Haddin urges new direction
Australia's cricketers and coaches cannot be allowed to persist with the same methods that took them through a disastrous past 12 months, according to the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin. Last summer's loss of series to India and England, plus a failed World Cup defence, has left 33-year-old Haddin and his team-mates straining to atone for those defeats.
Crucial to this, said Haddin, was ensuring Australia and their support staff did not employ the same methods shown to be manifestly inadequate during the Ashes. The addition of Steve Rixon and Craig McDermott to the coaching staff has hastened a lift in the team's intensity at training during their recent training camps in Brisbane, while Haddin said the players were compelled by poor results to be open to new ideas.
The Sri Lanka tour, Michael Clarke's first as Test captain, will be played out as a panel of former Test captains, chaired by Don Argus, concludes its review into the performance of the Australian team, with recommendations expected to be finalised and released at the end of the series.
"What I enjoyed most was the intensity we were at," Haddin said of the camps. "We've got a couple of new staff in Craig McDermott and Steve Rixon so there are a few different voices around the place, which was good.
"We've got to make sure we're not doing the same things we've been doing over the last 12 months because we're not getting the results we wanted. So we want to make sure we up the intensity of what we're doing and make sure our attention to detail is spot on so we can get the results we want on the cricket ground.
"Playing Test cricket you can never be relaxed in your position, and I don't think it puts any added pressure on any of us. It is a big arena, a big stage and we've all got to go out there and perform. That's the bottom line in Test cricket, we've got to make sure we're presenting ourselves and winning cricket games."
Haddin reckoned Australia's forthcoming tour of Sri Lanka would be a critical juncture for a team under the new captaincy of Clarke, as the squad tries to forge its own identity. A handful of senior players have also been made keenly aware of their mortality by the removal of the opener Simon Katich from the list of Cricket Australia contracts.
While Katich's exit ushers further opportunity for the likes of Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith, Haddin said the series would be as important for the older heads in the team as it would be for those still making their way.
"I don't think it is so much an important tour for individuals, I think it is an important tour for our whole group," Haddin said at the SCG. "We've had a long break now from Test cricket and everyone's champing at the bit to get back involved.
"So it is important we get over there and present ourselves over there in the right way and make sure by the time that first Test comes that we're ready to play Test cricket. We're uncomfortable with the position we're at in the rankings and we've obviously got to play some better cricket to start getting the results we think we deserve."
As for the questions to be posed by Sri Lankan cricketers and conditions, Haddin argued the Australians would be decently equipped given a raft of subcontinental tours over the past few summers. Last season the spring tour of India was augmented by the trip to India and Sri Lanka for the World Cup, then followed by a brief visit to Bangladesh.
"I think what's changed a bit with the landscape of cricket over the last few years because you play so much cricket in the subcontinent," Haddin said. "So its not as much of a shock now with the wickets and the facilities you get over there. If you look back at our last six months we've basically just been playing on the subcontinent anyway, so from that point of view it holds no fears for us and its going to be an exciting tour.
"We've had a good couple of weeks up at the camps where the intensity of training was where we needed to be to prepare for a pretty hectic next couple of months. It is also going to be a pretty exciting time too with a new captain and the position we are in as players trying to get our Test ranking back up to where we want it to be."
Haddin, meanwhile, said there was never any question about which domestic Twenty20 team he would sign with, given a natural affinity for the SCG. He went so far as to say he disliked playing at the Sydney Olympic Stadium in Homebush, and saw that as a prime reason for basing himself with the Sixers in between Test series.
"The thing I'm most looking forward to is getting back to the SCG and playing T20 here," Haddin said. "I didn't enjoy that much playing out at ANZ Stadium, this is the Sydney Cricket Ground for a reason, so I think from that point of view the guys who are at the Sixers are very lucky and privileged to get T20 back here and play some cricket."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo