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Walter Arnold Hadlee
June 04, 1915, Lincoln, Canterbury
September 29, 2006, Windermere Home, Christchurch, (aged 91y 117d)
Right hand Bat
Right arm Medium
Christchurch Boys High School
(son),Sir RJ Hadlee
When Walter Hadlee was complimented in 1969 on his son Dayle being the first of his lads to be picked by New Zealand, Walter said, with deep feeling: "They got the wrong Hadlee." Dayle's brother Barry was a tall, fluent batsman promising to develop along his father's classical lines, Dayle not yet so accomplished as a fast bowler. Richard was only 18 - his debut would come four years later. That comment came hauntingly back when Walter Hadlee, aged 91 and 75 years captivated by cricket, breathed his last in his beloved Christchurch.
No man had contributed more to the history, the traditions, the occasional quirks of New Zealand cricket than Walter Hadlee, the player, captain, selector and manager of New Zealand teams, board member, chairman and president of the New Zealand Cricket Council, and the first New Zealander to stand as an equal among international administrators.
Along the way, Walter Hadlee gained the OBE, then a CBE - but his son Richard got the knighthood for services on the field. Without any disrespect to Sir Richard, I suspect that when they came to put a Hadlee among the knights of the realm, again 'they got the wrong Hadlee'.
Born just south of Christchurch, son of a blacksmith, the young Walter followed the usual rugby-cricket traditions of the pre-Depression years, and flourished at Christchurch Boys' High School, then and now famous for its sporting traditions.
It was one of these that sparked Hadlee's love of cricket. Three CBHS old boys, Curly Page, Bill Merritt and Ian Cromb, spoke at a school assembly before they left for the 1931 cricket tour of England. Page said: "There is no reason why some boy or boys in this assembly should not be in the next New Zealand team to tour England."
That set the course for Hadlee's cricketing saga. He toured England in 1937, and captained that superb New Zealand side in the equally splendid English summer of 1949 with such dedication and determination that anything afterward seemed anti-climactic. After 11 Tests between 1937 and 1951 and 117 first-class matches between 1933 and 1952 Hadlee was already a member of the NZCC board, and maintained that position until 1984. He spent the remaining 22 years with his stalwart wife Lilla (they met on board ship when Hadlee was travelling with the New Zealanders to England in 1937) in mellow autumn, changing his active sport to lawn bowls, and ever ready to work for a worthy cause, be it in cricket, charity or religious good works.
Sometimes Hadlee appeared uncertain of New Zealand's future direction. He captained them in the dreadful one-off Test against Australia in 1945-46 when New Zealand were bowled out for 42 and 54 and allowed New Zealand to slip to country-cousin status with Australia until 1973. He blocked the move to appoint a coach for the 1958 and 1965 tours of England at a time when New Zealand desperately needed well-trained players. The fact that the coach in question was Mervyn Wallace, one of his finest batting lieutenants on the 1949 tour, made it all the more disappointing.
Much to his discomfort Hadlee was blacklisted by SANROC (the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee) in the early 1980s when he wrote an article for Wisden calling for South Africa to be re-admitted to international cricket. Hadlee had been on a fact-finding tour of South Africa, and was upset by the black-listing since he and his colleague Gordon Leggat had been quiet members of the No-Maoris-No-Tour protest movement against the All Blacks' tour in 1960.
As Walter Hadlee headed off into the sunset, there came election to the New Zealand sporting hall of fame. But alas the knighthood that his long love-affair with cricket deserved never came.
Don Cameron, The Wisden Cricketer
Walter Hadlee Career Stats
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Debut/Last Matches of Walter Hadlee