes and waiting to see which one strikes a chord. There was an anachronistic line about how Pakistani players could entertain people with stories “about campfires in their villages” once their careers ended. Of course, there were parallels to Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup campaign, which Hayden somewhat clumsily linked to Imran Khan’s – then leader – Pakistan’s “celebration of democracy”.
It’s perhaps no surprise that in the moments that matter most, Hayden can find a way to rise to the occasion. After last year’s loss to Australia, Babar’s rhetoric has gone viral for his devastating charges in the dugout calling for unity. Hayden, too, had a say, and made it short, sweet, and meaningful.
“I’m definitely proud of you. There were some great performances to get you up and running tonight,” he said, referring to Radwan, who played despite spending the last night in hospital. “It takes great courage to be involved in a tournament like this. Great courage. Please, keep those heads up. The pain will be short term but remember what it takes to be the best. Some areas you need to work on individually and we will collectively help you move forward.” Oh my God, I’m so proud of you.”
It can be tempting at times to wonder, looking from the outside, what exactly Hayden adds to this aspect, but judging by his relationship with the players, this doesn’t seem to be a question Pakistani players ask themselves often. And if this Pakistan team with whom they’ve forged an improbably close relationship can string together another match like the one they face against New Zealand, they may find their mentor’s words about the short-term nature of sporting pain particularly salient. –cricinfo