If India’s dislikes big and burly Matthew Hayden, it’s understandable. There were many like Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma who didn’t agree with his sense of humour. About his sense of timing outside a cricket field, condemnation was near unanimous. And on it, his turbo-charged batsmanship evoked a sense of awe but never won friends.
But hate him if you will, Hayden is in love with India. He likes the place, its people, the food and appreciates what the country has done to him as a cricketer. Ahead of their match against the Punjab team on Saturday,
caught up with the Australian in this appreciating-India mood and got him talking.
What you have been up to after arriving in Chennai?
Well, I am just getting a feel of the club. My joining the Chennai club is like something coming a full circle. As a youngster, I had been to MRF Chennai, where I learnt a lot and it really ignited my Test and ODI careers. So, it’s pretty satisfying going back to the place which has played such an important role in my career. Besides, I have a lot of friends there and am looking forward to spend some time there.
Will the IPL help foster better understanding between players and enable them appreciate each other’s culture?
Test and one-day cricket require teams to move quickly from one centre to another, leaving players with little time socialise. Going back 10-15 years and talking to players of that era, we realised that Test cricket helped players socialise, which, regretfully, isn’t the case now. The IPL, I feel, is a wonderful format where players can get together, enjoy each other’s success and know and appreciate each other’s culture. Normally, we respect the players we play against, but not necessarily understand them. In the IPL, I feel the players would be crossing over a cultural barrier and understand each other.
You would be playing under M.S. Dhoni’s captaincy? Your comments.
He has done a fantastic job as an ODI skipper. There is a lot of mystique around Dhoni; he is a huge character in the game and has a huge fan following in India as well as in Australia. I might have said just three words to him in the space of two years, but I am looking forward to knowing him in the IPL.
Any apprehension coming here after all those controversies?
I have always enjoyed being in India. It was here that my Test career took off in 2001, and ever since, I have enjoyed the sights and smell of India whose people have been fantastic. As for the controversial series, both countries played tough cricket, paving the way for great rivalry. A few things did spill over, which we were pretty disappointed about…but then one has to move on. We have pretty fantastic engagements ahead and we are looking forward to being here in September.
What kind of an equation do you have with Harbhajan Singh?
Look, we have had a great rivalry going ever since we faced each other for the first time way back in 2001. It’s always tough and competitive out there in the middle. He is trying to win the game for his side and that’s exactly what I am also trying to do. So, it’s always a game on.
Do you think older players would find it tough to match the younger ones in this particular format?
I don’t think that this is a game for youngsters. Rather it’s a young game. The best players in the world play in all formats and do well. Here too, the top players from across the world are playing and I am sure it would be a one hell of a contest.
You are quite a skilled cook. Can Superkings look forward to enjoy some meals cooked by you?
Sure, they can expect something, maybe a tandoor. I love my cooking and make tandoor back home. It’s my wife’s favourite dish.