A key figure in the Clarke era steps down
Brad Haddin's formal retirement announcement has rounded out a quintet of exits from the game around Australia's unsuccessful Ashes defence in England. First came Ryan Harris, then Michael Clarke, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson and now finally Haddin, though he was always likely to exit the international game at the end of the series.
Unfortunately for Haddin, his revelation arrived not in the midst of victory celebrations at The Oval, but at the SCG some weeks after he had left the tour early. Like Watson, Haddin dropped out of the side following defeat in the first Test in Cardiff, and while family issues complicated matters, his international career was effectively over from the moment he was unable to present himself for selection at Lord's.
When he was not reinstated for the Edgbaston Test despite improvement in the health of his ill daughter Mia, Haddin took the decision without rancour. Instead it was senior team-mates who raised hackles about the sequence of events, leading to frank exchanges between them, the coach Darren Lehmann and chairman of selectors Rod Marsh. It may never be quantified how much this affected the Ashes campaign; what it did indicate was the exceptionally high regard in which Haddin was held by his fellow players.
"Brad was a vital player during an important period in Australian cricket," the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said. "His tenacity with bat and gloves was matched with an unflinching will to win which made him the foundation of a changing team.
"Brad's strong performances and positive influence on the team were all the more remarkable given he was dealing with the serious illness suffered by his daughter Mia. He showed true leadership at the most difficult of times and proved a loyal deputy to Michael Clarke when appointed vice-captain from the 2013 Ashes series. Brad can be enormously proud of his contribution to Australian cricket on and off the field."
A Test debut in 2008 suggests a career of seven years' duration. But by that point Haddin had already been Adam Gilchrist's deputy for eight years, having made his international debut in January 2001. He was a reserve wicketkeeper on the 2005 Ashes tour, and frequently played ODI matches as a batsman prior to Gilchrist's retirement. The way Haddin bided his time was another source of admiration among his peers.
When he did finally gain a baggy green, Haddin did so at a time of flux for the team, following a raft of retirements and the recalibration of Ricky Ponting's captaincy amid a major drain on resources. Haddin's physical toughness was shown by the fact he suffered a broken finger on Test debut when taking a wayward Mitchell Johnson delivery down the leg side, yet he continued to play.
A first Test hundred duly arrived in his ninth Test, a spanking 169 against New Zealand in Adelaide that remained his highest score. While serviceable against all nations, Haddin habitually saved his best for Ashes bouts, and in both 2009 and 2010-11 he was among Australia's staunchest performers in a pair of series lost in contrasting but equally galling fashions. Haddin's personal contributions did not serve to reduce his hurt at these defeats.
Another reverse took place in April 2011 when Haddin was passed over for the job of Michael Clarke's vice-captain. However injuries to Shane Watson meant Haddin was to effectively take on the role himself anyway, and his outsized personality and strong views on the game were never far from being heard. Clarke had learned a lot about captaincy when being led by Haddin for NSW, and as lieutenant the wicketkeeper proved a useful conduit between the players and their nimble but occasionally withdrawn leader.
Haddin's performances trailed off around this time, and he went to the West Indies in 2012 with Matthew Wade pressuring him for his spot. The looming duel did not eventuate however, as a grim prognosis for Mia left Haddin to fly abruptly home to Sydney and forget entirely about the game. He spent much of the rest of the year at his daughter's bedside, and after her gradual improvement led him back to NSW ranks he returned frequently, even within matches.
There was to be no immediate Australia recall for Haddin, as Wade was preferred by a selection panel looking singlemindedly towards youth. The disastrous 2013 tour of India brought about a change in that tack, an experience Haddin never forgot after flying into Mohali as an injury replacement just as four members of the team had been suspended. Within days of the tour's completion, he had been formally appointed as Clarke's deputy.
What followed was a gradual build-up to Ashes victory at home. The series in England was lost, but not without promise being shown. Equally important was the emergence of Steven Smith as a batsman and future leader. He had developed a close relationship with Haddin, and was his deputy on the Australia A tour that preceded the Ashes. Haddin very nearly squeaked the Australians to victory in the Trent Bridge Test, but ended the series confident that better results would unfold at home.
From the first day of the series to the last, Haddin was everywhere. He passed 50 in every first innings of the five Tests, and was a constant, harrying presence with the bat and in the field. He helped Clarke marshal the troops and provided the keenest possible support for a pace attack that operated in perfect sync. Offspinner Nathan Lyon was another man to benefit from Haddin's counsel and confidence.
When the 5-0 sweep was completed, Johnson took the series award, but it could quite easily have gone to Haddin. Australia went on from this triumph to further glory in South Africa, clinching a notable away series victory on the final evening of the third Test in Cape Town. Haddin was characteristically vocal in the field and neat behind the stumps, but his run gathering dropped off sharply, starting a decline that would lead to a poor final Test in Cardiff, 15 months later.
Over this time Haddin remained a key figure in the team, overseeing the proliferation of an openly hostile brand of cricket that reached heights of unsociability in Cape Town and then at the MCG during the World Cup final victory over New Zealand. Haddin orchestrated send-offs for New Zealand's batsmen, as part of an uncompromising approach he never shied away from, irrespective of its unpopularity.
But like many others he was drained by the death of Phillip Hughes, and never again regained the brilliance of his batting at home against England. At times during that series, Haddin seemed to enjoy outrageous helpings of good fortunes, as though his luck had finally turned. It may now be said that he used up nearly all of his helpings of providence during that giddy series, yet the selectors valued him so highly that they kept him on well after it was clear his game had fallen into disrepair.
Haddin is not done entirely with cricket. He will keep playing for the Sydney Sixers in the BBL, and a coaching future beckons. The breadth of Haddin's footprint on the Australian game will be glimpsed in how Smith now leads the national team, and in how his successor in Tests Peter Nevill goes about his business behind the stumps. An era is ending with Haddin, but his expertise is unlikely to be lost.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig