A heel in professional wrestling is the bad guy. He is more important to the wrestling business than the babyface, the good guy. The heel makes the face look good. Anyone can ride the crowd support and lay signature winning moves and fight a good fight, but it takes a real team man to play the evil guy that the good guy is fighting. The heel draws heat - negative reaction, mostly - from the crowd, which makes the eventual win of good over evil sweet, which enriches the storytelling, which gets the fans involved.
Before that eventually payoff, though, the heel - usually an entitled man with everything handed to him on a platter - has to build up that strong emotion in the crowd through reprehensible acts and promos, the monologues that wrestlers use to further the storytelling. When he uses an obvious shortcut to draw that reaction from the crowd, he is said to be indulging in cheap heat. Like sending off in a World Cup final the player who had offered a consolatory hand to a defeated semi-final opponent instead of celebrating his victory.
And then saying this: "You know what? They deserved it. They were that nice to us in New Zealand and we were that uncomfortable. I said in the team meeting: 'I can't stand for this anymore, we're going at them as hard as we can.' It was that uncomfortable. All they were was that nice to us for seven days [when Australia went to play in New Zealand earlier in the tournament]. I said, 'I'm not playing cricket like this. If we get another crack at these guys in the final, I'm letting everything [out].' I'm not playing another one-day game, so they can suspend me for as long as they like."
Haddin had everything a heel has: for entitlement, check New South Wales, a dirty mouth, the odd low blow, and stylish moves to rub it in
That's a classic heel move, and classic heel talk to follow it up with. It had the desired effect: in Brad "The Bad Guy" Haddin's mind - not to endorse or verify the behaviour in any way - it got him and Australia into a proper competitive mood and rattled New Zealand to win the final. And the fans, oh they got so riled up they even started a Twitter hashtag, #ThingsThatMakeHaddinUncomfortable.
This is usually the time in modern pro wrestling when the production trucks dig out old footage and play out a montage of the rivalry. The most obvious archival footage here would be this dismissal of Neil Broom . If we are allowed, for the sake of the narrative, to suspend reality, which pro wrestling is basically about, and assume Haddin did this on purpose - let's look at the heel in Haddin respond to New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori's protests against the dismissal.
"I'm pretty disappointed in Dan that he didn't have the decency to come and speak to me after the game if he had an issue with it, rather than air his thoughts in a press conference. I think the polite or the decent thing to do would be to come and ask me. He's played a lot of cricket now, and he knows too well what happens with these situations, so I thought it was a bit low. I think it's quite poor… After [after] looking at the replay, my hands were in front of the stumps. But the ball, I'm 100% positive, hit the bails first, and then came up into my gloves."
Righteous high ground followed by failure to acknowledge the obvious video evidence from a "dirty finish" - one where the good guy is denied a win through cheating, or when the end result is in dispute - are classic heel moves the day after the fight at a pay-per-view event. It makes sure the rivalry, or the feud, continues. The crowds in New Zealand played their part with "Haddin is a cheat" placards in those pre-hashtag days, even when Australia were not playing.
Haddin had everything a heel has: for entitlement, check New South Wales, a dirty mouth, the odd low blow, and stylish moves to rub it in. How he could strut those shots down the ground - high elbow, minimum effort, one of the most stylish things in cricket when he was playing. He was not the caricature monster heel but a smart one, with style and grace in his game - not that he cared to be known for it.
His retirement was a rare one, when his opponents didn't flock to Twitter to wish the retiring player well. His team-mates, though, were unanimous in their love and respect
The thing about pro wrestling's storytelling, though, is surprise. To surprise the audience, heels from time to time turn faces. A heel always knows his character will develop into a hero some day. Many heels even yearn for it, for the adulation and the cut on the merchandise sales. While hardcore fans appreciate heels more, a large percentage of the casual fans come to watch the good guy beat up the bad guy; and parents buy their kids merchandise featuring the babyfaces.
Rare, and utterly professional, is the heel who truly revels in being the bad guy, especially in the current reality era, where the storylines are evolving, the lines between good and evil are blurred, and where even the bad guy draws his share of applause from the "knowledgeable" smart fans. Haddin was an old-fashioned heel. He didn't care for all these niceties. He never bothered to explain himself, he never took to social media, he was never seen praising opposition players, he never cared to show the human side that his team-mates loved.
Perhaps he didn't want to break "kayfabe", a dying practice wherein the wrestler stays in character even outside the ring. And the last thing he wanted was sympathy. When family tragedy struck, he quietly took his bag and left, not to be heard from until he was ready and raring to remorselessly antagonise again.
Within the wrestling company, though, the heels are immensely valued. They spend a lot of time beating up the good guys, seemingly to within an inch of their lives, and only the technically proficient ones can do so without ending careers through serious injuries. The heels make the faces look good. They further the narrative. The more evil the heel, the sweeter the payoff for the audience when the babyface eventually wins.
The wrestling company in Haddin's context was the Australian team. Within the team he was revered. His retirement was a rare one, when his opponents didn't flock to Twitter to wish the retiring player well. His team-mates, though, were unanimous in their love and respect. Steven Smith called him one of the best team men, Darren Lehmann said Haddin was a fantastic mentor for youngsters and a "great mentor for me as a coach". When at 37, after years of vice-captaincy, an opportunity arrived to captain Australia at home last year, Haddin passed it up in favour of Smith. He just didn't see captaining Australia at the age of 37 as an investment for the future.
Haddin was just a proper old-fashioned cricketer who perhaps believed he needed to have a tough, at times mean, persona on the field to get the best out of himself and from his team, and to rattle opponents. The less we the fans, and the opposition, knew of Haddin the human being, the better he felt it was for him and his team. In a rare interview, a rare breaking of kayfabe, he told the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year: "I cherish this job every day. It's a privilege to be here. I don't chase any other profile than being the best cricketer I can be. And if I can retire and the guys next to me enjoyed playing with me, that's good enough for me."
If all this makes you go out looking for the babyface in Haddin, just take another look at that picture with Grant Elliott - the man who had pulled off a once-in-a-lifetime win and then went to commiserate with Dale Steyn instead of celebrating wildly - being shown the way to the dressing room by a smug Haddin. He couldn't have picked on a nicer guy from a nicer team. Keep that memory. Let's not break kayfabe when the heel himself didn't want to. He has earned this.