ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
Australia v Zimbabwe, Group A, World Cup 2011, Ahmedabad
Ponting urges Haddin to score big
February 20, 2011
Ricky Ponting has called on Brad Haddin to stop wasting his positive starts at the top of the order, as Australia search for the big scores they will need to defend their World Cup title. Haddin is one of the most experienced members of the side but he has been overshadowed by his opening partner Shane Watson in recent months, and hasn't made a hundred in nearly a year.
The Australians are in no doubt that Watson can go on and make big scores when it counts - centuries in the semi-final and final at the Champions Trophy two years ago are the proof of that - but they need Haddin to lift his output. During the home summer against Sri Lanka and England, he reached 20 on eight out of ten occasions, but his best effort was 54.
It was a frustrating trend for a man who has now had two years to prove himself as an ODI opener. In 35 matches at the top of the order he has made two centuries and averaged 33.58, and while his ability is not in doubt, Ponting would like Haddin, who is one of the leaders within the group and has at times been vice-captain, to show more application once he builds a platform.
"It's something we discussed throughout the summer with him as well," Ponting said. "We all understand, as top-order players, you have to make big scores. A 30 or 50 in any form of the game very rarely wins you anything. It's your responsibility as a top-order player to be in late in the innings.
"Hadds, sometimes I think the game can get a bit easy for him. He scores really freely and probably just gets a bit carried away with scoring as easily as he does. He needs to pull the reins back in a little bit, work the ball around in those middle overs. He still scores quickly - he's got that ability to score boundaries that other blokes don't have. He and Watson are really big keys for us. They both know that. I'm sure we'll see them play well."
A strong start against Zimbabwe in Ahmedabad on Monday would be a boost for Haddin, who made a duck in his only warm-up innings, but the conditions in the subcontinent don't always make it easy to get away briskly. And Zimbabwe are almost certain to open the bowling with a spinner, which will present a different challenge again for Haddin and Watson, who can both handle the slower men but enjoy the ball coming on to the bat.
"When you come in on wickets like these over here, it's hard to go in and hit the ball straight away because the pace of the wickets, and of the bowlers you're going to face, are a bit more foreign than we're accustomed to," Ponting said. "Even at the top of the order, we know Haddin and Watson are going to score pretty quickly, but Pup [Michael Clarke] and I are going to need to take our time to get set and make sure that we build a partnership and keep wickets in hand through those middle overs."
Unlike Haddin, Ponting did enjoy some valuable time in the middle during the practice matches against India and South Africa, when he made 57 and 55. He is on his way back from a broken finger that ruled him out of the second half of the Australian summer, and despite suffering some discomfort in the nets on Saturday, he was confident he wouldn't be affected during Monday's match.
"I haven't been too restricted in the practice games that I've played," he said. "The fact that I'd had four days without any batting was probably the major reason it stiffened up yesterday. It took probably until half-way through my training session yesterday that it started to feel right again. I've been fielding with it taped up because I just prefer a little bit of extra protection."
Both men returned to the nets on Sunday, keen to get their eye in before taking on Zimbabwe, but the real test will be when they face the stronger teams further down track. And if the top three of Haddin, Watson and Ponting fire against those sides, Australia will be well on the way to defending their title.