Understudy Haddin becomes main man
Following in the footsteps of a great player is never easy, but Brad Haddin is ready to replace Adam Gilchrist and make his Test debut in two weeks. Haddin is the only gloveman in Australia's 15-man squad for the West Indies tour and unless injury hits he will become the country's 400th Test representative in the opening match in Jamaica from May 22.
Haddin, who has been fine-tuning with his team-mates at the camp in Brisbane, will also be required to perform a vital batting role as Australia begin life without Gilchrist. Nobody benefited more from the surprise retirement of Gilchrist in January than Haddin, 30, and he is about to get the chance to prove he is a capable replacement.
"I haven't thought too much about that," he said. "I haven't really felt like I'm going into Adam's shoes. If you ask me a day out before the Test I might answer differently, but I've just concentrated on myself, making sure I can prepare the best I can."
Part of that plan was not going to the IPL so he could be ready for something he has waited a decade to achieve. Despite joking he was the "idiot that said no" to the bags of money, he knew protecting himself for the West Indies was much more important.
"I wanted to have five weeks to get ready to be a Test player," he said. "I'd been waiting ten years, if something had have happened over there [in India] I don't think I could have lived with myself."
Haddin's path to the Test team has involved 29 ODIs and 89 first-class games and he is the model of a modern wicketkeeper. His batting is so full of energy - he scored three Pura Cup hundreds last summer and has an ODI strike-rate of almost 80 - that his glovework is often overlooked. However, he has kept a lot to Lee, Clark, MacGill and Bollinger, his New South Wales team-mates in the national squad, and averaged almost five first-class dismissals a match in 2007-08.
"Adam's changed the perception of a wicketkeeper," he said. "Before you had to be solid with the gloves and contribute with bat. Now you have to be a genuine allrounder. Keeping is always the No. 1 priority, but you have to be able to contribute a lot more with the bat."
The new, big role has not convinced Haddin to alter his approach. "I'm going to play the way I have for the last ten years," he said. "It's as simple as that. I'm not going to change a thing because I'm playing Test cricket. I'm going to play the same way as I have in one-dayers for Australia and four-day games with New South Wales."
Fortunately for Haddin, he knows how Australia operate after being a regular tourist over the past couple of years, including at the 2007 World Cup. "The wait is very beneficial," he said. "I got picked seven years ago and I wasn't ready to play. Now I feel confident in what I do and where my game's at. Having had ten years' experience at first-class level, hopefully I can take it across to Test cricket and feel comfortable there."
An added advantage of the current set up is Tim Nielsen, the coach, is a former wicketkeeper for South Australia. During the opening day of the camp the pair completed a one-on-one session when Haddin was shaking off any rust that built up since the Pura Cup final win in March. Nielsen literally wanted Haddin "on his toes" when he was collecting catches at Allan Border Field. He will need a similar attitude during the three Tests against West Indies.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo