In the end it came to Matthew Hayden in the garden. Having headed on a family holiday to Stradbroke Island to escape the bulging pressure on his place in the Test team, it was a moment with his six-year-old daughter at the weekend that convinced the Queensland opening great it was time to retire. “At one stage on Saturday afternoon I was picking this crazy bush of wild tomatoes that we had and I was with Grace at the time and we were just talking as you do, Dad and daughter,” said Hayden yesterday, ”and I just said ‘Darling I think I’ve had enough. I want to be here’.
“She said `Oh Daddy, one more Christmas’. She loves the Boxing Day Test match. I said `No that’s it love. I think this is time’.”
Family was a centrepiece as a red-eyed Hayden announced his exit from the game at a press conference at the Gabba yesterday – wife Kellie, his children Grace, Joshua and Thomas and his parents and brother Gary were all on hand to witness a departure brimming with as much self-belief as any of his 184 forays into the batting arena in his 103-Test career.
If yesterday is any indication, the youngest of the Hayden clan is not lacking in the confidence department either.
As Dad announced his decision to pull the plug on his 20-year career, 20-month-old son Thomas took the opportunity to pull the plug on a journalist’s recording device and fiddle nonchalantly with television microphones.
Hayden was then joined last night by his family as he completed a lap of honour in the innings interval of last night’s Twenty20 international between Australia and South Africa at the Gabba.
“It’s a very special day to be here with my family,” he said, as the Brisbane crowd rose to acknowledge his two decades of service to Queensland and Australia.
“This little tribe is the reason it makes to so easy to give it away.”
Hayden said that prior to the weekend he had planned to continue playing and fight for his place in the Test side having been dropped from both the Australian one-day and Twenty20 teams.
"My true intention was to look at the face of adversity again and discuss with Kell what I wanted to do and to move forward with a new and invigorated game plan,” he said. "I really did need to take that time to come out of that bubble and just look at other areas of my life. Chief among them was spending less time on the road – “packing away the suitcase”, as Hayden described his exit from the transient life of a modern-day professional cricketer.
Finding the right time to call it a day was not a conclusion he came to on his own, though. "We made the decision together,” Kellie said.
“We talked it though and it was no surprise. It’s just a really good phase in his life.”
While she stood and applauded like a wife in the know at the SCG earlier this month when Hayden walked off from what we know as his last Test innings, she said the thought that his career had come to an end was not running through her mind at the time.
"I was just proud to be there, for him to see me and for me to know that I was there for him no matter what he decided to do from there on in,” she said.
“I didn’t necessary think he was going to give it away. I was just proud of him. “I’m proud of him whether he plays one Test or never plays another Test again because I know how hard he works and I know how hard it is to get there and then when you lose your spot how hard it is to get back.” Kellie said she was looking forward to having the scorer of both Australia’s highest Test and one-day innings at home more often.
“Even through all of his pressure, he always walks through the door and he’s the same Matt,” she said. “He never makes me feel like he’s had a bad day, he just comes in and it’s just as he always says ‘next ball’. "I’m a really lucky woman. I live with an amazing man. He’s a positive man and I look forward to the next stage of our life together.”