Haddin's future less certain than ever
As John Inverarity answered questions about Australia's one-day squad selections on Monday, two things became clear. One was that Ricky Ponting has played his last one-day international, but that his Test future remains in his own hands. The second was that Brad Haddin faces a serious challenge to play for Australia again in any format.
Two wicketkeepers will be chosen for the one-day and Test tour of the West Indies in March and April. The selectors have confirmed that those two men will be Haddin and Matthew Wade, barring unforeseen circumstances. They have also declared that Wade will be the first-choice gloveman in T20 and one-day international cricket from now on.
They have not made a similarly categorical statement about the Test position. And that's where Haddin's future becomes clouded. The limited-overs games in the Caribbean come before the Tests. Wade has a wonderful chance to impress in seven matches before the five-day contests begin. It is possible he will debut in the first Test in Barbados.
In the meantime, Haddin has no choice but to find form for New South Wales in their final two Sheffield Shield matches of the season. Even that is not without its complications, as the promising young gloveman Peter Nevill will push Haddin for a place in the state side. After that, he'll have nothing but a three-day tour match in the West Indies in which to argue his case.
If the Test side was picked today, it would hard to leave Wade out. He is in form in all formats. He hasn't had the chance to play a first-class match since early December, but in his five first-class outings this summer he has averaged 61.50. In his initial ODIs he has batted with maturity, he has been agile behind the stumps and his enthusiasm and energy has been unmistakable.
Meanwhile, Haddin has just made a pair in a Sheffield Shield match in Perth, and had an indifferent Test series against India with both bat and gloves. He dropped catches and made no runs of consequence. He appeared uncertain and listless. There didn't seem to be any real drive. It was easy to overlook in a series dominated by Australia, but it is hard to imagine he offered more than Wade would have.
And so, the selectors wanted to see what Wade could offer in the tri-series that followed. They have been impressed with what they have seen. Initially, there was confusion over whether Haddin had been rested or dropped. In announcing the squad for this week's matches, Inverarity tried to clarify the selection process at the start of the Commonwealth Bank Series.
"When we sat down to select the side, which was the 29th or 30th of January, the exact situation is this: we had selected Matthew Wade to be the keeper in the T20 side," Inverarity said. "We were keen to further develop Matthew Wade and have a look at him. We identified him as the second wicketkeeper in Australia. The NSP has stated constantly that it wants to develop more depth.
"We want to know that we've got more than one keeper of international standard and blooded, ready for the fray in Test match cricket whenever is required. That's what we wanted to do with Matthew Wade. The NSP was also aware that Brad had a fluctuation of form, both with the bat and the gloves but had finished well with the gloves [against India], and it would have done him good to have a break.
"All of that [was] common sense, and we also decided then that Brad would remain in contention and that we'd give Matthew the first three games and probably the five games, and then we would reconsider ... When I said he was rested, that was probably incomplete. I made an error. I should have said what I just said then. To say that he was dropped wasn't quite correct, it was exactly as I said."
To sum up, at first the selectors put Haddin aside and wanted to see what other talent was out there. Now that Wade has impressed them, Haddin has been dropped. It was the right move for a one-day side looking to the future. It was also the best choice based on form alone. Whether that happens in the Test side as well remains to be seen, but Wade is clearly a man with talent and poise. He would not be out of place in the baggy green.
Inverarity hopes the presence of both Wade and Haddin the same touring squad will stir the competitive juices in the two men. Perhaps it will be the spark Haddin needs to snap out of his slump. If he doesn't, Wade is ready to grab his opportunity. As Inverarity said, the selectors want more than one keeper ready for Test cricket.
As they showed by axing Ponting from the ODI squad after a 375-game career, Inverarity's panel can make the difficult decisions. In contrast, dropping a wicketkeeper who has played 43 Tests wouldn't be that tough a call. It's up to Haddin to make their decision that little bit harder.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here