Matthew Hayden is in a corner. If ever there was an example of a proud Aussie, it is the Queenslander, who gave his heart and soul as a cricketer for his country. It is difficult to visualize the burly 50-year-old plotting the downfall of his beloved Australian team, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen on Thursday.
Hayden will be in the Pakistan dug-out as one of the batting consultants, and by his own admission, “it will be a bit strange”.
“It’s a challenge of the heart and the head. I have been part of Australian cricket for so long and obviously there is the strong emotional connect. But in a very short time, I have been able to establish a connect with this Pakistan team, their players, administrators and support-staff.
“It’s been wonderful to be able to be a part of their system, to be able to know how spirituality has played a role within the team as a great guide and tool for everyone to come together,” Hayden, who was a part of two ODI World Cup winning Australia teams, said on the eve of the second semifinal match.
In the opposition dugout, there will be his old mate Justin Langer, with whom Hayden shared a world-beating opening partnership for close to a decade. They call each other best mates, but this is the game where they will match their wits against each other.
“Yes, he will be there, but both Langer and I know that we can do (only) that much. At the end of the day it’s the players who call the shots and we are not the ones who decide the fate of the game,” Hayden added.
Elaborating on his own emotional connect with the Pakistan team, Hayden spoke about another mate of his, Dean Jones, who passed away last year. “Jones gave a lot to Pakistan cricket (as coach of franchises in Pakistan Super League). I can still hear his closing words in my ear ‘These are my boys, this is something I am so passionate about’.
He was beautifully connected to Pakistan cricket and may his soul rest in peace that he has left a legacy that will not only help this generation of Pakistan cricket but generations after that.”
On the eve of a high-profile clash between two nations, Hayden also didn’t forget to thank Australia for the series that they have announced in Pakistan next year.
“It was one of my regrets as a cricketer that I could not tour Pakistan. But it’s great that Australia have announced the tour next year and I think it’s time that we embrace Pakistan.
“Other than India, I don’t think there is any other country in the world that has such an incredibly passionate fan base and they should also get the experience of top quality cricket,” the Aussie legend said, hoping that the Pakistan team will go all the way in the tournament.