Matthew Lawrence Hayden, born October 29, 1971, is an epitome of how the Australians played the game. He played a massive role in Australia’s dominance in world cricket in the 2000s. At his peak, Hayden was one of the best batsmen in the world and one of the most destructive openers across formats. On his 44th birthday, Suvajit Mustafi looks at 24 interesting facts about the batting bully who incited fear even in the most seasoned opponents.

1. Childhood, countryside, and cricket

Hayden grew up in Kingsroy, a county in Queensland. Till date, he enjoys spending time in his family property there. His cricketing career began at an early age when he played at his family farm. In his website he writes, “…many a highly competitive pretend ‘Test Match’ was played. It was there my infatuation with this great game began (age 3), pads covering my entire body & facing off against my brother (aged 8)!” It was a gradual transition and soon he made his name in the junior ranks and bagged the Baggy Green at just 22.

2. The memorable First-Class debut

Two days after turning 20, Hayden made his First-Class debut for Queensland. Against South Australia he smacked 149 in his very first innings. The other centurion in that innings was Allan Border. Later in 1991, Hayden played his first List A match against the touring West Indians. He was run out for 49, but had made a mark.

3. International career in two parts

Hayden’s international career can be divided in two parts — pre and post 2001. He made his Test debut in March 1994 at Johannesburg and managed just 20 runs. He made sporadic appearances in between 1994 and 2001, playing 13 Tests where scored his runs at 24.36. Post that, he played in 90 Tests and scored his runs at 54.65. The same can be said about his One-Day International (ODI) career. From 1993 to 2001, he averaged 29.81, and from March 2001 onwards, he averaged 45.61.

4. The Glenn McGrath episode

They have been a part of many memorable victories for Australia and continue to share a wonderful camaraderie, but in early 1995, Hayden and Glenn McGrath were involved in an ugly confrontation. Back then, Australia had a dominant A side and they were included in quadrangular series involving Australia, England, and Zimbabwe. In the end, Australia and Australia A made it to the final, where this happened:

Years later, Hayden spoke about the incident to the Cricket Australia website. He said, “I hit him through backward point, and as I was turning to see whether I needed to run or whether it was ‘save your legs’, I’ve run straight into the corner of his arm. Having not seen it, I was under the impression he’d intentionally stuck his arm out at that time. So the whole ‘eff you’ thing has come out in both of us. It was brilliant. I remember it vividly, and I also remember the after-match judicial process. John Reid from New Zealand was the ICC match referee, but he wasn’t actually sanctioned because it wasn’t an official international, so he had no jurisdiction.

So I went up there thinking the whole thing was a bit of a furphy. In my eyes not a lot had gone on — two heavies of the game in a fast bowler and an opening batsman, you’re going to get that kind of rivalry. So I walked up with a beer in my hand, and there was (former Australia team manager) Steve Bernard, Mark Taylor and ‘Pidge’ (McGrath) sitting around this table at the SCG, and this Reid character said to me: ‘What do you effing think this is? A holiday? Put your beer down and have some effing respect Son!’ I thought ‘Oh, I’m gone here’, but as it turned out he didn’t have any jurisdiction, so we both got away with a caution.”

We still talk about it. Pidge came over to my place about six months ago, and you wouldn’t believe it, but (the incident) flashed up on TV, and to this day we are still fighting about it – ‘Mate, you pushed me’. ‘I didn’t push you – you were just in my face’. “And Kel, my wife, just said: ‘Boys, it’s 20 years ago – you’ve got to let it go!’”

5. The remarkable turnaround

Australia’s India tour in 2001 will go down as one of the greatest series ever between the two sides. The visitors, who were expected to thrash India, lost the series 2-1, but that series marked the turnaround for Hayden. On difficult turning wickets, Hayden amassed 549 runs from just three Tests and ensured he was a permanent fixture at the Aussie top order for the many years that followed.

6. When the hard work paid

It wasn’t a fluke that Hayden got those runs in India in 2001; he worked hard for it. Prior to the tour, Hayden and his older brother and childhood coach, Gary, worked on his game. He practiced on severely underprepared dirt tracks at Valleys Cricket Club in Brisbane suburbs. He practiced the sweep shot and when the time came, he used it effectively against the Indian spinners.

7. When a hobby almost cost lives

Andrew Symonds and Hayden both love fishing. In 2000, Hayden, Symonds and another friend went fishing, and the boat sunk. This left the trio in deep water, and they had to swim for more than three hours to reach an island. Not only did Hayden do it, he effectively had to drag Symonds along. Bear in mind, there were sharks in the water.

8. “Is that all you have got?”

It was 2002, and a day when the temperature was almost 50 degrees Celsius at Sharjah. Shoaib Akhtar, who was then the fastest bowler in the world, left the field after bowling three overs and Hayden gave him a send-off. When Akhtar came back later to bowl, Hayden, who was close to a century, was struck on the helmet. Reportedly, he soon stood up and asked Akhtar, “Is that all you have got?”

9. Wild celebration I

Shane Warne in his book Shane Warne’s Century: My Top 100 Test Cricketers, rated Hayden at No. 15 and wrote of him, “Hayden is into his outdoor pursuits in a big way; his nickname should be ‘Nature Boy’ not Haydos, or ‘Dos.’ Which reminds me of a weird celebration in South Africa when he wasn’t not long into the side. We had won a really tight game at Port Elizabeth, and Hayden and Jason Gillespie decided to smear Vegemite on their faces and act out a sequence as warriors pretending to hunt animals in the dressing room. It looked pretty impressive, but nobody wanted to near either of them for the next few days before the Vegemite wore off. People do some pretty odd things in the high atmosphere of winning big games of cricket but that takes the gold medal. Read: Matthew Hayden in nude on top of a cable car!

10. Wild celebration II

Celebrations can go wild especially if the win is special but Hayden did the unthinkable when he sang the Australian team song nude on the top of a cable car climbing to the top of the Table Mountain in Cape Town. This was in 2006, when Australia won the Cape Town Test. His teammate and opening partner in ODIs for years, Adam Gilchrist revealed, “Think Leonardo DiCaprio, stylish, classy, a lustful figure for the ladies in that role, and then think Matty Hayden naked pretending to be that and it probably doesn’t have the same effect.

It wouldn’t have been a pleasant sight. Fortunately, there was no one up there who would have seen him like that. But we didn’t realise that our wives and partners had been driven up there ahead of us. We managed to get a little bit of clothing on him before we stepped off to greet them.”

11. Opening with Justin Langer

When Hayden retired, his long-time opening partner Justin Langer called him the “best ever opener from Australia.” Over the years, Hayden and Langer formed a formidable pair in Test cricket. They stand fourth on the list of highest partnership runs in a career in Test cricket. They amassed 6,081 runs in 122 innings at 51.53. They shared 14 century stands.

In an interview with CricketCountry, Hayden while speaking about Langer said, “Justin and I have very similar values. Personally, we have an amazing rapport. I was always inspired by Justin as an individual, his work and sense of camaraderie, his commitment to being a team player and his incredible sense of understanding of the game both as an individual and as a culture. This led to an immediate attraction to Justin.”

12. The World Record

In October 2003, Hayden entered the record books when he bludgeoned 380 against the touring Zimbabwe side at Perth. He broke Brian Lara’s record of 375, which was the previous highest individual Test score. He scored 380 from 437 balls, at a strike-rate of almost 87. However, his stay at the top was not very long; in less than six months time, Lara reclaimed his record with an unbeaten 400.

13. How his wife Kellie helped revive his career

Hayden feels it’s ridiculous to blame WAGs for big series defeat and in his column in news.com.au, he cited a story on how his wife’s presence helped him revive his career. He wrote, “On the 2005 Ashes tour I remember being called to what felt like a crisis meeting with coach John Buchanan ahead of the fifth Test at The Oval and being told it was going to be my last Test match. I can remember being horrified at the thought of my career ending but also having a burning desire to keep my position. It was a tough time. 

Leading into the match I got a knock on my hotel room door at 5.30am and was furious, thinking, “Who is disturbing me at this hour of the morning in my room?”

I opened the door and there standing on my doorstep was my wife, Kellie, with our youngest son at the time, Joshua. They were supposed to be in Australia.

Kellie had been with me on tour earlier in the series but had flown home after the fourth Test. I’d spoken to her after she arrived back in Queensland and she told me she was taking the kids over to Stradbroke Island and was probably going to lose reception for her phone and not to panic.

So I had absolutely no idea she was coming. Kellie sensed the pressure that was on me and was determined to be by my side if this was going to be my last Test match. I can tell you right now that act of selflessness meant everything to me — to know she was by my side in my first Test match and she was going to be there for my last.

I made 138 at The Oval and reignited my Test career. It was one of four consecutive Tests that I reached triple figures and I ended up playing four more years.

If you asked Kellie if she made a difference she’d tell you, ‘Mate, Matty was always going to make a hundred that Test match. He was angry, he’d made the changes he needed to make to his game to make runs in England and he was just ready to eat someone alive.’ But the truth is I’m not sure.”

14. Big match player

Hayden has featured in two World Cup sides for Australia — 2003 and 2007 — and the team went on to lift the trophy on both occasions. He has scored 987 runs at 51.94 in World Cup games. Hayden was the highest run-scorer in the 2007 World Cup, where he amassed 659 runs at 73.22 and a strike-rate of over 101. He smashed three centuries in the tournament as well.

15. Records

By the time Hayden retired, his numbers looked more than impressive and he made his way to the history books as one of game’s greatest openers. Hayden has 8,625 runs from 103 Tests at 50.73, notching up 30 centuries. In ODIs too, he has 6,133 runs at 43.80. He played 9 T20Is and averaged a staggering 51.33 at a strike-rate of almost 144.

16. Franchisee cricket

Franchise cricket came late in Hayden’s career, but he made full use of it. He played three seasons for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and was quite effective for them, having won the trophy in 2010. Hayden also won the Orange Cap in IPL 2009. He later played two seasons for Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League (BBL).

17. The Mongoose bat

Hayden made headlines when he used the long-handled Mongoose bat in IPL 2010. It was the talk of the town, but for some reason has not caught on since.


18. Replaced by Phil Hughes

When Hayden retired from international cricket in 2009, he was replaced in the side by a young left-hander named Phil Hughes. A supporter of Hughes, Hayden called for his inclusion in mid-2014. Like everyone in the cricket world, Hayden too was devastated when Hughes passed away in November 2014.

19. The chef

Hayden is a big-time foodie, and is extremely passionate about cooking. He has also written a couple of recipe books. Two of them are The Matthew Hayden Cookbook in 2004, and The Matthew Hayden Cookbook 2, which was published in 2006.

20. Devout Christian

Hayden has been a devout Catholic since childhood. He was once quoted as saying; “Religion has been a tremendous reference point for me.” On another instance, he said, “When I’m in trouble, I ask: ‘What would Christ do?’” During his playing days, he crossed himself after reaching a century.

21. Family

He is married to Kellie Hayden and the couple have a daughter named Grace, and two sons named Joshua and Thomas Joseph.

22. Accolades

Hayden has won many prestigious awards over the years. He was awarded the Allan Border Medal in 2002, along with the Test Player of the Year. He was among the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 2003 and won the ICC ODI Player of the Year in 2007, along with Australia’s ODI Player of the Year in 2008. In 2010, he was appointed an Member of the Order of Australia and got inducted to the Queensland Hall of Fame in November 2014.

23. Post-playing days

Hayden is involved in a lot of charity work, and is often seen donning the role of a cricket pundit and commentator. He was recently helping out young cricketers in Noida, India. He is also a professional speaker and takes his cooking very seriously.

24. Cricket All-Stars

Hayden will be seen donning cricketing gear once again, as he has signed a contract with Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar’s Cricket All-Stars. In November 2015, he will be back in action for Tendulkar’s Blasters, which will play 3 T20 games in the United States.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sportsmarketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)