India in Australia 2011-12 January 10, 2012

Haddin should focus on his keeping - Zaheer

It has taken two Tests, but it has begun. Perhaps it's got to do with the time the cricketers got off their cricketing routines. India and Australia have resumed their verbal sparring. It began with Brad Haddin saying on a radio show that India are mentally fragile, and that when put under pressure, they "turn on each other". Zaheer Khan has responded by telling Haddin to mind his own game, which according to him is fragile.

Suppressing his laughter, Zaheer said, "Brad Haddin should focus on his keeping. That looks really fragile to me. He needs to start moving." Zaheer was alluding to the three catches Haddin dropped in the first two Tests. Zaheer went a step further. He said that Haddin seemed to be the designated big mouth of the Australian team.

Zaheer was asked if the two teams were now breaking the sort of unwritten pact of mutual respect they have been following, especially keeping in mind the bitterness on India's last tour here. "I think by the sound of it Haddin has been appointed for that in the Australian team," Zaheer said of the possible mind games coming from the Australian camp.

Zaheer was also asked if Haddin was lucky to be in the Australian side after the ordinary show in the first two Tests. "He is doing all the talk," Zaheer said. "So he is definitely playing his role."

Peter Siddle chose to steer clear of the controversy, but was forced to say a line or two when almost all the questions in his press conference revolved around Zaheer and Haddin. "[It is] just a lead-up to the Test," Siddle said. "The pressure that we have been building as bowling partnerships, and a bowling unit is what has been working for us, that's what is putting the pressure on. Whether you call it intimidation, whether it's just good team bowling, whatever you think, but that's what Bradley was getting at. The pressure we have been building without bowling."

Siddle said he had no idea why Haddin said what he said, and that he has not spoken to Haddin about it. Siddle, though, said there was no designated big mouth in the side. "There is no appointment," he said. "These things come out. Zaheer is saying he should concentrate on his keeping. I wouldn't like to see how good a tip Zaheer can give him on his keeping. I don't think it's his place to say that either. Just a part of the game. Zaheer is going all right at the moment, so he likes to say those things.

"I think we are all nice and friendly guys in the field. We are all nice to our opposition. That's how we play our cricket. That's obviously it. Brad's a very competitive cricketer. He does like to play it hard and fair. Me and Jimmy [James Pattinson] like to bowl our bouncers, stuff like that."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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