DUBAI: Former Australian opener Matthew Hayden admitted on Thursday hostile cricket rivalry between India and Pakistan is unmatched and will test the two teams when they play a high voltage game in the Twenty20 World Cup in Dubai on Sunday.
Hayden is serving a short stint as Pakistan’s batting consultant and transferring his vast experience on how to tackle pressure is as intense a rivalry as the Ashes between Australia and England.
“For Australia, England is their old guard as they would say, as at various stages we have been ruled by the Kingdom of the UK and cricket wouldn’t be on our shores if it hadn’t been the case,” Hayden told a virtual media conference. “But nothing also, that I have ever seen throughout various elements of the game that I have been part of, ever matches the rivalry between India and Pakistan.”
The 49-year-old left-hander played 103 Tests for Australia, 20 of them in the Ashes, scoring 1461 runs.
Hayden accepts there is enormous pressure of an India-Pakistan match, often resulting in bitter public reaction for the losing side.
“There is an obvious pressure of an Indo-Pak match, as there is obvious pressure if you play against England if you are an Australian, but the pressure is only what you allow it to be.
“It’s a history-making opportunity. We can present all the stats, homework and research and nothing can replace what will be the state, what we dream about, write about and coach about, which will be the event itself.
“I can sense that the players are waiting for that opportunity. I can sense that there is a sense of calm about that. It’s now the opportunity of playing the game,” Hayden remarked.
After the eight-team qualifying rounds, the Super 12 stage starts from Saturday.
Hayden, who joined the Pakistan team last week, said players were in a good place.
“The mood is high, the relationships within the team are very strong and the players seem very happy and relaxed in spite of the obvious pressure starting from our first match.”
Hayden, part of the commentary team during the Indian Premier League which finished last week in the United Arab Emirates, singled out K.L. Rahul and Rishabh Pant as the men that Pakistan need to be watch.
“I sense that K.L. Rahul is a major threat to Pakistan. His dominance in the shorter format is good. Someone like Rishabh Pant, with a cheeky smile and his brash nature and beautiful vision for the game, is a destroyer.”
Hayden believes Pakistan skipper Babar Azam will be under extra pressure.
“Babar is our premier player and will be targeted and as Chris Gayle [West Indian great] says ‘everyone wants to put him in his pocket’. There is going to be additional pressure on Babar as captain and as batter.
“It’s a real dog fight and the conditions and margin of error are very little and so good leadership is going to be the key and Babar commands that role and he needs to fulfil that role. He will be the person who every player would want to put in his pockets.”
Ahead of the T20 World Cup, Hayden was appointed as Pakistan’s batting consultant while former South Africa swing bowler Vernon Philander was roped in as bowling consultant.
“I would have never thought in my wildest dream that I would be sitting inside the Pakistan dressing room,” said Hayden. “But I’m going to enjoy every bit of it.”
Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2021