Sportstar archives: Richard Hadlee on bowling without lethal partners

Hadlee must have endured far greater mental and physical fatigue bowling alone all those years; only the technically sound batsmen have hit tons against him.

Published : Jun 04, 2020 08:31 IST , Chennai

Richard Hadlee of New Zealand with Alfa Romeo Sedan car presented to him with the Benson and Hedges 'International Cricketer of the Year award' in 1986 in Australia.
Richard Hadlee of New Zealand with Alfa Romeo Sedan car presented to him with the Benson and Hedges 'International Cricketer of the Year award' in 1986 in Australia.

Richard Hadlee of New Zealand with Alfa Romeo Sedan car presented to him with the Benson and Hedges 'International Cricketer of the Year award' in 1986 in Australia.


Imran Khan's view that Wasim Akram is the best among the four in the 400-plus club, when the great left-arm seamer joined the elite bandsome time ago, provided an interesting topic for debate. Akram will certainly rank as one of the best, if not the best, left-arm seamer of all time, and the most complete bowler in contemporary cricket, but is he the greatest of them all?

Sir Richard Hadlee was in India recently with the New Zealand Cricket Academy and the mere sight of the Sultan of Swing drew one's mindback to the topic. For we had amidst us the first man to cross the 400-mark, the Edmund Hillary of bowling so to say.

Hadlee is third in the list of highest wicket-takers after Courtney Walsh, who is inching towards the 500-mark, and Kapil Dev. He, however, still holds two world marks: nine 10-wicket hauls (Dennis Lillee is the next best with seven) and 36 five-wicket hauls (lan Botham is the next best with 27).

Statistics show that unlike the rest (the ones in the 350 bracket for the sake of comparison), Hadlee had virtually no support, pace or spin, from the other end.

Walsh took almost all his wickets with Malcolm Marshall and Curtly Ambrose as partners; Ambrose had Walsh right through. Akram and Younis go down as one of the finest fast bowling pairs ever;Kapil Dev took 137 of his wickets in the company of left-arm spinner Dillp Doshi and 107 in partnership with off-spinner Shivlal Yadav.

Botham took 254 of his wickets with Willis operating from the other end while Marshall took 170 of his scalps bowling in tandem with Joel Garner and another 162 in the company of Michael Holding.

Richard Hadlee appeals for an lbw during his playing days.

Imran Khan and leg-spinner Abdul Qadir took 332 wickets together in 44 Tests, the former scalping 197 of them, while Lillee and Thomson wrought havoc in the 26 Tests that they partnered each other, the former having taken 119 of the 217 wickets they tallied together.

Hadlee must have endured far greater mental and physical fatigue bowling alone all those years; only the technically sound batsmen have made centuries against Hadlee, which cannot be said of the others. He also performed in all kinds of conditions.

Hadlee. who was knighted in 1990, had a strike-rate of 50.8 and only Marshall (46.7), Younis (42.0) and Fred Trueman (49.4) in the 300-plus club have better figures.

Excerpts from an interview:

The Sultan of Swing and Seam that you were, can you explain the physics of it ?

You just can't explain like that, I mean it is a skill that you develop. It is technique, it is body action, it is about wrist movement. It is far too complex to try and describe. The wrist movement is crucial, absolutely. Whether you try to swing it or seam it. It's in different positions: the wrist and fingers are doing different things.

It is believed that bowlers like to hunt in pairs. You've never had a partner in the strict sense of the word. There must have been far greater physical and mental fatigue in having shouldered the responsibility all those years?

True, but at the same time I had more opportunity. I could choose the bowler I wanted to bowl with, I could pick the end I wanted to bowl from. You are always going to start off, you bowl just before lunch and bowl just after lunch. You can bowl at the tail, you come back with the second new ball. So all those things are advantages to get wickets. So if you have a good partner at the other end, then you are sharing the wickets, aren't you? I had the opportunity to bowl more than most and I was used as an attacking weapon. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Evan Chatfleld and Lance Cairns and the likes. They still picked up wickets, but they kept it tight while I attacked. So, we did have a partnership, certainly, but not to the extent where there was hostile stuff coming from both ends. We did it differently, but effectively.


Who was the toughest batsman you've bowled to and why?

Geoff Boycott was the toughest to dismiss. He had sound technique, his concentration level was very high. He only played the deliveries that needed to be addressed and let the others go by. He knew where his off-stump was, so he'd wee it down basically. Gavaskar was a similar sort of player in some ways. There were others who were more destructive and more cavalier such as Viv Richards. Greg Chappell was a fine technician and a wonderful stroke-maker. But Boycott was the hardest to get out and Miandad.

Miandad was a problem. He was a very good watcher of the ball and a fine stroke-maker. He wore you down as well, and in effect was very frustrating to bowl because he was the cheeky type. Cheeky in the sense he annoyed you with the way he antagonised you a little bit, which he used to a good effect and obviously scored a lot of runs through that. It was a frustrating experience.

What was the value of English professional cricket to you from the point of developing skills? In what way did it help you?

The competition during the period between 1978 and 1987 was very good. Most counties in the first few years had two overseas players and the standard was in fact very high. When you do something six days a week, as we did with cricket, you get into good habits, discipline and routine. The more you play, the more you want. You become hungry for it, you want to do well, there is pride of performance and that was perhaps the greatest cricketing experience I ever had. The fact that you are playing in a total cricket environment, wonderful playing conditions, great grounds, good club support, where everything is run professionally, was a great feeling. The New Zealand players who gained that experience took it back home and it helped their play.

What do you consider your greatest moment on the cricket field?

The greatest moment was beating England for the first time. That was in 1978. We had played something like 50 Tests against them prior to that without victory. My father was deeply involved with New Zealand cricket, as a player, captain, administrator, selector, president and chairman. He'd never seen or been part of a New Zealand victory against England. And when we were able to do so, with me in it, it was a dream, an ambition, of his fulfilled. It was a very special moment for New Zealand cricket on the whole and a significant achievement for the team.

Personally, the win against Australia, with 15 wickets in the match and nine in an innings, in1986 was a moment I'll cherish. (Hadlee had a hand in all 10 wickets). Well, I had eight, caught the ninth, and then got the 10th.

Your memories of the two tours of India?

In 1976 we played six Tests - three in Pakistan and three in India. I think I got about 25 wickets in those Tests When I came here in 1988, I got another 15 or so and got 25 or so wickets in Sri Lanka, all similar sort of conditions. The ball swung, especially in Sri Lanka. It swung a bit here in Chennai and Mumbai.

It was harder and dryer in Pakistan, a lot more different. The pitches there had a bit more bounce in it. I just kept going.

What is the concept of reverse swing?

It is a good old-fashioned in-swinger. Not many people reverse it out, but tend to reverse it in. It is an in-swinger.

Please assess the pacemen in the 350-plus bracket, your views on them: strengths and weaknesses?

Courtney Walsh: Well, he has the height, he has got durability and longevity in the game. He's always had good support at the other end, but he has developed skill, which comes through years of county cricket. Rightly through the games that he's played he has had the opportunity to get more wickets than anyone else in Test cricket.

I feel he'll be the first to reach 500. He's been a champion, a wonderful one for the West Indies. Durability, well he just kept going, swung the ball. He had some good skills. At the end of the day, you still got to have good people to catch. He had a good catching team: 'keeper or slips cordon. That to me is support. Kapil performed in conditions all around the world. If any player can do that, like a few others have done, it means you are a quality player. Ifyou are going to perform in your own conditions it means you have not been able to be good enough to adapt and leaves a weak link in your armoury.

Any regrets in your career, especially in terms of living up as an all-rounder?

I should have scored more runs, should have got more hundreds. No regrets, it is something that I should have done. But no regrets. Actually, I have no regrets at all. I look back at my career and say I've enjoyed my time, was successful and I did my best.

This interview was first published in Sportstar magazine on 14.10.2000

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