‘I’d call him a B-grade actor’: Matthew Hayden recalls sledging episode with Shoaib Akhtar in 2002 Sharjah Test
Akhtar had a reputation for being a lethal fast bowler but he would always engage in banter with the opposition players. Hayden revealed how he sledged Akhtar ‘out of the game’ by using interesting tactics in scorching heat in UAE.Updated: Aug 10, 2020 16:43 IST
Matthew Hayden is no stranger to sledging his opponents. The Australian cricket team in the 2000s were known to be master sledgers and used to play mind games on the opposition players to get under their skin. They were already the best side in the world with an abundance of talent but one of the key weapons the Aussies used in games was sledging opponents. Hayden recently recalled an incident from the 2002 Sharjah Test where he used mind games to rattle ‘Rawalpindi Express’ Shoaib Akhtar.
Akhtar had a reputation for being a lethal fast bowler but he would always engage in banter with the opposition players. Hayden revealed how he sledged Akhtar ‘out of the game’ by using interesting tactics in scorching heat in UAE.
“Someone like Akhtar for example, I’d call him ‘B-grade actor’ for a start, which used to get under his skin a bit,” Hayden said on The Grade Cricketer podcast.
“We were playing in Sharjah and it was 58 degrees out in the middle and Akhtar, when we walked out, said, ‘I’m going to kill you today’ in a whole lot more colourful language. And I said, ‘Mate, that’s terrific, you know I’m looking forward to that challenge’ in a lot more colourful language.
“So I said, ‘But here’s the thing, Dumbo. You’ve got 18 balls to do it. You’ve got three overs because you’re going to turn into a marshmallow that’s been left on the plane too long and is going to be dripping down and I’m going to be the one at the other end of those 18 balls that’s going to be mopping it up’.”
Hayden just did not sledge Akhtar but also used Indian umpire Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan in getting under Akhtar’s skin.
“I go right, how can I get Shoaib looking like an absolute goose and how can I tell Venkat about this? Now India and Pakistan, there’s no love lost there, so I though that’s my point (of leverage),” Hayden said.
“So as Shoaib’s running in to bowl and he’s cursing every profanity under the sun at me, I get to his bowling mark as I’m counting down his balls from one to 18. He gets to his delivery stride and I pull out. He runs at me going, ‘What’s the problem?’
“I said, ‘I’ve got a problem’. I storm up to Venkat and say, ‘I give everything on the game, I deserve everything I get, but within the protocols and etiquette of the game, surely you can’t be running in and abusing someone’.”
“I think the only way that Shoaib is going to get me out here, is bowled — because Venkat’s definitely not going to give me LBW and I’m not going to get caught behind because this thing (the pitch) was an absolute Bunsen burner. It wasn’t bouncing more than a centimetre,” Hayden said.
“So all I had to do was stand my ground and that was it. He (Akhtar) got through his 18 balls and he collapsed at the end of it. And of course I take the opportunity to get my (fresh pair of) gloves I didn’t need and just go up to Shoaib and said, ‘You want to go off, don’t you?’
“And he says no. And I say, ‘Mate, come on. There’s no heroes in Test cricket. David Boon once said that to me. It’s hot and I know you’re busted. Just go off, I promise I won’t think any worse of you’.
“Anyway, he called old mate on and he’s gone off and he didn’t participate in the rest of the Test match,” Hayden concluded.
Some of the facts Hayden revealed in the story might be argued. In the only Test that Akhtar played Hayden in Sharjah, he bowled 14 overs and picked up 1 wicket. However, Australia won the match by an innings and 198 runs while Hayden scored a century. Akhtar also batted in the second innings for Pakistan.