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November 21, 2008
Brad Haddin has had a tough time behind the stumps in his first few months in Test cricket, but he still has the support of Ian Healy and Adam Gilchrist, his two predecessors as Australia's wicketkeeper. Haddin, who debuted against West Indies in May and showed his determination by playing with a broken finger, struggled with both bat and gloves in Australia's 2-0 series defeat in India and conceded 39 byes in the first Test in Bangalore.
In the current Test against New Zealand in Brisbane, Haddin has again been under the spotlight. He was lured into an expansive drive during Jesse Ryder's first over in the first innings at a time when Michael Clarke needed some support. Ryder was once again the benefactor when Haddin spilled a thick outside edge off Brett Lee as he dived to his left to pull off a one-handed catch, which was heading to Matthew Hayden at first slip.
"If he had taken it, it would have been a great decision. But that is the way it is in Test cricket," Healy told the Weekend Australian. "He bit off a bit more than he could chew with that decision to chase it."
Healy was confident of a turnaround from Haddin. "I was actually really impressed with his footwork in this match, which I kind of expected, because the Gabba is a nice, high-bouncing, consistent cricket wicket," he said. "[Haddin] is only one Test away from really finding his feet. His movement and rhythm is coming along. He just made a bad decision on that catch."
Gilchrist also backed Haddin's ability. "He's a very efficient gloveman, it's just all of a sudden you're in the spotlight and your mind can start to play a few tricks," Gilchrist told the Sydney Morning Herald. "I think Hadds deserves his spot in the team and hang with him, he's good enough."
However, Healy felt Haddin hadn't progressed since he replaced Gilchrist in the Test side on the tour of the West Indies earlier this year. "[His wicketkeeping] hasn't improved since he got into the Australian team. I would actually say it has declined," he said. "We are all about trying to get [his standards] back to where they were when he was playing with New South Wales."
While suggesting that Haddin's two Test tours - in the Caribbean and India - were perhaps the toughest for a keeper, Healy said it was the pressure of Test cricket that Haddin needed to cope with. "It's the funny thing with pressure and the new environment he is in. He is worrying about all the things that aren't going to help him and not clearing his mind to concentrate on his technique, which is coming along. You can never try too hard. But when it looks like you are trying too hard that's a sign that you haven't learned to relax yet.
"I do think you have to realise he has been on two of the toughest world tours you can have as a wicketkeeper. You are standing too close for comfort to fast bowlers who aren't bouncing the ball, but are swinging it late. It is incredibly tough to adjust to, and he has been doing that with a badly busted finger."
Healy said Haddin could emerge from his tough spell as a stronger player and still had the ability to match his superstar predecessor. "He can be compared to Gilly," Healy said. "In fact, he is as close as anyone around the world is to Gilly - we are lucky to have him. In my mind he stacks up with gloves and bat with me or Gilly, but he has certainly not shown that yet.
"It has been a tough six or eight months he has had to start with. But I think this time will be very valuable to him in two or three years' time."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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