Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara

Former Australia opener Matthew Hayden has singled out the lack of first-class centuries as strongly indicative of the degree that Australia’s batting has fallen, while harking back to the quality that the previous generation of batsmen had while setting the benchmark.

The 103-Test veteran singled out Cheteshwar Pujara, who during India’s recent 2-1 Test series win faced a record 1258 deliveries, and stressed on the need for a very good technique to succeed in Test cricket. (ALSO READ: Justin Langer calls on batsmen to step up against Sri Lanka)

“I loved the way (Pujara) went about his cricket,” the 47-year-old told cricket.com.au. “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. (ALSO READ: Starc second Australian left-arm quick to 200 Test wickets)

“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.”

Giving the example of the recalled Joe Burns, who with 15 first-class centuries is the most for any current Australian batsman under 30, barring the banned Steve Smith, Hayden said the national selectional panel had taken a measure to try and improve Australia’s performance in the ongoing two-Test series with Sri Lanka. In the 2018-19 Sheffield Shield season, Burns has managed four half-centuries but no hundred.

Joe Burns walks off after scoring 22 from 18 balls.
Joe Burns was recalled to Australia’s Test squad this month. (Image: Twitter)

“It’s an interesting selection given the fact that he’s played 14 Test matches and that’s yielded three hundreds and four fifties,” said Hayden. “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.”

Hayden also spoke of Australia’s coach Justin Langer, a batsman with whom he opened the innings with in 75 Tests, as being fully aware of the requirements of a successful cricketer.

“I know that (as a player) I was looking to impress selectors, looking to give them a reason to pick you … and Justin Langer knows this better than anyone,” said Hayden. “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. ‘JL’ is a staunch lover of the game. 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.”