Christian Ryan
Writer based in Melbourne. Author of Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the Bad Old Days of Australian Cricket

Little wonder if even Brad has Haddin-uff of being Brad

Toughness and a lack of nervousness are key for a keeper. One suspects they aren't a vital part of Haddin's make-up

Christian Ryan

February 16, 2012

Comments: 38 | Text size: A | A

Brad Haddin reacts after dropping Gautam Gambhir, Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 3rd day, January 5, 2012
Gambhir snicks / Haddin deliberates / Haddin dives / ball misses gloves © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Sir Donald Bradman | Brad Haddin | Rod Marsh
Teams: Australia

Don Bradman - in that cricket's-a-gay-and-grand-old- pastime-and-verily-blessed-are-we-to-be-its-custodians way he had of talking - once wrote about the first ball of international competition he ever sat witness to and how the memory of it never left him. Sydney, 1921, and it wasn't the tremors hinted at by Jack Gregory's delivery or the fineness of Jack Hobbs' leave-alone or the gum-leaf greenness of the Ladies Stand roof that stirred 12-year-old Donald to turn to his dad George and murmur something admiring. No, what impressed Bradman was a squatting, stumpy fellow with a coiled explosion of carpet where his moustache was supposed to be, Hanson "Sammy" Carter, the wicketkeeper, or, rather, Bradman liked the blissful-seeming way Carter caught that delivery of Gregory's, right in the cup of his glove, or, more particularly, Bradman thrilled to the noise this made. Noise? Hard to summon up in words. Yet the noise was weirdly soothing. Here's Bradman's best stab at describing it - "that gorgeous soft dull sound".

Almost anyone who goes to the ground to watch cricket of whatever standard knows that noise. It signifies a ball's safe landing in the double palm formed by a wicketkeeper's two catching hands, and also that those hands are imparting the just-right amount of tension, being firm enough that the ball clings but not so over-anxiously firm that it clangs out again. That's what is going on at a technical level. There's also a non-technical, bordering-on-psychological dimension. When a ball settles in a wicketkeeper's gloves - not with a click, thud, smack, slap or a kiss, but with, as Bradman correctly put it, a gorgeous soft dull sound - there's an air of effortless nonchalance to the motion. This can muck with a batsman's head. No half chances, the batsman now knows, will get fumbled today. He knows as well that the wicketkeeper is hungry for the ball. More than that, the wicketkeeper is willing the ball his way, ravenously, until the wicket-keeper - a job with a passive-sounding ring to it - turns predatory in the batsman's head, into something more like a wicket-taker, except that phrase gets used to describe bowlers, so let's think up something pointier; say, a wicket-grabber. Better yet - a wicket-clawer. A batsman has enough going on in front of his eyes to fret about. Someone clawing and grabbing at him from behind as well is just mind-screwing.

Wicketkeeping's different like that. It has its straight-up technical basics. It also has an element of hocus-pocus. The basics include body shape. Ideally a wicketkeeper should be slightly stocky but without the stockiness having turned to fat. He stands about 5ft 8in, so he's short, and nimble, but not so elf-like that he spends his whole day lunging and sprawling off tiptoes. He crouches low as the bowler approaches. He delays springing up till as late as he dares. He skates across the grass with a boxer's rapid sidesteps. Balls outside off, visible all the way, are relatively easy takes. But it's essential that he spies early the inswinger veering down leg side and starts shifting half his body weight in that direction before the ball enters his blind zone, and it's no less crucial that he should, when circumstances call for it, and as a way of geeing up the ten other fielders, be able, every now and then, to perform - hocus-pocus alert! - miracles. By miracles, I mean gravity-dissolving leaps that send cricket watchers scrambling for their phones and texting their friends, only when the text message freezes at the point of transmission you just know it's because the whole world's on the phone texting about the catch they've seen, which is pretty much the way it was in post-war London in 1948, minus the mobile telephones and the drawn-out SMS hiatuses, when Bundaberg's Don Tallon went grass-skiing on his left elbow to catch Len Hutton. It was like that at the 1975 World Cup when Rod Marsh's dolphin-bellied dive right got rid of Tony Greig, and likewise at the Adelaide Oval in 1999, the day Adam Gilchrist produced a popping-eyeballed-kangaroo's-just-skolled-a-litre-of-Gatorade jump to pull down a Sourav Ganguly hook shot.

Brad Haddin took this catch once. Australia were playing Pakistan in Sydney. Salman Butt was batting. Haddin spotted that Butt was planning a leg-glance, flew, flung out his right arm, and intercepted the ball in a twinkle so electric Tubby Taylor bellowed on TV "ripper, absolute screamer, oh that's a beauty".

"Courage" was rated by Bradman a key compulsory characteristic of wicketkeepers. He gave some mini-definitions: courage in playing on with battered, purpling hands (Haddin wears finger guards under his gloves, and calls them "a keeper's best friend"); courage in not being cowed by the danger of facial or body blows; courage in keeping up concentration on hot days when every joint and sinew hurts. Bradman settled ultimately on "moral as well as physical courage". John Benaud, a selector of 1990s Australian teams, labelled it "toughness". "Marsh," he named as an example, "played his cricket - indeed, often approached life - as if he were in a perpetual tennis tie-breaker."

Toughness or courage embraces, in large part, self-confidence, and non-nervousness. The casual cricket watcher might suspect the following of Haddin: too inclined to not go for catches and to let first slip deal with them instead, too slow to sniff out a ball's likely flight path - too far back from the stumps, maybe. "He is a nervous guy," Gilchrist commented after Haddin's breakthrough Test ton with the bat, a 169 against New Zealand, and "with this hundred what he is going to do is grow in confidence."

 
 
The casual cricket watcher might suspect the following of Haddin: too inclined to not go for catches and to let first slip deal with them instead, too slow to sniff out a ball's likely flight path
 

It is hard being Haddin. A wicketkeeper in a titanium helmet does not scream out courage, but titanium's in vogue. Present-day acoustics do Haddin no favours either: Hanson Carter's trusty gardening gloves have metamorphosed into modern manufacturing's baseball-style mitts - and balls landing in a rubbery horizon of webbing between a wicketkeeper's thumb and forefinger simply don't sound so lovely.

And apart from being courageous and tough a wicketkeeper's expected to be the suave gentleman always, to have romance in his veins. Bert Oldfield once caught the genius writer RC Robertson-Glasgow at Christ Church Ground in 1921. Not out, said the umpire. Oldfield waited uncomplainingly till over's end before whispering to Robertson-Glasgow: "You hit that, didn't you? Ah, I thought so. Oh, it doesn't matter about the decision. It was the catch I was thinking about."

Try walking in those footsteps. It's a tall order - especially if you're Brad from Queanbeyan via Gundagai.

Haddin let through a bye every 142 runs in the series against India. That's a massive improvement on his 55-runs-per-bye career rate. (Byes snuck through Marsh every 75 runs, for comparison's sake, and every 101 runs in his post-Iron Gloves golden years.) Batting-wise, Haddin's bail-us-out-of-strife hitting capabilities have dimmed. So, over time, did Marsh's, Gilchrist's and the West Indian Jeff Dujon's. Those three had the semi-occasional miracle to stuff up the critics' jumpers. It's been 25 months since Haddin caught Salman Butt.

Kicking Butt out of the collective memory is a still-fresh flashback:

Gambhir snicks / Haddin deliberates / Haddin dives / ball misses gloves / one of three Haddin misses that innings / Haddin's head on the turf / next to second slip's feet / second slip chewing on fingernails and avoiding eye contact with Haddin / bowler Pattinson's anguished yelp.

Time tricks us, trips us. Haddin was an uncapped and rosy-cheeked youth when his old Canberra Comets coach Mike Veletta was enthusing about this new "very aggressive" batsman and "chirpy" wicketkeeper. "Chirpy" got Haddin about right - and Haddin has got 43 Tests out of it. He has been "rested" for three one-day matches, and we won't be seeing him in the next two either, and the team to tour the Caribbean has still to be announced. The next gorgeous soft dull sound you'll hear is the sound of the selectors slamming the door on Haddin.

Christian Ryan is a writer based in Melbourne. He is the author of Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the Bad Old Days of Australian Cricket and, most recently Australia: Story of a Cricket Country

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Posted by superstar2011 on (February 17, 2012, 2:42 GMT)

Good article, but a bit too lengthy. Haddin being the focus, the article takes an eternity to actually get to the point.

Posted by Romenevans on (February 17, 2012, 2:39 GMT)

....and Zaheer Khan added salt to the injury and ended his career. LOL!

Posted by rohanbala on (February 17, 2012, 2:38 GMT)

The problem with Brad Haddin is that he thought his place in the australian squad is permanent and that no one can challenge him to reach that place. This made him play irresponsible shots and his keeping skills also took a nose dive. It is all the more baffling that players like Shane Watson (who himself is in the side lines due to injury most of the time) comes out in support of his colleague. The selectors should also take the blame for precipitating the issue by saying initially that Brad is rested. On the other hand, Mathew Wade should continue his good work with the bat and glove to put to rest any thoughts of Brad getting back his place in the side.

Posted by smudgeon on (February 17, 2012, 2:03 GMT)

I really wish the title of this article had been "Being Rad". Because let's face it, Brad Is Rad - just ask him!

Posted by njr1330 on (February 17, 2012, 0:54 GMT)

Played his best cricket for Wallasey in the Liverpool League...never been the same since !!

Posted by   on (February 16, 2012, 20:31 GMT)

Gives it alot of chat as well but never seems to back it up!!

Posted by hhillbumper on (February 16, 2012, 19:55 GMT)

Given the poor state of Aussie bowling maybe he just forgot how to catch waiting for ball to be snicked.With the team they have at the moment they might as well keep him in there as he can't be any worse than the rest of this team of nonentities.

Posted by Patchmaster on (February 16, 2012, 19:00 GMT)

Prior and Haddin started out as very similar players, at simliar times, now Prior is light years ahead of Haddin in batting and keeping.

Posted by Gordo85 on (February 16, 2012, 16:51 GMT)

This fellow shouldn't even make it to the West Indies. Of course first he needs to earn his spot back he just can not think he can walk back into the team because of his name. Haddin for me shouldn't even go to the West Indies I mean if Australia want to look forward to the future players you need to pick other keepers. Gilchrist to his credit he knew when it was time to call it stumps and that is the main problem with so many cricketers in the world today. It will be interesting to see how Haddin goes in this first class match and if he fails with the bat and drops catches well then he can not get selected for that tour. You don't select someone based on bad or poor form and reward them I mean look at Marsh and Haddin both made runs in a Twenty/20 match shortly after they still get picked in the Test team and both failed. It just shows you a person can not get picked based on his form of Twenty/20. Haddin you are the same age I think that Gilchrist was when he retired.

Posted by Erebus26 on (February 16, 2012, 15:35 GMT)

I'm not a Haddin fan and I don't feel he's the best keeper in Australia right now but the criticism he has got is overly harsh I feel. He has the experience and I feel his career in the baggy green is far from over.

Posted by ballonbat on (February 16, 2012, 14:42 GMT)

and since when did a slamming door make a soft dull sound?

Posted by goodgame123 on (February 16, 2012, 11:10 GMT)

Brutal but fair article. Chances are that Haddin will be around until the next Ashes. For he what lacks in big game temperament he's got in big game experience and that should count for something.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (February 16, 2012, 10:51 GMT)

It's this new idea that keepers should be all rounders that gave Haddin 43 tests, not his glovework. Graham Manou was a much better gloveman than Haddin, anyone who watched him could easily conclude that. Just think: Haddin drops Tendulkar on 0 (Manou would have caught it) he then goes on to make 150. Who cares about Haddin's batting average, really?

Posted by   on (February 16, 2012, 10:47 GMT)

From the moment in South Africa that Haddin marched down the track and attempted to slap the ball over point several months ago, with his side 5 for virtually nothing, he should have been completely forgotten by the selectors. That one moment epitomised Haddin as a player. Talented no doubt, but plainly irresponsible. That one moment for me was the end of any support I would give to Haddin as Australia's keeper. Tim Paine is not the batsman many take him for. Wade is in fine batting form, and thus far hasn't dropped a catch, so let Matt Wade have his turn I say. If he cannot live up to the hype, then I think t's time for an old-fashioned change and pick a keeper based on their ability to catch the ball rather than their ability to hack.

Posted by Joninnorwich on (February 16, 2012, 9:27 GMT)

Some pom perspective coming up! Keepers such as Gilchrist and Knott come round once in a blue moon and God help the poor sod who follows them into the team. If you compare Haddin with Prior, look what you've got. Started their International career at about the same time and played a similar number of games. Both very capable batsmen capable of rescuing their side from a disaster, or bashing the bowling in a charge for a declaration. Both are (or were) suspect keepers, prone to cock-up on a fairly regular basis. In other words both entered their respective teams as works in progress. Prior has flourished and Haddin regressed, and to me that is more indicative of the support that Prior has received from his set-up, while Haddin has been dset upon by tem mates and press alike. The truth is that Aussies don't like losing and when you do, there have to be scape goats. Kattich, Khaweja, Haddin......who's next?

Posted by popcorn on (February 16, 2012, 9:24 GMT)

Brad Haddin is a very good wicket keeper, and does not desrve to such rotten criticism from Christian Ryan. But Brad Haddin is the one ho will go to the West Indies, mark my words. Not Mathew Wade.At least not as a wicket keeper.

Posted by Sanj747 on (February 16, 2012, 9:12 GMT)

Valid pints. Haddin is well past his use by date. Wade and Paine are the way to go.

Posted by ygkd on (February 16, 2012, 8:59 GMT)

Geez, Christian, you can't write an article about keepers and mention glovework. Get with the times. Only their fast batting counts. Quality glovework was Manou, Healy and Gilchrist for that matter. It is as much about footwork and hip-strength as anything else which is why Gilchrist could do it despite being "too tall". The alternative is to just push off and dive at anything and everything, which is so prevalent today. Amongst the current crop, Ronchi is one of the better ones and he's off to NZ. Don't blame him. Paine is injured. Hartley is unwanted. Nevill is improving a bit, as is Triffitt. Ludeman is on the outer for his batting as much as anything. That leaves Wade and Haddin. Both are exponents of the "hoover" style, hands fanned super wide to sort of vacuum up the "difficult" ball. The greats never needed that. They knew where the ball was going and could have made their takes down the throat of a tin can. And a narrow one at that. That's why their gloves made the right sound.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2012, 8:44 GMT)

tim paine will be a 10000 times better test keeper and batsman than haddin and in limited overs wade will be a gud replacement.i highly rate tim paine this guy really is an bigg asset to any team he plays.he can get u very difficult catches !! he can jump in the air and grab great catches and he dives wayyy better thn haddin and tim paine is an aggressive batsman in t20 and can bat long innings like he proved in odi's when he toured india.

tim paine and craig kieswetter the best keepers of next 10 yrs to come.matthew wade shd prove his consistency yet we cant rate him on just 4-5 matches lets give him time to prove his consistency .

Posted by   on (February 16, 2012, 8:43 GMT)

I don't think it's particularly good form to write so lyrically about wanting someone to be sacked. I'm not really much of a Haddin fan, but the last sentence of the article seemed, well, tacky.

Posted by RohanBhalerao on (February 16, 2012, 8:39 GMT)

Poetry... Sheer poetry in prose! Mr Ryan, I take out 15 minutes especially when I see your name on the cricinfo main pageto read, regurgitate ur article and finally admire it..! Thank you. It is a pleasure to read you!

Posted by   on (February 16, 2012, 8:26 GMT)

Haddin has been in poor form. He deserved to be dropped as Wade has taken his chances. But he does nopt deserve this trash written about him! He has had a decent career and has been a good patron of Aus cricket and this article just comes across as nasty.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2012, 7:56 GMT)

Brilliant article! For those posters who don't like Christian Ryan's style - there are more than enough mediocre writers and so-called straight talkers (=no imagination and no perspective) when it comes to cricket. Go surf the 'net, you'll be spoiled for choice. What is rare is someone who can get to the root of an issue, provide historical perspective and great little stories while pointing out what needs changing and why - in this case, Haddin's career as Team Australia's 'keeper. No matter his talent and potential, 43 Tests has been a long enough time for him to showcase what he can actually do in match situations. The critical thing for me is that he fumbles under pressure as a 'keeper, and plays poor/risky strokes as a batter when his team needs him to bat long. I'm not sure this can be unlearned even if he gets more of an opportunity to prove himself. In the meantime, Chris Wade and other young guns are breaking the door down...time to say sayonara to Haddin?

Posted by cricketcritic on (February 16, 2012, 7:51 GMT)

Good article, I won't remember this guy with any fondness. I'll remember him as the guy who bumped the bails off then claimed a clean bowled, then had the temerity to accuse Daniel Vettori of being disingenuous for questioning his antics. But it didn't stop there, the bloke's mouth is bigger than the middle of his bat and his average.

Posted by Trapper439 on (February 16, 2012, 7:49 GMT)

While I would like to see Wade replace Haddin in all forms of the game, I feel this article is quite unfair. His time has, IMHO, passed, but he was a faithful servant to the Australian team for a number of years through some very trying times. He was one of Australia's best performers in the last two Ashes losses. That should not be forgotten.

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (February 16, 2012, 6:55 GMT)

You need an editor, Christian, but we got there in the end. Haddin has been a useful player but he is the past and isn't going to get any better.

Posted by Bagapath on (February 16, 2012, 6:46 GMT)

So good to see a quality article that is a lot more than the usual cricketing cliches put together into a 1000 word thingy. Am glad Ryan is upping his game. May be we wont miss Roebuck forever.

Posted by Advin on (February 16, 2012, 6:45 GMT)

Matthew Wade looks the real deal and he needs to replace Haddin asap.The Aussie selectors should not make the same mistake they did prolonging Healy's career thereby delaying Gilchrist's entrance to the international arena .

Posted by Dashgar on (February 16, 2012, 6:41 GMT)

A harsh, almost disrespectful article on a man who has played 43 test matches. But I agree with every word of it. Haddin isn't a great like the two guys who came before him. He's merely a decent cricketer who's time has come. Lets drop him and move on. Maybe Wade will be the next great behind the stumps, or maybe theres a kid in his teens yet to play for his state at all who will be the best we've ever seen.

Posted by   on (February 16, 2012, 6:38 GMT)

Chris, You have a right to point to a dip in form for Haddin. However, your characterization Haddin as someone that doesn't have the necessary attributes for a wicket keeper seems off-base.

The poor guy had to wait this long to get a place in the Aussie Team. Now, all you can do to extract the best out of him is to back him up a little. The Aussie selectors must show more patience with him. Had he been an upcoming star in his early twenties, you would allow him to settle , wont you? So, why is this Kolaveri to get him out of the team?

amazes me that you are characterizing Haddin When a guy is down, everyone wants to kick him

Posted by BlackKnight on (February 16, 2012, 6:20 GMT)

Your readers will fall asleep by the time they reach the second paragraph! Personally I couldn't read beyond the third. The point I'm trying to make is that this is a cricket site and not a literature site. Try showing off your literary skills somewhere else. Talk cricket - talk plain and straight.

Posted by fattypatty_Poorna on (February 16, 2012, 5:58 GMT)

Brad is a decent player and he doesn't deserve to be out of the ODI Squad. He puts his best into the game and always works hard in the field.

Posted by Vishnu27 on (February 16, 2012, 5:39 GMT)

As to the final sentence: I can only hope you are right!!

Posted by dsig3 on (February 16, 2012, 5:33 GMT)

It is tough being Haddin. He is a hard character to like sometimes. He is very fit, works hard and has amazing talent. The problem is he is so frustrating to watch bat sometimes. He has been given more talent than many test batsmen would ever dream of yet he values his wicket so low. He acts like he just does not give a damn and thats what really irks me. Its different than Gilchrist. He should average 10 runs more and be able to guts it out when the chips are down. Combined with some variable keeping form and ridiculous interviews and you have a problem. The break could be just the slap in the face he needs to finish off his career on a high note.

Posted by zenboomerang on (February 16, 2012, 4:49 GMT)

@Christian Ryan... Trying to wax lyrical while also putting down a player just doesn't work for me... Seems you tried to do too many things with this article & didn't get any of them right... Everyone knows Haddins form has been below par this last 12 mths & at 34 he wont get any 2nd chances if he is dropped from his Test duties... Still the selectors also made the brave decision to give Wade a decent run in ODI's to see where he is at - good for them... With Paine's injuries looking possibly career ending, they needed to make some quick decisions about replacements as any injury to Haddin would have left them with an untried keeper... Haddin will be around for a while in Tests but his ODI duties may have come to an end - aka Healy/Gilly...

Posted by Valerio_DiBattista on (February 16, 2012, 4:10 GMT)

Excellent article. Well written and a pleasure to read. Haddin has been a very good Australian cricketer but has never really nailed down the wicket-keeping role. As Christian notes, too many byes for one thing. Also, too many dropped catches. Not a hell of a lot, just too many. The only thing in his favour is that Wade does not look that great either and Paine is injured indefinitely. What would I do if I was a selector? I would give Wade the T20 role and the ODI role full-time and maintain Haddin for the West Indies tour and re-assess Haddin's role after that tour. What do I think the selectors will do/have done? Well he has been treated poorly in terms of being rested and now not recalled, so perhaps he is gone for good. If that is the case, I say to Brad Haddin congratulations on playing 43 Test matches for Australia. And he played with distinction.

Posted by SouthPaw on (February 16, 2012, 4:03 GMT)

Haddin is an over-rated wicket keeper but with people like Ian Chappell supporting him, he will do a lot of disservice to Australia!

By the way, how come you don't mention APE Knott, arguably one of the very best in glove-work and rearguard batsmen!

Posted by oobee007 on (February 16, 2012, 3:47 GMT)

One of the worst articles ever written on cricinfo, just because Haddin wears finger protectors doesn't make him less or more courageous than other players. Gilchrist kept in a helmet, is he less "courageous" than his predeccesors? Of keepers who have played more than 15 tests he is 7th in batting average EVER. He's keeping has constantly improved and was at a much better level this summer than last. What was the point of this article?

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Christian Ryan Christian Ryan lives in Melbourne, writes and edits, was once the editor of The Monthly magazine and Wisden Australia, and now bowls low-grade, high-bouncing legbreaks with renewed zeal in recognition of Stuart MacGill's retirement and the selection opportunities this presents. He is the author of Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the Bad Old Days of Australian Cricket and Australia: Story of a Cricket Country

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