Sydney, Nov 24 : Aussie cricket captain Ricky Ponting has put his weight behind his opener Mathew Hayden, saying that he was still left with much cricket in him, and that he was a dedicated batsman and who worked hard to get his batting flaws right.
The second Test against the Kiwis starting Friday at Adelaide would be 100th for 37-year-old Hayden.
"I know Matty's game as well as anybody ... I haven't seen anything to say he is not as good as he has ever been. It was only a couple of Test matches ago that he made a terrific 80-odd in Delhi."
Ponting said with Hayden's 100th Test occurring at one of the Queenslander's favourite grounds he wouldn't be surprised if you see him make a "really big score".
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, after having farewelled his old teammates Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Justin Langer, Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist in the past two years, Ponting's reluctance to lose Hayden from a team in the throes of regeneration is "understandable".
Ponting said he still saw a hunger for runs in Hayden. "I brought a coffee down and put it on his seat and I didn't think he was at the ground. I walked out onto the ground during the warm-up and he was in the indoor nets, and he had been there for nearly an hour. That to me says the hunger for Haydos is still there. He has always been one who works extremely hard on his game if he feels that something is not quite right, so that was a positive sign. I think skills-wise and hunger-wise, Matthew Hayden is definitely our best opener and will be until he wants to finish," said the Aussie captain.
Interestingly, in an interview before the first Test, Hayden had said that he could not guarantee he would play the next Ashes and that from now onwards his career would be a match-by-match affairs. However, Hayden's teammates and confidants have not sensed he is contemplating an end to his fabled career, only that the famous determination is still there.
Importantly, Ponting remains adamant that Hayden is the best opening batsman in the country.
The Adelaide Oval is a happy place for Hayden; he averages 58.93 there and plundered 103 against India in his previous match in Adelaide. He said before this series that his longevity would hinge on his passion, which remained strong after a difficult tour of India.