Leaving without a din!

Published : Sep 26, 2015 00:00 IST

It is never easy to replace a predecessor like Adam Gilchrist, but Brad Haddin strove manfully to fulfil his responsibilities. There was no alluring shine to him, no blistering pyrotechnics from his bat but like the heroes in those classic Westerns, he did his job with no fuss, writes K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

In the chronology of cricket, the World Cup and the Ashes often usher in the departing signposts of eminent cricketers. The latest Ashes is a case in point as it unleashed the farewell-spirit especially for the Aussies as skipper Michael Clarke, all-rounder Shane Watson, opener Chris Rogers and wicket-keeper batsman Brad Haddin bid adieu (Watson, though, will still ply his wares in the shorter formats) to the game they embellished in varying degrees.

Like mothers and long-suffering girlfriends, wicket-keepers are often taken for granted. Their accomplishments overlooked, their grassed catches vilified and that during an average Test day lasting 90 overs, they have to do a minimum of 540 sit-downs, is glossed over. And Haddin too had to cope with the largely absent limelight.

Ironically, the down-scaling of the perceptions about his performance also has to do with the fact that he stepped into the shoes of a trailblazer like Adam Gilchrist. It is never easy to replace a predecessor like Gilchrist, but Haddin strove manfully to fulfil his responsibilities.

There was no alluring shine to him, no blistering pyrotechnics from his bat but like the heroes in those classic Westerns, he did his job with no fuss.

There may have been a seeming nonchalance to his approach, but Haddin was remarkably effective and most importantly in the ‘gold-standard of recognition’ that players cherish — the respect of team-mates — he was second to none. The 37-year-old may have found himself benched after the first Ashes Test at Cardiff and got caught in the junction of personal issues (his child wasn’t well) and performance anxiety (his cricketing form suffered a dip), but as coach Darren Lehmann often quipped, Haddin was loved unconditionally within the squad.

Importantly, he had Clarke’s ear and the angst that Ricky Ponting exhibited at his omission just showed that how much the Australian cricket fraternity cared for Haddin.

In the Aussie pantheon of Rodney Marsh, Ian Healy and Gilchrist, Haddin held his own as a wicket-keeper and like the storied seniors, he too chipped in with valuable runs. In a sense (and this might offend his combative Australian spirit) he was a mirror image of his Ashes rival — England’s Matt Prior. Getting better with age, overcoming a sore body and torn ligaments and broken fingers, plucking catches that matter and also being the glue for the lower-order to rally around and bolster the team score, Haddin was just like Prior. Plus they loved to have a chat from behind the stumps, irritating batsmen and pepping up the bowlers.

Haddin’s numbers are impressive — 3266 Test runs, 262 catches and eight stumpings. These statistics found an almost equal reflection in ODIs — 3122, 170 and 11.

The meagre stumpings can obviously be attributed to the lack of world class spinners since Shane Warne retired in 2007 and it may be recalled that Haddin donned his national colours only from 2008. It is a credit to Haddin that he also fought his way through when he had to make way for Mathew Wade for a while.

He came back with sturdy performances in the domestic leagues and was also rewarded with the vice-captaincy. The latest Ashes may have been a fiasco, but the previous one that Clarke’s men swept 5-0, amplified Haddin’s prowess. He scored 493 runs, second only to David Warner, but his exploits were overshadowed by the terror that pace-ace Mitchell Johnson unleashed. Much later the drama over Kevin Pietersen’s omission from the England squad overwhelmed the remaining nostalgia focussed on that one series.

Haddin wouldn’t mind as he is used to being the silent performer relishing his accolades from within the dressing room. Like many cricketers, his final script may have suffered the stench of defeat, but there is no mistaking the enormous contribution he made to the Australian team during the throes of transition.

Brett Lee rightly tweeted: “Congrats Hadds. A great career mate. Thanks for the safe hands buddy.”

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