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December 31, 2010
Brad Haddin spent his first full day as Australia's vice-captain insisting Michael Clarke, his new master, is the right man for the top job. A new cricket leader is usually a time for celebration in this country, but Clarke's appointment for Monday's fifth Ashes Test at the SCG has been greeted with extreme caution.
Ricky Ponting is missing the match due to a broken finger and Clarke enters the fixture in poor form and with only pockets of public support. None of that matters to Haddin, who says the team is 100% behind the leader.
"He is ready to do this job," Haddin said at the SCG. "He'd be excited about the prospect of captaining Australia and he will do a very, very good job. We're 100% behind him and, being a good mate of mine, I'll support him in any way I can. He deserves to be in this position ... he's the best man for the job."
Haddin, 33, said the public reaction to all the Australian players changed from week to week. However, Clarke's rating among large sections of the community, particularly in his home state of New South Wales, has been more consistent. His lack of runs in the series - 148 in eight innings - hasn't helped endear Clarke to the detractors and the lukewarm response adds to the pressure on the country's 43rd Test captain.
"You are one good innings away, or sometimes one good cover drive away, from the support being with you," Haddin said. "Michael is a very strong character so things will be okay. He has got a very good cricket brain and you saw that through the T20 World Cup [when Australia made the final]. He thinks a lot about the game, he is going to do a very good job."
Haddin, who hopes his elevation is temporary, has played 31 Tests since replacing the retired Adam Gilchrist in the middle of 2008. He has leadership experience with New South Wales and gets a close-up view of the game as wicketkeeper. It will be interesting to watch how he juggles his post as one of the team's verbal enforcers with his new responsibilities.
The first aim for Australia is to show some signs of collective improvement after being thoroughly out-played in three of the four matches. The hosts are upset to have failed in their push to regather the urn - Haddin said the results were "unacceptable" - but they will aim to take comfort in a victory in Sydney.
"It's disappointing we have lost the Ashes and we are disappointed in our own performance, but you have to move on pretty quick in sport," he said. "We have to win this Test match to make this series 2-all."
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