Hayden is Australia’s most successful opener with 8625 runs at 50.75, followed by former captain Mark Taylor (7525), Michael Slater (5312), Bill Lawry (5234) and Justin Langer (5112) before Warner at sixth with 4478 from 51 Tests. Warner was the fourth-highest run-getter last year with 1317 at 54.87, including a career-best 253 against New Zealand, to follow a super 2014 in which he made 1136 runs at 63.11 with six hundreds. This remarkable transformation from a muscular batsman once termed fit for only T20 cricket left Hayden – fifth on Australia’s all-time Test run charts – to marvel at what could be achieved in the years to come.
“I think he can be the best. He certainly knows now how to temper his performance and that’s the hardest thing to learn. You can teach a lot of skills, but the mindset of a batsman is a mindset that takes time to learn,” the 44-year-old, now in India during commentary for the IPL, told cricket.com.au. “That’s why a lot of guys might disagree with a guy like (former Australia captain and Cricket Australia National Talent Manager) Greg Chappell, who says you can play your best cricket before you’re 23.
“I think that’s complete rubbish. As a batsman you need to develop your timing. You have a look at all the players that have come out of the last era, with the exception of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, they’ve all been guys who have matured into their performance. Davey needed to mature as much as a person as he did a cricketer and he’s done that.”
Aside from the statistics – Warner currently averages 50.06 from 51 Tests – what impressed Hayden was the mental changes that the left-hand opener brought to his game. “He’s made that transition into a family life, into a solid member of the team and he’s got the temperament to play across each format of the game,” he said. “He’s a joy to watch. The living room in our house comes alive every time he comes on to bat. It’s stop, hold the phone and watch Dave play. He’s brilliant.”
Hayden pinpointed Warner’s ability to judge which deliveries to leave and which to hit when opening in Test cricket as also crucial to his success. “He was challenged early by the mentality that you all get into when you’re playing a lot of the shorter version of the game of hitting every ball,” Hayden said. “The secret to Test cricket is leaving the ball well. They’re opposite temperaments. He’s combined that skill of being able to know where your off-stump is, play straight for as long as you can but he’s always naturally going to be aggressive. He’s got that mindset of six, four and so on and not the other way up.”