New Delhi: "Bat-obsessed" Australian cricketers were so infatuated with Sachin Tendulkar's 1998 blade which gave Shane Warne nightmares that they bought the copies of the willow to produce its versions Down Under, former opener Matthew Hayden has revealed.
In his autobiography Standing My Ground, Hayden writes that Australians "have massive love affairs with their bats" and a special version of Tendulkar's 1998 blade was manufactured at a Brisbane factory.
"In 1998, the Australian team that was crucified in India by Sachin Tendulkar became so infatuated with the little master that at least eight of them brought back copies of his famous Vampire bat, and Brisbane firm Gabba Sporting Products even produced a special version of it," Hayden, who retired from international cricket in 2009, wrote.
"Tendulkar's extremely heavy bats were way too heavy for me. In fact, they may have even been too heavy for Tendulkar too. For a time during his career he suffered from an acute case of tennis elbow, and it was widely thought his heavy bats were partially to blame," he said.
Hayden also revealed his team-mates' obsession with their blades, calling Ricky Ponting a "bat sabotager" always trying to test others' willows while Mike Hussey "always travels with a set of scales to get the weight of his bat right".
The broad-shouldered opener, who scored 8625 runs from 103 Tests, claimed that he has "never been a bat aficionado" but ended up using the unconventional Mongoose bat while playing for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League.
"I have never seen a brand catch fire like that. Indians are not known for embracing left-field experiments. The Mongoose caused enormous interest among my teammates. Everyone picked it up and played with it and were all eyes when I trained with it in the nets.
"Our Chennai captain MS Dhoni was mortified when he first set his eyes on that Mongoose. 'Are you going to use that?' he asked me, and when I told him I didn't know, he said, 'I'll give you any bat in my bag not to use it.' When I first pulled it out for a game in IPL I could sense the knives sharpening.
"When I was approached by the Mongoose firm while commentating in England in the 2009 Ashes series, I was open to the idea of using a differently shaped bat. I must admit I felt a bit anxious, because if I failed, the brand could go down with me. I've always thought Twenty20 cricket was about entertainment, and that there was room for experiment in many areas of cricket gear, bats included."
Recalling the acrimonious 'Monkeygate' row between the Indians and Australians during the Sydney Test in January 2008, Hayden said he "overheard spinner Harbhajan Singh calling Symo (Andrew Symonds) 'Monkey'."
"Symo was taunted by chants of 'Monkey' throughout the 2007 tour of India, and the 'Monkeygate' affair had a lasting effect on him. Harbhajan was fined 50 per cent of his match fee for using abusive language (after an appeal by BCCI which was heard by ICC Appeals' Commissioner John Hansen).
"Hansen later admitted that if he had known about Harbhajan's other misdemeanours - including a suspended one-Test ban - he may have considered a more severe penalty.
The verdict was a sobering jolt to us all. The whole affair was very regrettable and remains a weighty chapter in the development of both countries," Hayden wrote.
"India is the most important cricket market on planet, and the truth of the situation was that both countries understood that anything that would adversely affect their relationship was unacceptable, from a business point of view," he said about the row that had threatened to snowball into a major crisis.
Hayden had no inhibition in terming India the centre of world cricket, its manifestation, according to him, being the cash-rich Indian Premier League.
"An inescapable fact about world cricket: Australia cannot thrive without India, but India does not need us to the same degree. The IPL is the future and the master of Twenty20 cricket. There may be other leagues, but I believe the IPL will always be superior.
"The IPL was hastily organised as a response to the rebel Indian Cricket League, but from the start its plans were shamelessly ambitious. Marquee players, massive sponsorships, the world's top players lured by more money than they had ever dreamed of ... Cricket would never be the same," he wrote.
Hayden was, however, puzzled on why he and Ricky Ponting were bought at lesser amount of money than a Cameron White in the first IPL auction.
"I went for USD 3,50,000 and Ricky went for USD 4,00,000 ... it was certainly under the odds when you consider Cameron White went for USD 5,000,000, and other players who'd done far less went for a lot more," he said.
Hayden was all praise for Lalit Modi for making the tournament a brand though he steered clear of controversies surrounding the sacking of the former IPL chairman just after the third season.
"The shocking postscript to the tournament was the suspension of the man who was the face and force of the IPL: Lalit Modi.
"I know nothing of these activities (charges against Modi). But what I can say is that he had incredible drive. He reminded me of Kerry Packer in that he was brave enough to see that the game had to be ushered into a new era, and bold enough to do it," he wrote.
He claimed that screening live of IPL games in Indian theatres was mainly due to Sachin Tendulkar.
"He (Tendulkar) bought the first ticket which was later auctioned off and raised several thousand dollars for charity," Hayden wrote.