Sydney: Former Aussie opener Justin Langer has said that Australia can not afford to lose Matthew Hayden's wisdom and experience at this juncture when Australia are passing through a transition phase.
"He is crucial. Australia are now formally in a transition period," said Langer, one of six big names of Australian cricket who retired in the past two years. Langer opened Australian innings at least 113 times along with Hayden.
Hayden is playing his 100th Test Friday at the Adelaide Oval against New Zealand.
Langer said: "Ricky Ponting has had all these pillars of strength and his right-hand men who have left the team; their friendship and their leadership. All of a sudden, he is in the change room looking around for those pillars, and I guarantee that 'Haydos' provides that. His leadership, expertise and wisdom, and being Punter's right-hand man, is absolutely critical at the moment."
Langer said he believes it is the "mind and not the reflexes" that will at some stage switch off, just as it did very suddenly for Adam Gilchrist in the middle of the Adelaide Test last summer and, for Langer, the year before that. "I have got no doubt he will wake up one morning and say, "This is it.' I was speaking to 'Gilly' about it last year about why he retired, and he just knew it was time to give it away. I am sure that will happen to Haydos," he said.
He added: "The key is really his hunger. He has done everything. What is it that is going to drive him? Is it to win another Ashes, get to a hundred Test matches, is it to get to 10,000 runs? Only he can answer that, and that will be the critical aspect of whether he keeps playing, not his ability because he has been peerless besides Punter in the past 10 years."
The second Test against the Kiwis marks an achievement that did not enter Hayden's dreams growing up in Kingaroy in Queensland. "My dream was to play in the backyard, and really to follow in my brother's footsteps, who wanted to play for Australia," Hayden said, and added: "When that opportunity was taken away from him, and I was at a time in my life where it was presented to me in a small way through first-grade cricket, Queensland cricket and so on, it wasn't really until people started telling me I couldn't do something that I became really motivated."
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