Standing My Ground
Rs599 pp 416
Matthew Hayden's arms as he cover drives a delivery, the power palpable in that image of the Australian opening batsman, is an awe-inspiring snapshot of the robust playfulness of the man himself. In this charmingly frank autobiography, 'Haydo' talks about his climb up the cricketing ladder and how a mixture of Aussie outback grit and Catholic moorings made him a powerful force of international cricket.
He explains — with a shrug and a smile — how his tough guy image was something that he worked on and honed as part of his arsenal. In the opening chapter on Australian cricketers and his knack for sledging, Haydo tells the reader why such a psychological tactic is not something underhand. "Andrew Symonds was the best in the business at the short, sharp quip that could slice through his opponents' concentration like a diamond-tipped drill... It kept opponents guessing as they pondered, 'Did he just say that? Is he serious?'"
Haydo's hero is Brian Lara though Lara and Sachin Tendulkar were two players he deliberately avoided getting to know on a personal level. "Letting down my guard could expose some vulnerability."
Though not an 'innings-by-innings' autobiography — and the book reads as a conversation over pints of Fosters — there is much 'match reports from the inside' in this book, whether it is the sheer adrenalin rush of the Ashes or his majestic 380 runs against Zimbabwe at Perth in 2003.
Haydo loves the IPL game. He says with a straight bat: "Australia can't thrive without India, but India doesn't need us to the same degree." But along with the cricketing phenomenon of Matthew Hayden, we also get a ringside view in Standing My Ground into the cricketing force that was the indestructible Australian team of circa 1994-2008.
MS Anand is a Bangalore-based sports writer.