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Rahul Dravid was India's best player away from home: Matthew Hayden

Abhimanyu Mathur | TNN | Nov 4, 2015, 07.04 PM IST

Australian cricketer Matthew Hayden is no stranger to India. This is the place where his Test career was given a new lease of life through his performances on the 2000-01 tour. Some of his best innings were against Indian bowling and he also had a successful stint during the IPL here. His recent visit to the country, however, was not as a player but as a coach. He coached a group of about 60 cricketers from different age groups during a camp organised by the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association in Noida. We caught up with him on the sidelines, where he told us about his assessment of the talent in the region, why Rahul Dravid is the best role model for young cricketers, and which Indian dish is his absolute favourite.

Today, Indian cricketers are known for their aggressive game. Do you see a bit of the Australian cricketing approach in this?
Everyone has an aggressive approach here, that's for sure, and that is somewhat similar to the way we play back in Australia too. But I feel it's a product of the pitches they play on, which are batsman-friendly and where it's easy to strike the ball. But the main reason behind this I think is that the role models for budding cricketers in this region over the last 10 or 15 years have also been quite attacking in their approach to the game. You have your Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, and of course MS Dhoni. They're all stroke players and play a fearless, aggressive brand of cricket. From what I've learnt, they are extremely popular in the small towns here. The youngsters here start off following the likes of Dhoni and Kohli and Sehwag. I've been attracted to Indian cricket for a long time, and now that I've retired from the game, I can see the influence of these masters on the kids here through my interactions with them.

So not many followers of Dravid, in that case?
I've said it many times and I'll say it again. I feel Rahul Dravid is the best role model for kids. I told the kids at the training camp in Noida that they need to look up to someone like Dravid as a role model. Even though he was rightly called the 'Wall' and he based his game purely on defence, he was a great competitor. He made so many runs away from home, which is the hallmark of a great player. He was India's best player away from home and in order to be the best in the world, you have to be the best around the world, not just at home. That's what set Dravid apart.

You were in Noida for a coaching camp. Are you looking at full-time coaching in the future?
Not really, because I run a research and analysis production agency back home. We create and produce TV and radio programs related to sports. So you could say I'm on the other side of the camera now.

In that case, what was it that compelled you to take up the coaching/mentoring stint in UP?
That's due to two reasons. One, because I still love the game and wanted to contribute to it in any way possible. I chose UP because of my relationship with Suresh Raina. I've known him since our IPL days. Suresh and I are like brothers; we played four seasons together and we still remain in touch constantly. He approached me about this and that's what got me here. According to me, I'm just trying to help the emerging talent from the region. From what I see, young cricketers of India are seriously talented. They already have a fair idea of how to develop their game, which is great. Looking at the kids in India, I'm convinced that the future of Indian cricket is secure.

You certainly know a lot about the talent from this region. You've played with and against a few players from UP during your international career and in the IPL.
Like other regions in India, the game is alive and well in UP. The state has contributed some fine players to the game. Suresh Raina is one of the most talented ones I've seen. Then there's Praveen Kumar, the way he went about his game was a joy to watch. RP Singh, who is also from this region, was a decent bowler too. It's a really good set-up and it's a big state, so it's natural that there'll be ample talent here.

Your career was resurrected on that 2000-01 tour and you have played well in the IPL for over three seasons. What is your fondest memory from your trips to India?
I won't talk about one memory because my entire experience here has been pretty memorable. Apart from the cricket itself, I've always felt very relaxed and comfortable in India. I've admired and appreciated the affection that India has shown me over the years. Right from the start, I've felt that the people of India love cricket more than any other place in the world that I've travelled to. As a cricketer, it's a nice feeling. So, I've always had a very lovely association with the people, the game and the food here. The general culture here, the way you celebrate your festivals. There seems to be no indifference among the people of India.

You spoke about the food here. That's something that India is known for. As a cricketer, you probably had your dietary restrictions but now you must be free to indulge. Any favourites in India?

Here, you are famous for your tandoors, sheesh kebabs and things like that. I think Lucknow and Delhi are famous for that. Just like when you say biryani, you think Hyderabad, North India expresses itself through its meats. Then you have the Rajasthani platters, which are magical. So, it's great coming to these parts of the country. I love food; so, to me, it's an easy and diverse place to eat. Talking about favourites, I really loved the buffalo milk curd here, and of course the pickles. I love how they play with the flavours on that one. It's something that is always very tasty yet simple. Then you have your signature Indian breads like the phulkas, the naans, and the parathas. All that stuff is simply magic. But the best and my absolute favourite by a long way is the yellow dal. That's a kind of comfort food for me.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/toi-cri/top-stories/Rahul-Dravid-was-Indias-best-player-away-from-home-Matthew-Hayden/articleshow/49661027.cms
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