At the launch of his autobiography, Matthew Hayden talks about his family, and passion for food and surfing

Matthew Hayden has so many different interests that he's always wished he had more than one life to explore them all in. “I think I need to start believing in re-incarnation!” said the former cricketer with a laugh at the recent launch of his autobiography, “Standing My Ground” at Landmark.

He's most well-known for his love of cricket, of course, but there's a whole lot more to this fiercely-competitive Aussie opening batsman. One of his famous other loves is food. He's written three cookbooks in the last few years, and he and his family recently completed a television show called ‘Matthew Hayden's Home Ground', all about the joys of good, healthy food.

“I turned my backyard into a vegetable garden, grew my own beans and capsicum and tomatoes, picked them with my children, and then used them in our own food,” he said. “It was great.”

In response to an eager fan (the store was packed with fans of all ages, who declared in varying degrees of earnestness that they were his ‘greatest fan'), he even indicated that he might think of opening a restaurant in Chennai, a city that, he said, had always embraced him like a brother. “Would you eat at my restaurant? What sort of food would you like?” he said with a smile, adding, “Let's see… anything's a possibility.”

Then, there's his love for surfing (Andrew Flintoff, in his foreword to ‘Standing My Ground' says jokingly that the only thing that puts a strain on their friendship is Hayden's “endless surfing stories”.) His idea of a fun off-season is taking off and spending six to eight weeks surfing every day, and no, his sporting icon isn't a cricketer.

“My icon is Kelly Slater — 11 world titles in surfing and a phenomenal athlete overall,” said Hayden sounding — just for a moment — quite as star-struck as his fans in the audience.

But, perhaps his greatest love of all is his family. It's obvious as he talks warmly about his gifted musician mother, and his peanut-farmer dad. In fact, for the longest time as a boy, he had only one ambition — to be a farmer just like his father.

“Growing up, I lived a very simple life on a third-generation farm, and I actually begged my mother not to send me off to boarding school because I wanted to be a farmer,” he recalled with a laugh. “But, I'm very grateful to her for realising I needed to be challenged to grow.”

Today, Hayden is a devoted husband to his wife Kellie and doting father to his three young children. He describes movingly the moment when he knew he was ready to retire: “I was standing in my backyard with my six-year-old daughter Grace, watching our wild tomatoes growing, and I asked her, ‘Would you like daddy to retire, sweetheart?'”

Cricket, as he discusses honestly in “Standing…” never came easy to Hayden. He had to work hard at it with all his considerable perseverance.

But, the toughest thing for him since retirement has just been deciding which of his many loves to focus on next.

“How about a career in acting?” suggested one fan. “Why not… I think my mother would like it,” Hayden laughing.

If not in this life, then perhaps in the next!