Matthew Hayden has announced his retirement from all representative and international cricket effective immediately.

Hayden addressed a press conference just after 12.30pm AEDST today with Ricky Ponting at his side.

His captain, Ponting, perhaps his strongest supporter, is now left with an Australian cricket team that bears little resemblance to the all conquering teams of the past decade, most notably the 2002 squad — ICC Test champions and Test winning streak holders — of which Ponting is now the only player remaining.

 

With Hayden gone and Lee and Watson injured, Ponting is the only remaining player from the 2002 squad.

Hayden, the gladiatorial Queenslander whose record as an opening batsman assures his place in the pantheon of cricket’s greats, has succumbed to the pressures of age, depleted form and an increasingly hostile media not used to an underperforming Australian team. The team’s form more than anything else — two consecutive Test series losses and the first series loss on home soil in 16 years — meant that Hayden’s run of low scores had made his position untenable.

Unlike his great former team mates — Steve Waugh, Langer, Gilchrist, Warne and McGrath — there would be no fairytale finish. Hayden will now slip into retirement in the style of Gillespie, MacGill, Mark Waugh and Martyn, who were a shadow of their former selves when faced with their cricketing mortality. Brett Lee, at 32 — injured and formless — may yet face the same fate.

Hayden’s feats were many and will not be forgotten. The Hayden/Langer partnership was, along with Simpson /Lawry and Morris/Barnes, one of Australia’s greatest opening partnerships. His 380 against Zimbabwe in Perth in 2003 was at the time the highest score in the history of Test cricket. He plundered 8625 runs in Tests, amassing 30 centuries at an average of 50.73. He was a world class slips fielder. His record in the One Day format was equally impressive.

For the first time since the 1980s, Australian cricket has to be rejuvenated. Without the class of the 2002 squad apparent, each of the States’ press will get behind their own to fill the spots in Australia’s pre-eminent sporting team.

Western Australia will promote Shaun Marsh. NSW will howl for the selection of Phillip Hughes. Victoria, for so long ignored, will demand Brad Hodge or Chris Rogers be selected. Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia will fight for their respective men.

Ponting, the captain, has now lost the last of his great soldiers. The current crop, and those yet to play, may prove to craft a record as impressive as those who have gone before them. New blood may not be a bad thing as it will revitalise an ailing team. How Australia will now perform against a rising India and South Africa will make for compulsive viewing.

Peter Fray

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