Born on October 23, 1977, Brad Haddin is one of the world’s finest wicketkeepers currently and also a gritty batsman. A career affected by the presence of an exceptional talent in the form of Adam Gilchrist, Haddin only got a chance to prove himself at the longest format past 30 years of age. Yet, despite the setbacks, he continues to display the Australian fighting spirit. Aayush Puthran looks at his career so far.
Fun Fact: From the time Ian Healy made his debut for Australia in 1988 till Adam Gilchrist retired in 2008, no other player apart from Phil Emery kept wickets for Australia in a Test match. Emery too played just one match as a wicketkeeper.
The above fact highlights how playing for the country seemed a distant dream for young wicketkeepers in Australia. As a result, many a good glovesmen could never realise their dream. For Bradley James Haddin, who played second fiddle to Gilchrist for most part of his career, got a chance to make his Test debut after he was past 30 when the Australian legend decided to hang his gloves.
What Haddin suffered was something similar to what Gilchrist had faced when he was playing second fiddle during the last few years of Healy’s career — awaiting a chance to make his debut for a long time. Even as Haddin was considered a technically better wicketkeeper, he was unlucky as form never deserted Gilchrist for long, nor was fitness an issue. He had played 96 Tests for Australia without missing a single match in his career.
When Gilchrist retired from international cricket in early 2008, Haddin was a well-established replacement. One would have thought that the ride would be easy for him at the top as it was for Gilchrist, but times had changed and he was no Gilchrist.
At the age of 12, Haddin’s family had moved to Queanbeyan in south-eastern New South Wales where he started playing juniors cricket at Queansbeyan Cricket Club at the age of 15. His progress from thereon was quick and swift as within a year, he graduated to play for the Australian National University.
He started playing professional cricket in the 1997-98 season for the Canberra Comets before playing for New South Wales (NSW) in 2000. His performance in the domestic competitions helped him earn a place in the national side.
Coming in for Gilchrist in the 10th match of the Carlton and Baugh tri-series, Haddin made his One-Day International (ODI) debut against Zimbabwe at Hobart in January 2001. Skipper Alastair Campbell was his first dismissal as he stumped him off a wide delivery bowled by Shane Warne. However, this came only after he had run-out opener Guy Whittall.
He even scored an unbeaten 13 with the bat. However, it was not good enough to get him another international match for the next three years. During this period, he was demoted from the number two wicketkeeper by Ryan Campbell and Wade Seccombe.
By the time he made his international comeback in 2004, he was an improved glovesman and had made himself more established in his position as the second-in-command to Gilchrist. In the next four years, he played 28 ODIs every time Gilchrist chose to rest or was injured. During the 2005 NatWest ODI series in England and the 2008 Commonwealth Bank ODI series, he played in the Australian side purely in the capacity of a batsman.
However, during this phase, he hadn’t done enough to prove his potential at the top level. In 29 matches till then, he averaged 29.37 with the bat and had 35 dismissals to his name. While he did well against India and West Indies [and New Zealand to an extent], his record against the other teams as a batsman was abysmal.
However, two knocks stood out during this period. His 69-ball 87 not out against India at Kochi in 2007 helped Australia put on 306 on the board after they were reduced to 160 for four at one stage. His knock not only helped his team earn an 84-run win, but also got him his first Man-of-the-Match award. The knock had come at the back of a crucial 69 added in the previous match of the same series.
The second knock was a 70 at Kuala Lumpur against the West Indies. After Australia were down at 104 for five, he joined forces with crisis man Michael Hussey to rescue his team with a 165-run partnership for the sixth wicket — which was then a world record.
Gilchrist’s retirement from Test cricket at the end of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in early 2008, was expected to help Haddin’s career, even as he was past 30. But ill-fate struck much before one would’ve thought. Soon after becoming the 400th player to don the Baggy Green, Haddin sustained a fracture on his right ring finger during the match against West Indies at Kingston, Jamaica. However, he battled on to play the match and the next two encounters in the series. He went on to score 151 runs and took 16 catches in the three Test matches.
However, an infection on the thumb eventually forced him out of the ODI series that followed.
In the next one year, his performances against South Africa and New Zealand, if anything, strengthened his place in the side. He averaged 64.66 against the trans-Tasman rivals and 39.30 against South Africa in six Tests. In eight Tests against the two teams, he had also effected 26 dismissals behind the stumps.
However, a poor outing against India raised questions of his ability to play in sub-continental conditions. The same team against whom he had raised his batting level a year back in 2007 in ODIs, proved to be a tough opposition in 2008.
Even as the Australian dominance began to see a decline, the 2009-10 season proved to be a good one for Haddin, who showed considerable growth both as a batsman and a wicketkeeper. In a team that failed as a unit in England during the Ashes summer of 2009, he stood tall scoring at an average of 46.33 in four Tests. He returned with great success against New Zealand and the West Indies during the season. However, his inability to play quality spin was exposed again against Pakistan. In 12 Test matches that season, he bagged 56 dismissals to his credit.
His form during this period fluctuated in the Twenty20s. He had found a renewed form as an opener in the ODI side. With Shane Watson for company, the duo hit off a deadly combination at the top for a brief period.
However, despite his terrific run, he was dropped from the T20 squad in place of Tim Paine in January 2011. Haddin didn’t hold back on his feelings after being dropped and told the Telegraph, “I have to be honest, being dropped from the team when the chairman of selectors says you’re the best player for the position was odd, it was very odd.”
Within a few months of the decision, he announced his retirement from T20 Internationals. The announcement came after he was picked for a two-match T20 series against Sri Lanka in August 2011, where he managed to score just seven runs in two outings.
Not just in T20, but the 2010-11 season as a whole was a poor year for the wicketkeeper-batsman, who barely managed 715 runs in 27 matches at an average of 28.60 in the 50-over format. Behind the wicket, however, he was as clean as ever.
In Tests, too, he became inconsistent with the bat, providing the occasional heroic or supporting act. However, the highlight during this period was his 136-run knock against England at Brisbane in November 2010.
However, a poor 2011 resulted in him losing his place in the ODI side as well — this time to Matthew Wade. Even as he safely continued to be a regular fixture in Australia’s Test side, Haddin had to leave cricket for a brief while as his 17-month old daughter Mia was diagnosed with cancer.
On his return to the side in early January 2013, he spoke about the troubled days. “When something like that happens your life is put on hold. I have been lucky that things have gone in the right direction enough to allow me to be back playing cricket. But in all honestly I wasn’t thinking about cricket at all. I would not be playing cricket now if it affected my family. I am no different to anyone. Your family comes first,” he told news.com.au.
However, during this phase, Wade had done enough to cement himself as the No 1 option for the wicketkeeper’s slot.
When Haddin found a place in Australia’s squad for the Ashes 2013, he was expected to be the back-up for Wade. However, surprisingly he was chosen over his younger counterpart for the opening Test against the favoured English side.
It was here that Haddin showed his class and grit. With 80 runs to win and one wicket in hand, the wicketkeeper from Queanbeyan played out of his skin in company of James Pattinson to give his team hope of an improbable win. His 71-run knock went in vain as the visitors lost by 14 runs.
His impressive show continued behind the stumps as well as he finished the five-match series with 29 dismissals, all caught — a new world record by a wicketkeeper in a Test series.
His performance in the Ashes also helped him get back his place in the ODI and T20 squads.
Ever since taking over from Simon Katich as the captain of the New South Wales team in 2003, Haddin has assumed captaincy on numerous occasions. Apart from leading the Australia A side, he also led Australia in two T20Is. Being a senior member in a relatively young squad post a flurry of retirements of the dominant Australian side of the late 1990s and 2000s, Haddin has played a key role in helping Michael Clark and George Bailey in their captaincy.
One of the major controversies Haddin was involved in was when Neil Broom was out bowled in an ODI encounter at Perth in February 2009 and the replays had suggested that the bails fell off by hitting Haddin’s gloves.
The then New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori said post-match, “I think you saw from Haddin’s reaction that he knew something was wrong so he probably should have made more noise about it.”
However, the wicketkeeper hit back and told the Sydney Morning Herald, “I’m pretty disappointed in Dan that he didn’t have the decency to come and speak to me after the game … rather than air his thoughts at a press conference,” Haddin said. “I think the polite or decent thing to do was to come and ask me. He’s played a lot of cricket now and he knows too well what happens with these situations. I was very shocked to read the paper, that he didn’t come and speak to me, [I'm] pretty disappointed that he’s questioned my integrity, I think it’s quite poor.”
His skipper Ricky Ponting too defended him by saying, “It’s a bit much — he’s basically claiming [Haddin's] a cheat, isn’t he? That’s a bit strong unless they’re 100 per cent certain. We’ll wait and see. If [a replay] does show anything that Brad is in the clear, I’ll certainly be letting Daniel know about it. It’s probably worth Haddin having a chat to him as well. He’s basically had a bit of a crack at Haddin’s make-up. [Haddin] obviously didn’t know, because if he knew then he wouldn’t have claimed it. Whatever we’re saying about Brad Haddin here, you can’t say that knowingly happened, that is for sure.”
Funny moments on the field
While talking about the innovation after the match, Haddin told The Telegraph, “I’ve been thinking about using it for a couple of weeks. I thought if I got behind the stumps and the ball hit the stumps, it could deflect for four. Also it would give me more time to free my arms up and hit the ball. It was something different. Maybe I over-theorised a little, but we were all out there to have some fun.”
Speaking of the repercussions of the incident, Haddin told the Herald Sun in jest, “We’re going to revert back to the old-fashioned handshake or a good old-fashioned bum slap next time.”
Haddin has as of October 23, 2013, has played 100 ODIs and scored 2,652 runs at an average of 31.20. He has scored two centuries and 16 half-centuries with a highest of 110. He has taken 140 catches and affected nine stumpings. In Tests, Haddin has played in 49 matches and scored 2,514 runs at an average of 33.97. He has scored three centuries and 12 half-centuries with a highest of 169. He has taken 193 catches and affected five stumpings.
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)