Legendary opener Matthew Hayden has lamented the lack of hundreds being scored by not only Australia’s Test team but on the country’s domestic first-class scene as well.
Hayden said the recall for the first Domain Test of Joe Burns, a man with 15 first-class hundreds – the most by any Australian under the age of 30 (excluding the suspended Steve Smith) – was symptomatic of a national selection panel trying to solve the problem, which was at its most stark through the recent Border-Gavaskar series, in which no-one in Baggy Green reached three figures.
So far this JLT Sheffield Shield summer however, Burns has made four fifties without posting a hundred. On the first evening at the Gabba, he showed early promise with three fours before edging to second slip for
“It’s an interesting selection given the fact that he’s played 14 Test matches and that’s yielded three hundreds and four fifties,” Hayden told cricket.com.au.
“One of the hot issues around not just Joe but our batting group as a whole – not just the Test team, but domestically – is just how many hundreds are not getting scored.
“I really think the basis of a good Test cricketer is how many hundreds they can score in first-class cricket.
“I know that (as a player) I was looking to impress selectors, looking to give them a reason to pick you … and (Australia coach) Justin Langer knows this better than anyone.
“His quote, unquote ‘only commodity was runs’, otherwise there were four, five, six other people who were getting runs who would get the nod over you.”
A look at the numbers affirms Hayden’s theory emphatically. In the last full season of the JLT Sheffield Shield, the top 10 run-scorers combined for 16 hundreds.
In the summer of 1993-94 – at the end of which Hayden made his Test debut – there were 34 hundreds scored by the leading 10 run-scorers.
Hayden finished his prolific first-class career with 79 centuries, bettered among his contemporary countrymen by only Langer (86), Ricky Ponting, Darren Lehmann (both 82) and Mark Waugh (81).
The 47-year-old said he expected the challenges Langer faced in his own career when it came to working out how to become a Test batsman would hold him in good stead as a coach, while also aiding the fortunes of the batting group under his tutelage.
“‘JL’ (Langer) is a staunch lover of the game,” he said. “He’s been asked some really difficult questions this summer because the side unfortunately just hasn’t been cutting the mustard.
“But he has got exactly what it takes to understand how to be a good Test cricketer. It wasn’t easy to him – as it wasn’t to me – so what that suggests is that you’ve got to work out different methods and strategies to work out your own game, which I think will be particularly useful to some of the young blokes who are getting a nod in this Test match.”
Hayden feels an “addiction to boundaries” has become a problem for Australia’s batsmen as they struggle to find the balance between all three formats of the game. He also suggested some of the country’s finest young talents – current Test opener Marcus Harris among them – were looking too square early in their innings, often at the cost of their wicket, instead of focusing heavily on playing in the ‘v’ between mid-off and mid-on to lay the foundation for big scores.
Along the same theme, he stressed the importance of a reliable defensive technique as forming the basis of a more expansive game, or in the case of India’s Cheteshwar Pujara – who recently scored three hundreds in four Border-Gavaskar Tests – allowing a batsman to spend long periods of time at the crease to grind down an opponent.
“I loved the way (Pujara) went about his cricket,” he said. “That sort of tenacious batting almost died with the Allan Border era in this country, and that’s no disrespect to that era – they based their game on defence.
“Our era was kind of born out of that, and people forget that. Most of the players in our generation, whilst considered to be very attacking players, actually had outstanding defensive games.
“You think of someone like Ricky Ponting – defensively he was as solid as anyone in the game. Justin Langer, Damien Martyn.
“I think the current Australian cricket batting community has to look at that and say, ‘Look, our first line of attack is defence’. That’s Test cricket, and that’s what Pujara actually showed us so well.
“If you’ve got one or two bankers in the team who can be the mainstays and who can be batted around in all circumstances, with a great capacity to bat lengths of time, it wears a bowling unit down.
“When you finally do get out and bat, you’ve been in the field two days, you’re completely knackered and it’s often at the absolute mercy of a declaration.”
Domain Test Series v Sri Lanka
Australia: Tim Paine (c/wk), Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Kurtis Patterson, Will Pucovski, Matt Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (c), Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Dhananjaya de Silva, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Kusal Perera, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara, Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha