Former Australian batter Matthew Hayden chose David Warner as the impact player for Australia ahead of the World Test Championship (WTC) final against India. The much-anticipated contest is scheduled to take place at the Oval, starting on Wednesday, June 7.
Warner has had his share of struggles in Test cricket since 2021, having scored only one century in 19 games. Despite that, Hayden feels that the Aussie opener's ability to play at a high strike rate could catch the Indian bowling attack off-guard.
Speaking to the ICC ahead of the marquee clash, Matthew Hayden said:
"Impact player has to be Davy Warner. He has had a tumultuous ride over the last few years, just getting the one 200 but he has got a strike rate of 80 in Test match cricket. No one in the history of Australian cricket has got that as an opening batsman so literally he has gone to a new level. I think he'll be overly aggressive in this series as well( this one game and the Ashes)."
"This game he'll be looking to be really confident, he hasn't had that IPL season of note like a Shubman Gill but I don't think that matters because Davy is an instinct player and if he starts going hard at the top of the order it'll leave the Indian bowling attack vulnerable as well," he added.
"In a big game, it's runs on the board and Steve Smith is a maestro," he added. "When you think about modern-day greats - Smith, Kohli, Babar Azam, these are once-in-a-lifetime and once-in-a-generation cricketers. In combination with Labuschagne, Those two are really critical to the efforts of the Australian batting lineup. Pat Cummins as the captain as well as the fast bowler."
While Labuschagne is the top-ranked Test batter in the World, Smith is just behind him at third on the ladder. The duo along with Usman Khawaja and Travis Head are all in the top eight of the run-scoring list for the WTC 2021-23 cycle.
Matthew Hayden predicts Australia to win the WTC 2023 final
Matthew Hayden also predicted Australia to come out on top in the battle for supremacy in the WTC final against India.
The former Australian great believes that despite Australia's poor record at the Oval, the potentially green wicket should suit their seam attack and Nathan Lyon.
"Australia. Even though it hasn't got a great record here, it's got a 40℅ record and India's got less than that, it's a 30℅ record here at the Oval," Hayden added. "Both have had their fair share of woes at this venue but looking at the wicket, it's a green wicket, I think we've ( Australia) got a great fast bowling attack and that's a strength to Australia.
"We've got an extremely experienced player in Nathan Lyon that can hold ends and be both a positive and attacking player but also defensive spinner."
Hayden also pointed out that Smith's recent county experience playing for Sussex and Australia's in-form batting lineup gives them the edge for the final.
"Also we've really got an outstanding world-class batting unit. Smith like Pujara has had county experience recently here in England and it counts here, it's always hard to score runs early up in England so just to have that few runs under the belt is a good sign for Australia," concluded Hayden.
While Australia have only won seven of their 38 Tests at the Oval, India have struggled equally, winning only two of their 14 Tests.
Both teams recently faced off in a four-Test series in India, with the home team emerging victorious by a 2-1 scoreline.