IPL has changed the way cricket is being consumed: Hayden

Former Australian opener offers his view on the cash-rich league and shares his fears for the future of Test and one-day formats

IPL has changed the way cricket is being consumed: Hayden

Matt the bat: Chennai’s Matthew Hayden believes all three formats of the game can co-exist. File photo

The 38-year-old left-handed Australian, an integral part of the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League, is a massive fan of the Twenty20 game. However, he fears for the future of Test and 50-over cricket in the absence of what he calls ‘context’, and believes players like fellow-Australian David Warner might not even desire to play for the country, opting instead to ply their wares in the 20-over game.

“The IPL has changed the way cricket is being consumed globally. It’s exciting and inspirational to be a part of it,” the man with 15,066 international runs during a 15-year career told Deccan Herald.

“I don’t think any cricket, apart from T20 cricket, is safe. The other formats within our great game have lost a great deal of meaning. Part of the shakedown that the T20 phenomenon has created is going to really sharpen the pencils of the other two formats in delivering a product. That is in no way a criticism of the product, because the product that one-day and Test cricket are, are very good. But whether they are thrown around a really meaningful programme is what’s being challenged.”

Hayden has worked hard to arrive at a formula he believes will maintain interest beyond the Twenty20 game. “There’s definitely got to be context around Test cricket,” Hayden offered. “There’s no question that it needs a World Championship. Greater minds than mine will work out a way to do that over a two-year period. You can have an alternate two-year rotation of T20 World Cups and one-day World Cups. The most important competition globally is the 50-over World Cup, it’s a great tournament.

“But how do you get to the World Cup? Often, throughout the summer, it is a clutter of one-day cricket and leaves our fans thinking ‘Gee, what was that?’ The fans are the major stake-holders of the game, along with the players. And what do the players actually want to do? Having guys miked up in T20, is it really that important? I think it is irrelevant to the entertainment package. The product itself is actually what is entertaining; once you deviate from that, you lose context of the sport. We all know we are in the business of sport but it has got to be meaningful, always.”

Hayden, who admitted that he would throw his hat in the September auction ring and return to play the IPL ‘if wanted’, said having retired from international cricket made it easier for him to handle the pressure of the IPL. “I just think you are mentally fresh,” he argued. “I don’t find this tournament physically so demanding, but it’s mentally very demanding. The highs and lows, just all that brain thought going into creating risk, takes a lot of mental energy. I always played my best cricket off the back of extended spells of getting fit, and I came into this tournament really fit.”

Talk veered to Warner, the fifth Australian amongst the ten IPL centurions. “There is certainly a pattern in his play, he is a power-hitter,” Hayden said, choosing his words carefully. “He is a new breed of cricketer. He is not successful at four-day cricket, he may not even desire to play Test cricket.

“It’s a really interesting shift. Michael Bevan, the great finisher of our game, played in only one form of the game. He was a bit of a first in terms of specialist one-day players; even then, I thought it was ridiculous because he would have made a very good Test cricketer too.

“But we have a kid in Warner who, all he wants to do, is play only T20 cricket. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone like him were to go ‘Thanks, but I am not really interested in playing for my country. I want to play T20 cricket – the IPL, the EPL, the APL, the SPL…’
And can you really blame them? There’s something inside us all that thinks it will be sad for cricket because we have such beautiful national pride.

“Whilst I say that I have no regrets about my international career, I would have regrets if I didn’t play 103 Test matches and over 200 one-dayers. I just love my international career. But we are seeing new careers forged. In the process of actually understanding that these are entertainers, I can’t say that I would blame him thinking that.”

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