Cricketers pick their favourites

'The New Zealand Rolls Royce of fast bowling'

Part ten: Allan Donald on the most intimidating bowlers he has watched. This week: Richard Hadlee

Produced by: Gokul Chakravarthy, Suketu Mehta; Interviewer: Nagraj Gollapudi

July 16, 2013


'The New Zealand Rolls Royce of fast bowling'

July 16, 2013

Richard Hadlee in his delivery stride, England v New Zealand, 1st Test, Lord's, 1st day, July 24, 1986
Hadlee: swing, smarts, and a mean streak © Getty Images

I played against Richard Hadlee when Clive Rice was the captain of Nottinghamshire and Richard Hadlee was finishing his last season for Notts. He was the New Zealand Rolls Royce of fast bowlers with over 400 Test wickets, and just cleaned us [Warwickshire] up quietly.

I toured New Zealand in 1994 and bought a video of Richard Hadlee where he spoke about just his overall thinking about bowling and how he paid a lot of attention to the way he trained. He studied his own batsmen very well. He made sure that every net practice he was at, he tried to put himself in a Test match environment all the time by trying to out-think his own batsmen. He used to simulate Test-match intensity in these net practice sessions.

England toured New Zealand [1983-84] and New Zealand turned them over. England never respected New Zealand enough but Hadlee was unbelievable in that series. This was a series where he was criticised for shortening his run-up, which happened as a result of playing county cricket.

Hadlee was brisk pace but he had very good control over the ball. He was quick to understand that he had to be close to the batsmen to study how they moved. To know if they were good back-foot players or front-foot players, how they left the ball… and he taught himself what to do if they are good back-foot players or front-foot players. For a young bowler like me, it was like homework that you've never done before. Now we get all this video material and we get bored of it sometimes, but Hadlee was quick to figure out batsmen.

Hadlee was a nasty piece of work for his time. He was well known for having a chat but he also knew how and when to pick his victims. He was a real smart bowler. If I look at McGrath and I look at Hadlee, they are very similar. Similar in how they were close to the stumps and very over the top, used their wrists real smart, with little tweaks.

Hadlee was the go-to man for New Zealand at that time. He made things happen for them. He could swing the ball both ways. He also had a mean streak about him, as is evident from the video footage available of him hitting batsmen on their head. The nine-for that he took in Brisbane was just phenomenal bowling.

A lot of people would say, why include Richard Hadlee in a list of intimidating bowlers. But it's not all about real out-and-out quick bowlers. He was intimidating because he was so smart about assessing conditions, out-thinking the opponents, and he knew when to pounce on people.

It's fantastic picking his brains. I learnt from him how to out-think batsmen, and that is why I put him in the bracket that I did.

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 14:07 GMT)

There is one aspect that needs to be considered when comparing Hadlee with a Imran or Marshall. Remember, Imran and Marshall had excellent support from the other end. The pressure from the other end too ( Sarfraz, Qadir, etc) was also relentless. The same is in the case of Marshall ( Holding, Roberts, Garner, Winston Davis, Walsh, Ambrose,etc). In Hadlee's case it was not so. Ewan Chatfield was just a medium paced trundler. So batsmen could play out Hadlee and attack the others. In that case, there is much more chance of the other bowlers getting wickets. However, it was remarkable that Hadlee got most of the wickets. That shows his genius. I still remember when he finally came to India in the late 80s. He was touching 40 but was still very brisk and in fact took 5 fors in all the test matches on dust bowls!!! if I remember correctly. A monk among fast bowlers.

Posted by harshthakor on (July 16, 2013, 5:14 GMT)

The most difficult aspect to analyze about Sir Richard is how he would have performed if he consistently bowled in a lethal pace attack like that of Pakistan and West Indies or if he had to bowl on the placid sub-continent tracks like Imran Khan or Wasim Akram.Hadlee's strike rate from 1978-88 of 44.6 was staggering but again Imran and Marshall bowled much more on the docile sub-continent tracks.Hadlee had a remarkable repertoire but was not fully tested on flat tracks and in the modern era it would have been more demanding with wickets loaded in favour of the batsmen.

Neverthless I am certain that Hadlee's bowling intelligence would have won the battle in any era or in any conditions.In the corridor his bowling was sheer genius.With his competence as a batsmen Hadlee could be a likely candidate in the world all-time 11 ahead of Glen Mcgrath or maybe even Marshall and Lillee.A combination of Imran Khan with Richard Hadlee would have made a perfect paceman .

Posted by harshthakor on (July 16, 2013, 4:26 GMT)

Richard Hadlee would have been ranked amongst the game's all-time great match winners had he played for a strong team like Australia or West Indies.Neverthless how can we ever erase from our minds Hadlee's brilliant efforts against India and England on home soil in the 1970s and his phenomenal 33 wicket haul down under in 1985-86.No overseas paceman bowled as well as Hadlee in Australia in 1985-86 .He was also efffective on the 1988-89 tour of India on the docile tracks.

Hadlee's closest opponents are Imran Khan and Glen Mcgrath but they benefited playing for very strong teams.Many cricketers have selected Hadlee in the all time cricket xi as his great control would brilliantly combine with bowlers of great pace.What sometimes went against Hadlee is that he could become defensive when the batsman were attacking as was shown on the 1985 tour of West Indies or in the 1987 match of M.C.C.versus Rest of the World.He lacked the agression or hostility of Dennis Lille and Malcolm Marshall.

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