Matthew Hayden has stood between many opposing teams and victory and ever since his 2001 exploits, India have been wary of the burly Queenslander. On that tour he muscled 549 runs in three Tests, barely ever failing, rattling up two hundreds and three fifties.
But the Indians can take heart from the fact that his second Indian visit was considerably less successful, where he managed just one half-century and 244 runs in four Tests. The other thing that will give Anil Kumble and his team reason to rest slightly easier is that Hayden has not played competitive cricket since returning home from the tour of West Indies in May with an Achilles heel injury.
Hayden, however, did not feel he was undercooked, despite the lack of big-match practice. "The previous tours here have been actually the greatest preparation for me," Hayden said. "I am feeling very comfortable and confident with my game at the moment. The Indian series is one of the great challenges in cricket, and I feel up to it mentally. Yes, I didn't play in the West Indies series, but I am back from injury and I have worked hard. As you know, I have had success in India. Even in the IPL, I did really well here (for the Chennai team). So I am feeling pretty confident, actually."
One of the things that makes Hayden successful is his ability to adapt his game to the team's needs, curbing his natural attacking innings and grinding it out at the crease when told to. Australia's success on the last tour was thanks to the team's strategy of choking the Indian flow of runs and that strategy might stay for this tour. "Most likely that's the way we will go about it," said Hayden. "It's difficult for both teams, against the nature, to play a defensive game, but we did taste success last time. It's going to be very interesting. In India, the game can seem to meander for quite a while before suddenly changing in a session. So patience is very important to succeed here."
For an opening batsman, Hayden plays spin particularly well, and the big sweep shot has been his trump card. "That was something I practiced a lot for the previous series as the go-to shot for scoring against spinners. It has worked very well for me and I will continue to do that," he said, explaining that a trip to a spin camp in Chennai just before the 2001 tour helped his development. "It was very useful. From that experience, I was able to formulate a game plan and batting strategy on what is the mindset of a spinner. I practised a variety of shots, tried out lots of options and planned my game against spin."