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April 24, 2013
In the same moment Brad Haddin played down the importance of his elevation to the Australia Test vice-captaincy for the Ashes, he struck exactly the sort of team-oriented note the national selectors are hoping he maintains over three pressurised months at Michael Clarke's side in England.
After a period of confusion and exasperation about Australian cricket's direction, the announcement of the tour party for the Ashes brought a feeling of some relief. The squad appeared well balanced, various selection pratfalls had been avoided and, in Haddin and Chris Rogers, Clarke had two seasoned performers to fill the leadership void left by Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey.
Haddin's return to international cricket, following a year in which he has spent as much time as possible close to his ill daughter Mia after leaving in the midst of a West Indies tour to be with her, is a laudable story in itself, but Clarke and the selectors are not after human drama in England. They want a solid citizen and an able lieutenant and, to that end, Haddin made the right start.
"It's an honour and a privilege to have the VC next to your name, but your role doesn't change too much," Haddin told reporters in Sydney. "Michael controls what goes on in the team and our job is to come together as the group. We're not going to win this by ourselves. We need everyone going in the same direction and coming together as a team. That's as simple as it's going to get and the result in that is that we'll win the Ashes.
"I just had to trust that if I got back playing cricket, I could get back to this level. The only doubt that came across my mind was, 'Am I ever going to come back and play the game?' I've been allowed to do that through my family circumstances and I'm excited about today and can't wait to get involved in this Ashes campaign."
Apart from the leadership element, Haddin hopes also to provide sound glovework and brazen batting. Haddin's Test career that has at times been more muted than his best displays for New South Wales but in each of the past two Ashes series Haddin has been Australia's second-most accomplished performer, behind Clarke in 2009 and Hussey in 2010-11.
"I know if I'm playing to the best of my ability I'm the No. 1 choice in my position," he said. "From that point of view it's been an exciting day today. There's nothing more exciting in this game of cricket than being involved in an Ashes campaign. We've picked 16 guys now that are going to go over there and we've got one thing in mind and that's to come together as a team and win."
One other Ashes tourist happy to see Haddin return to his post behind the stumps is the spin bowler Nathan Lyon. While Matthew Wade's youth and exuberance has been a welcome commodity at times over the past year, Lyon has suffered from the younger gloveman's lapses. He said the balance achieved by the England squad was a welcome one.
"It's exciting to be named in the squad and a dream to be on an Ashes tour over to England," Lyon said. "It's going to be a massive challenge for the Australian cricket side but I think they've picked a really balanced squad for over there and I think we're heading in the right direction to bring home the Ashes.
"Chris Rogers is an unbelievable batsman, he's proven himself at first-class level all over the place, so it's exciting to have him in the squad, and to have Brad Haddin come back in, his experience and his leadership around the squad, especially with the younger fellas in the side, I know the young guys really love having Hadds around and he's going to be a vital player for us."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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