Australia v New Zealand, 1st Test, Brisbane, 3rd day December 3, 2011

Leadership lifts Haddin

Brad Haddin's 80 was equal parts daring and discretion and showed that he can be a valuable lieutenant to Michael Clarke

If Australia's hellish defeat to South Africa in Cape Town could be captured in a single moment, it was the stroke that dismissed Brad Haddin. Advancing towards Vernon Philander even though his side was already in a precarious position on the second afternoon, Haddin aimed to carve a delivery offering neither length nor width, and edged wretchedly to his opposite number Mark Boucher. In that instant it felt impossible to view Haddin as anything other than a waster, deserving to be dropped, and as the match galloped away from the visitors the notion could only gather speed.

Yet three weeks later, here was Haddin in Brisbane, swelling his side's first innings against New Zealand with a chanceless 80 that was equal parts daring and discretion. He stretched the hosts' lead in the company of his captain Michael Clarke and then a motley collection of tail-enders. In between times, Haddin had proved his worth by contributing critically to the victory in Johannesburg, swatting a priceless 55. Of even greater significance was the fact that once the team returned home, the new selection panel named Haddin vice-captain for the Gabba.

Power and responsibility can do a variety of things to cricketers: building them up, tearing them down, or simply exhausting them. What is clear from Haddin's innings at the Gabba, as well as his lengthy playing career, is that this is a man lifted by a position of responsibility. When Haddin is thinking broadly of his team, his own batting shows a greater sense of awareness and balance, while still retaining the boldness and ball-striking that has had Australian crowds cooing regularly over the past few years. Granted the vice-captaincy, Haddin can still pierce the field with some of the crispest driving in the game, but he also appears more likely to choose the right ball with which to do it.

To draw such a conclusion from one innings would be instinctive, if not presumptuous. To sustain it beyond argument, it is necessary to look more deeply into Haddin's past, beyond his time in the Australian team. A fact often forgotten in the age of Simon Katich, Clarke and latterly Steve O'Keefe is that Haddin has been one of the most accomplished New South Wales captains of the past 20 years. Before the job was passed on to Katich, Haddin led the Blues with aggression, flair and plenty of courage, best epitomised by his performances at the ground on which he has now brought New Zealand to heel.

In four Sheffield Shield matches as captain of NSW at the Gabba between 2004 and 2006, at a time when Queensland counted bowlers like Andy Bichel, Michael Kasprowicz, Joe Dawes, Ashley Noffke and a young Watson among their number, Haddin's record is startling. Across those fixtures, often low-scoring on a seaming surface, he coshed 544 runs at 77.71, never reaching less than 41. Haddin's achievements in those matches were far more than statistical. Team-mates speak of how his courageous batting often lifted the team's morale as well as momentum, exuding the attitude that "these Bulls aren't so impossible to crack" and taking the team with him.

This was never more evident than in the 2005 Shield final, which NSW won breathlessly by a wicket. There were shades of Australia's Johannesburg chase about it. Haddin's 68 and 41 were his side's highest scores in each innings, and getting the visitors close enough for a tail-ender, Stuart MacGill, to scramble the winning runs.

Six years on, once Clarke had departed, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson swiftly followed. But Haddin's NSW team-mate Mitchell Starc responded to his senior's encouragement, building a partnership of strokes both chipper and chancy. While Starc had the time of his life, Haddin built soundly, picking off ones and twos, and twice sallying forth to thump sixes over straight midwicket. He ran the show with the assurance of a genuine leader.

As Australia's wicketkeeper of choice since 2008, Haddin has always been near the discussions of several captains, but only occasionally held formal office. He was not considered for the vice-captaincy when Michael Clarke replaced Ricky Ponting earlier this year, passed over for Shane Watson. The decision seemed largely to do with the selectors wanting a longer-term captaincy option in place should Clarke not pull himself out of the form trough that consumed his summer of 2010-11. There is also the habitual reluctance to make a wicketkeeper Australian captain.

Now, however, Watson is recovering from injury, and Clarke is in something like the form of his life. Haddin's response to leadership responsibility cannot have been lost on the national selector John Inverarity, as he continues his search for men of staunch character to build the Australian team around Clarke. Though Tim Paine and Matthew Wade are worthy successors to Haddin as a wicketkeeper, neither yet have the captaincy experience of the older man. The vice-captaincy was described by the Argus review as "an important role that should be more clearly defined".

Haddin should not be discounted as the man to serve under Clarke for the remainder of the summer, the shrewd lieutenant to a strong and natural captain. A similar dynamic worked soundly for Mark Taylor and Ian Healy during the first two and half years of the former's reign, despite Healy never being considered likely to ascend to the captaincy himself. At 34, Haddin will never do so either, yet on the evidence of Brisbane he has much more to give Australia as vice-captain than simply as batsman/wicketkeeper. The Cape Town shot will never be forgotten, of course, but a few more days like this will allow its memory to soften.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rajaram on December 4, 2011, 6:47 GMT

    Brad Haddin,in his own quiet way, has shown what he is capable of. He was expected to be an adanm Gilchrist clone, but he is not.He is himself. And with his bat, and his keeping, he has silenced his dttractors - like Ian Healy,whose criicket commentary now oozes apology. Now the truth is coming out about his solidity, his leadership quality,his maturity. lie Hussey before him, his bat has done the talking to shut mouths with noises"off with his head". Of greater concern is Phil Hughes. It is time he was dumped.Follow the Argus Review parameters on performance. He is past his "last chance" saloon.Time and time again, he has shown how undependable he is, how he ALWAYS gets out edging to the slips. EVERY opponent has found him out. Here are the options: If Watson is fit, he and Warner should open.If Watson is unfit, Khwaja or Marsh should open with Warner.All four have better "Opener"technique than Hughes. If Marsh is chosen as opener,Khawaja takes No.3. And vice versa.

  • Randolph on December 4, 2011, 3:57 GMT

    So surely now Siddle, with as many wickets as Mike Hussey in the 2nd innings, can be dropped. He is cannon fodder for all batsmen, much like Stuart Broad. He couldn't even get Chris Martin out.It is time to drop this deadweight and get Copeland in. As for the Aussies, what a dominating performance. Lyon again did a great job and is bowling really well. As we Aussie fans predicted in SL, SA and now against NZ, our plethora of young talent is taking sides apart. Pattinson tore strips off the NZ top order, who "had their biggest chance ever" to beat us. You are kidding me. All the Poms, Saffers, Kiwis, Indians keep bagging our side out, we love hearing the eerily silence when we destroy you.

  • vernom on December 4, 2011, 2:54 GMT

    when Ricky's last days of captiancy, clarke deliberatly didnt played well so that he will become captainas early. Once he become captain he started played well and pls see statistics. Ricky was and is very good player but clarke should remember that he will face same when he cross 30.

  • Alex on December 4, 2011, 1:11 GMT

    To respond to a couple of cooment - No I didn't see Pattinson seeing as I wrote my comment last night. Pattinson used the new ball and swung the ball in the air, wait and see what happens once we've bowled a good 30 overs and the ball won't do nearly as much. @ahsan_shere the fact that it was a consectutive good score and both were scored when we really needed him to stand up (as stated in the article) is encouraging. As for why the other tailenders didn't get scores - they weren't given the second chances and benefits of time in the middle due to poor fielding. To summarize: I'm not saying Haddin batted poorly, just that we don't know exactly how well he did

  • Sreekanth on December 3, 2011, 23:19 GMT

    No matter what every one knows he is no way close to the present keepers around the world in batting or even keeping. i think Jhonson bats better than him

  • Dummy4 on December 3, 2011, 22:47 GMT

    So if I understand correctly, brettig is suggesting Australia give the vice captaincy to Haddin now. This after vilifying Haddin utterly unfairly for the Cape Town test. Why not give it to Ponting? Perhaps it will elevate Punter's batting to higher levels as well. After all the vice captaincy is a good tool for that isn't it. I can't imagine that Australia may want to use the vice captaincy for nurturing leadership potential for the time when Clarke retires or is hurt. A cricketing savant he is, this brettig.

  • Craig on December 3, 2011, 22:42 GMT

    Haddin batted like a test batsmen should for 60 runs and threw away a 100 with a shot that didnt need to be played! starc was batting well and we werent in any hurry to score quick runs! this is the reason why people are calling for him to be dropped, if haddin gets a 100, australia may lead by 30 or 40 more runs, i hope that doesnt bite as on the bum later in this test match!

  • David on December 3, 2011, 20:17 GMT

    Leadership perhaps, I just think he plays a lot better on Aussie pitches. He likes the ball coming on, whereas say the World Cup earlier this year where he scratched around like an old woman, not able to get his timing going at all. I wonder if the selectors would consider Haddin for home Tests but Paine for away ones? Don't think that's ever been done...

  • stuart on December 3, 2011, 19:29 GMT

    jonesey 2.In reality Haddin is hopeless and just shows what poor standard Aus cricket has reached.Must be hard batting against this Kiwi attack.Only one poorer is the rabble of Indian attack.As you say though champions one and all in Aus team

  • Bryn on December 3, 2011, 18:38 GMT

    of course hahahahaha haddin, one of the most consistant and dominating no 7's in the world and has been since gilly was playing. champions dont just lose their touch and ability. eg the greatest player is cricket history ricky ponting

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