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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Laxman, Dravid main threat, says Hayden

Laxman, Dravid main threat, says Hayden

September 26, 2004 20:07 IST

He talks about playing cricket in India with passion. In the same vein, he also speaks about India's cricket fans.

Matthew HaydenThat's because the spectators, who wait in the aisles, at the doorsteps of stadiums, to catch a glimpse their favourite cricketers have a special place in his heart.

Three years and 18 Test centuries later, Matthew Hayden still can't forget the ovation he got from the Mumbai crowd after Australia registered a crushing victory in three days over the Indians. The big man was on a comeback in his Test career then and had scored 119 in the match, only his second century.

"It was a very humbling experience. Humbling because we know that people in India have to go through a lot to get to the stadium. We don't always understand that because we get out of this opulence and drive to the ground in air-conditioned buses.

"Whereas the spectators have to travel long distances in trying conditions, and still they come out and appreciate us. It really is the affection of the people of this country [India] that stands out," he says, fondly.

Wearing the blue team T-shirt and cap, the big-built Queenslander was an imposing presence in a Mumbai hotel room, dressed lavishly for the visiting Australian team's first press meet. He was also purposeful and patient while answering questions thrown at him.

For starters, he did not want to reveal too much and only relayed Australia's long-standing strategy of attacking the opposition bowlers early on.

"Our (openers) main task would be to give a solid start in a very short time and put pressure on the opposition from the word go.

"I think both of us [he and Justin Langer] have this hunger for runs, which is very important even while playing Test cricket. I particularly carry the aggressive mindset of one-day cricket into the Test matches so that getting a big partnership in quick time helps the cause of the team," he said, talking about the strategy the team will adopt on the tour.

Saying he is looking forward to a "tough and interesting series", Hayden declared that VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid will pose the biggest problems for Australia.

"We know what Laxman is capable of and we also know 'The Wall' (Dravid) is a solid player with very good technique.

"They also have Sachin Tendulkar, Virendra Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly who can play vital roles on Indian pitches," he added.

Inevitably, whenever you ask about the confidence of the side going into this series, the Australians remind you of their 3-0 series triumph in Sri Lanka recently.

On Saturday, after arriving in Mumbai, stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist had said the Sri Lanka series was an indicator of how Australia have learnt to adapt and win "in conditions as similar to India as you can get".

Hayden though differed a little from his senior colleague.

"The conditions in Sri Lanka are different, in the sense the wickets are slower and variable; they turn and bounce a lot more. But your style of batting will be somewhat similar," he said.

Time and again talk moved on to the 2001 series in India, and Hayden didn't hide the delight of being part of that tour. He stuttered and was at a loss for words initially to describe his experience then.

"The 2001 series was the most incredible series I have ever played in.

"It was the perfect Test match series, something you always want to play in. The momentum of the series kept shifting all the time. But it was only ten minutes that turned the series in India's favour.

"It happened in the second match in Kolkata, when VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid joined forces.

"The crowd plays a very big part. In India, the momentum of the match is reflected in the momentum of the crowd. They really get very excited about everything and are so passionate."

Though the Australians haven't gone to an extent of New Zealanders, who simulated match conditions similar to India before coming over last October, Hayden thinks the team is well-prepared.

"We have been preparing for this tour for the last two months and we have an opportunity and skills, and whoever plays well in the first Test will get an advantage," he said.

Even if Australia gain the advantage by winning the first Test in Bangalore, Hayden knows the Indians will still stand and applaud them. Not only because the Aussies are the best Test side, but also because they are rare bunch of cricketers.

Deepti Patwardhan