No Tears Shed

Just for once, with another famous player having retired, I'm not going to write a heartfelt valediction. I just can't bring myself to do it, because, while his statistics and performances undeniably speak of a very, very good, and possibly great, player, I never had much time for Matthew Hayden.

As a batsman he was just a bit too muscular, stereotyped and unemotional for my liking, and, if you throw in the grating contrast between his widely trumpeted Catholic piety and the way in which he apparently abused Graeme Smith relentlessly on his debut (I say 'apparently' because Smith might have been lying, but I don't think his account of events has ever been convincingly refuted), there always seemed to me to be plenty there not to like.

On the face of it, his retirement in advance of this summer's Ashes series does England a favour, but does it really? Although he might have recovered his form - good players always think they will - his career had entered a marked decline which may well have been age-related and unrecoverable. Australia now have a choice of several candidates for his opening spot, the majority of whom (Jaques, Rogers and Hussey, anyway) know all about scoring shedloads of runs in England.

Personally I have a hunch that the Australian selectors might go for the young New South Walian Phil Hughes for the South African tour, but, for England, Jaques looks a better bet. Or, if they're happy to rejig their order, they could do much worse than move Hussey up to form another left-handed combo with the revitalised Simon Katich.

Another interesting imponderable ahead of a series which is building up to be very interesting indeed...

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