Manou keen to follow Haddin's lead
Graham Manou has learnt that a lot can change between two Ashes series. When England visited in 2006-07, South Australia dropped an out-of-form Manou from the side to face Andrew Flintoff's men in a tour match. Nearly three years on, he is embarking on an Ashes tour of his own as the backup wicketkeeper to Brad Haddin.
It's hardly surprising that Manou was the most searched-for player on Cricinfo after the naming of Australia's squad on Wednesday. The only uncapped member of the group, Manou was considered by most observers - and by himself - a long, long shot for the tour a few months ago.
If Australia took a reserve gloveman, Luke Ronchi was clearly the man in waiting. A glut of wicketkeepers including Chris Hartley, Tim Paine and Matthew Wade were also pushing to be next in line. But timing is everything and as Ronchi's runs dried up and he was dropped by his state, Manou enjoyed a prolific summer and scored 647 runs and grabbed 33 dismissals while captaining South Australia.
He knows he's unlikely to play a Test in England but having watched Haddin's progress as the reserve for Adam Gilchrist on the 2005 Ashes tour, Manou is simply grateful for the opportunity. "It was really noticeable how much he took from that tour as an opposition player," Manou told reporters in Adelaide after hearing of his inclusion.
"When he came back to play in the Shield games following that tour he was really impressive the way he went about it all. If I can learn as much off him as he did with Gilly and then to also go out onto the field and display those qualities, then fingers crossed, my game will continue to go from strength to strength."
Manou, 30, has been on the first-class scene for a decade, since taking over from Australia's coach Tim Nielsen as South Australia's gloveman. He rose to win the state's vice-captaincy under Darren Lehmann but after his axing in 2006-07, his future was far from assured.
The next summer he returned more determined, won back his position, started making runs again - including 190 against the reigning champions Tasmania - and was eventually handed the captaincy. Manou's work behind the stumps has also drawn praise from the notoriously hard-marking Darren Berry, the former Victoria wicketkeeper, who said this year Manou was easily Australia's best gloveman besides Haddin.
Having another experienced wicketkeeper in the squad will keep Haddin on his toes. However, the incumbent is happy the tradition of taking a reserve to England has continued and he hopes Manou returns home with plenty of lessons learned.
"I don't see him as a threat," Haddin said. "From a personal point of view, going away with the Australian team, I think it will better his cricket coming back to Australia, seeing the way we prepare. I don't think threat is the right word, I think you're always just naturally trying to improve yourself.
"Graham has got a pretty steady head on his shoulders. He captains South Australia now, so he's been around state cricket a long time. He probably knows his game a bit better than the other keepers around the country at the moment."
If Manou does get an opportunity it is likely to be in one of the four tour matches peppered throughout the Tests. It could be the perfect time for Australia to rest Haddin, who is the only man to have played every Test and one-day international since the tour of India last October. Haddin is more than happy to have played all the games but by mid-tour his workload could begin to become tiring.
"I think I'm a bit different to the other guys," Haddin said. "I only really came into Test cricket in the last 12 months. If you look at the workload of [Mitchell] Johnson and guys they've been going pretty solidly for the last two years. The whole experience is still pretty new to me. From that point of view I feel pretty good."
Haddin broke a finger during his Test debut in the West Indies last year but played through pain to complete the series. And with the goal of being part of an Ashes triumph after witnessing first-hand the misery of the 2005 defeat, don't expect Haddin to hand over the Test gloves to Manou unless his arms fall off.
"This will be my first Ashes series where I'll get the chance to play," Haddin said. "I'm pretty excited and I've definitely had one eye on this for a long time."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo