Walter Hadlee 1915-2006

Walter Hadlee dies aged 91

Martin Williamson

September 29, 2006

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Walter Hadlee was a charismatic presence on and off the field © The Cricketer
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Walter Hadlee, the former New Zealand captain and administrator, has died in Christchurch at the age of 91. He had been seriously ill ever since suffering a stroke after hip replacement surgery six weeks ago.

For almost three-quarters of a century he was at the forefront of New Zealand cricket as player, captain, selector and manager, and three of his five sons - Sir Richard, Dayle and Barry - went on to play international cricket for New Zealand.

"Spare, slight, angular, nimble and trim," wrote Denzil Batchelor, "he wore white flannels as a fish wears gills." An attacking batsman, Hadlee made his Test debut in England in 1937, but like many he lost his best years to the war, and with New Zealand not a major Test-playing nation, his chances were limited anyway. He was appointed captain immediately after the war, and even then he only played two matches in four years.

In 1945-46 he hammered 198 out of 347 against the touring Australians, and a year later he scored his only Test hundred - 116 in two-and-a-half hours against England after New Zealand had been put in to bat at Christchurch in cold and difficult conditions.

The highlight of his eight Tests in charge was the 1949 tour of England when he led a strong and popular New Zealand side which drew all four Tests, driving home the point to the English authorities that awarding only three-day Tests to the New Zealanders underestimated their abilities. The stalemates, however, did not reflect his adventurous approach to the role.

Although his Test average was a modest 30.16, he was never dismissed in single figures. In a 19-year first-class career he scored 7523 runs at 40.44, including 18 centuries. He continued to play club cricket for 15 years.

After retiring following the 1950-51 series against England, he maintained strong links with cricket as a leading administrator, and was a decisive president of the New Zealand Cricket Council during the Packer crisis. He was also involved in women's cricket, rugby and hockey. He was awarded an OBE in 1950 and was honoured again in 1978 when he became a CBE.



Hadlee tosses with England captain George Mann at Lord's in 1949 © The Cricketer
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"We deeply appreciate the public support that we have received in recent weeks and ask that we now be given time to come together as a family," Sir Richard Hadlee said in media release. "This is a difficult time for the family and we do request privacy. Dad will be laid to rest at a family funeral next week.

"A public memorial service will be held at Christchurch Boys High School at 11am on October 14 for those who wish to acknowledge dad's innings of a lifetime and his contribution to sport, business and the community."

Sir John Anderson, chairman of New Zealand Cricket (NZC) and Martin Snedden, the chief executive, paid their tributes to Hadlee. "Walter was very much the patriarch of NZC and made an enormous lifetime contribution to cricket in New Zealand. He was one of the great figures of New Zealand Cricket and will have a long legacy in the sport.

"Walter left his mark on cricket in New Zealand equally as a player and administrator," said Snedden. "He will be remembered for his skill and dedication as a cricketer, selector, New Zealand manager, NZC Chairman and NZC President. Walter took an active interest in cricket right up until his death and will be greatly missed by NZC's Board, management, staff and the wider New Zealand cricket community."

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