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Best of his era? Not quite

india Updated: Jan 20, 2009 12:28 IST

Now that Matthew Hayden has retired, only Ricky Ponting and Brett Lee remain from the record-breaking Australian side that won sixteen Test matches in a row under Steve Waugh.

There are two questions that arise: how good was Hayden and who will replace him?

It's pointless arguing the merits of batsmen from different eras but comparing those of similar vintage has some value. In Hayden's case two come to mind: Michael Slater of Australia and Virender Sehwag of India.

It should be recalled that Hayden rarely played in the highly successful Australian side from the mid-to-late nineties because Slater was regularly dominating the opposition.

The pair made their first tour to England in 1993 where Slater won the battle to be Mark Taylor's opening partner. Slater's position at the top of the order was never seriously challenged from then until he began to encounter health problems.

Staying in (balls faced per innings) and scoring runs quickly are two important aspects of batting and Slater is ahead in both categories.

The other big decider is that Slater encountered superior pace bowlers like Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.

Against those same bowlers, Hayden had some of his worst moments, albeit early in his Test career. When he returned to the Australian side the standard of fast bowling had dropped considerably.

In the Tests where Hayden and Sehwag were opposed, their records are almost identical. Sehwag has the better average score (aggregate divided by innings) and run rate, while Hayden averaged slightly more balls faced per innings. Now, who will replace Hayden?

There are three candidates under consideration, Phil Jaques, Phil Hughes and Chris Rogers; all left-handers but none of them with the imposing aura of Hayden. There is another option: David Warner. He is yet to play a first-class game, but in T20 cricket he has displayed the potential to pulverise bowlers.