Age no barrier for recalled Haddin
Brad Haddin may be comfortably the oldest wicketkeeper currently involved in Test cricket, but he believes his age and experience could be to his advantage on the upcoming Ashes tour. Recalled to the Test squad as vice-captain to Michael Clarke for the Ashes, Haddin is set to breathe new life into his international career at 35, an age when Australian gloveman have typically been winding down towards retirement: Ian Healy played his last Test at 35 and Adam Gilchrist and Rod Marsh both retired at 36.
Of the wicketkeepers currently considered the incumbents in Test sides around the world, the only men aged over 30 are England's Matt Prior and India's MS Dhoni, who are both 31. Sri Lanka's Prasanna Jayawardene, 33, played the Tests in Australia five months ago but was overlooked for their recent series against Bangladesh. But glovework doesn't have to be a young man's game: the most recent 40-year-old to play Test cricket was a wicketkeeper, England's Alec Stewart.
"The older you get, you understand more about your game," Haddin told reporters at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane on Monday. "If you talk to guys like Rod Marsh, your technique and the rhythm of the keeper you are comes later in your career. I'm in as good a shape as anyone here. To me it's all about challenging yourself to be better. The day I don't want to challenge myself any more then I'll walk away."
Haddin will be Australia's first-choice wicketkeeper for the opening Ashes Test at Trent Bridge in July, ending for now the year-long hold that 25-year-old Matthew Wade has had on the position. But Wade will be part of the squad as the backup gloveman and Haddin said he did not expect his place to be a formality throughout the series if he was not performing.
"No one's guaranteed to be in every Test," he said. "You've got to perform. This is the Australian cricket team. It's not the under-15Bs down the road."
On Haddin's side is his solid record against England. During the 2009 series in England he was one of Australia's better performers and scored 278 runs at 46.33 including one century, and at home in 2010-11 he was third on Australia's run tally behind Michael Hussey and Shane Watson, with 360 runs at 45.00. However, he has not played in a winning Ashes campaign, which is a record he is keen to rectify.
"This is the most exciting thing for an Australian cricketer. There's no better theatre or stage than an Ashes campaign," he said. "You want to challenge yourself against the best. And if you are successful as a group in this, it is something you remember forever."
Haddin and the rest of the squad members who are not at the IPL have been training at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane before their departure for England, where the Champions Trophy campaign precedes the Ashes warm-up games. They have been working with Dukes balls and have also been using the ProBatter system, which attempts to simulate the experience of facing specific bowlers
"I've had a pretty good hit on [ProBatter] in the last couple of weeks, it took a bit to get used to," Haddin said. "It's not as realistic as facing somebody, but it's something a bit different and if it helps you a little bit, well it's all worthwhile. It's all about trying different things and challenging yourself to be a better cricketer, and if that works for some guys, well that's great, if they want to spend more time in the nets to hone their skills, that's well and good too. It's just about having all these things available to challenge yourself to be better."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here