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January 7, 2013
Brad Haddin is the man to fill the leadership and experience void left by the retirements of Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting, after the coach Mickey Arthur indicated Australia's No. 2 gloveman has all but booked his ticket to the Ashes.
Recalled to the ODI team while Matthew Wade rests for the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka, Haddin's commission is expected to extend well beyond that as a senior pro in a squad now characterised by more youthful and uncertain faces. Arthur's confirmation that two glovemen will be taken to England means Haddin need only maintain his strong form this summer to make his spot safe. There is also consideration being given to taking him to India primarily as a batsman.
Shocked as Arthur, the captain Michael Clarke and the selectors were by Hussey's decision to retire while still providing a critical link on the batting order, their thoughts have turned to Haddin as the next best option to provide an experienced head and immaculate training standards around the dressing room. Wade's standing as the No.1 wicketkeeper is not in dispute, but Haddin will now be a figure of considerable use to Clarke and his team.
"We've probably looked at a full group of 20, 21 players we need to cut down to take to India," Arthur said. "Obviously there are two keepers in the 20, 21 at the moment - but whether we take two keepers I'm not sure. I do know we'll be taking two keepers to the Ashes in England though.
"So really that's important we know who our second keeper is and he's comfortable that he knows exactly where he stands as well. At the moment the second keeper is definitely Brad Haddin."
Since rushing home from the West Indies tour last year to be with his family as his daughter Mia battled cancer, Haddin has won plenty of admiration for fighting his way back to the fringes of the national side by playing strong for New South Wales. Some games this summer have had Haddin spending the night by his daughter's bedside in hospital then going out the next day to bat for the Blues, something he has done to great effect while making 337 runs at 67.40 in four Shield matches, with two centuries.
"In all honesty cricket was not anywhere in my thoughts," Haddin had said in Brisbane after hearing of his recall. "When something like that happens your life is put on hold. I have been lucky that things have gone in the right direction enough to allow me to be back playing cricket. But in all honestly I wasn't thinking about cricket at all. I would not be playing cricket now if it affected my family. I am no different to anyone. Your family comes first."
Haddin has indicated his willingness to be part of the squad as Wade's back-up, and so provide guidance for Clarke and the rest of the team that was lost when Ponting then Hussey elected to draw their international careers to a close. "I have played enough cricket now to offer a little bit in that area," Haddin said. "It is an exciting team for the first game.
"You remember back to when you first started how exciting it was to have guys around giving you those little tips. I was lucky to have Haydos [Matthew Hayden] barking at me and pushing me in the right direction. I have been lucky enough to have a couple of tours to England, one as the No. 1 keeper and one behind Adam Gilchrist. From that point of view I would be ready to go in whatever capacity they want."
While Haddin was delighted to be recalled having not expected to return, the younger gloveman Tim Paine must bide his time again. Australia A will tour England ahead of the Ashes tour, and this may now be the trip Paine makes to the UK rather than the Ashes tour he would have liked to be part of after making a sterling return from a serious finger injury.
"Tim's been knocking on the door," Arthur said. "Tim's performances are getting better for Tasmania and the Hurricanes. We still feel right now that at this particular moment though that Brad Haddin is the second keeper to Matthew Wade in all forms. Painey just needs to keep working, keep working hard, keep knocking the door down and he'll certainly put his name up in lights as well."
Aside from Haddin, the likes of Usman Khawaja, Aaron Finch and the stand-in captain George Bailey now have the chance to press their cases for higher honours due to the bevy of players rested from the first two ODIs. Arthur baulked at the suggestion of the series being used as a Test trial but agreed now was the chance for a younger generation to show their aptitude and desire for national duty.
"There's massive opportunity for somebody to put their hand up and really tell us they're around," Arthur said. "Someone who can really win us games and really make his mark, because losing Ponting and Hussey in the last four Test matches, we've only lost 250 Test caps ... so if I was a young batsman in Australia at the moment it's a massively exciting time.
"Some really good performances can give you a gig in all forms. So we are really hoping that somebody puts their hand up. I'm really excited about working with this younger group of batsmen, it really excites me and I'm sure somebody is going to stand up and make a real name for themselves."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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