Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Here's something we prepared earlier: Brad Haddin - The Schizoid Man

Originally published on the Sight Screen, on Sunday 22nd January.

It’s not really surprising, given he’s been Australia’s first choice wicketkeeper in all formats of the game for nearly five years now.  “Victorian” Matthew Wade, (rather than Tasmanian Tim Paine) now looms largest in his rear view mirror, and Haddin has admitted to feelings of stress and overwork.  Media scrutiny can’t have helped these feelings of exhaustion as in Australian batting and fielding teams that have been uniformly inconsistent he is now considered a weak link.

If truth be told, on form alone Brad Haddin doesn’t deserve to stay in the Australian team.  He has been blessed with exquisite timing (a century against England in the first Ashes Test last year, coupled with potentially career-ending finger injuries to Paine) and more batting talent than any of his nearest rivals.

Creative commons
However, he and Shaun Marsh seem to be the only Australians not to benefit from Micky Arthur’s ascension to the role of national coach.  He started promisingly, with a very watchful 20-odd in the first innings at Melbourne, but followed this with scores of 6, 0 and most recently a second-ball duck in the Big Bash.  He seems torn between the new responsible batsmanship apparently favoured by his countrymen and the voices in his head that tell him to just get out there and smack the ball. 

Sometimes we talk of men out of their time; it appears Haddin was born five years too late.  A decade ago, he would have been the perfect late-order hitter for Australia.  Now, he has become the most obvious and awkward symptom of a worldwide cricketing malaise, where patience is something played on the computer.  His keeping has suffered and his batting stinks of a man in two minds.  Arguing with another person can be tiring, but constantly debating with oneself amidst a climate of fear can be utterly soul-destroying.  It’s little wonder he’s exhausted.

Sometimes talent isn’t enough.  Now more than ever, teams are conscious of how well a player fits into their side – talented players now often make way for lesser mortals in the name of “team balance”.   Comparing the batsmanship of Australia’s keeping options (Haddin with a First Class average of 39, Wade with 40), results pretty much in a wash – except Haddin is a match winner/loser, while Wade contributes reliably but in a less game-changing vein. 

When contrasting their work behind the stumps, no matter how good each usually is, one must plump for the Victorian simply because of his incumbent rival’s absolute lack of form (and footwork).  It is said of footballers that when their “legs go”, their career becomes instantly unrecoverable.  With the exception of leaden-footed dervish Chris Gayle, the same is true of batsmen and keepers: Haddin’s footwork is nearly a decade past it’s use-by date.

However, the middle of a tour is an inopportune time to replace such a significant figure.  Haddin’s status as vice-captain also presumes to his position’s safety.  But the next Australian series – in the West Indies – should be the time in which John Inverarity and his brethren throw name both in the touring party.  By then, Shane Watson may have returned to the lineup and Haddin’s leadership credentials won’t have quite the same pull; his form alone will testify in his defence.

Both Wade and Haddin are supremely talented individuals, and for the moment, selection simply comes down to a matter of taste.  Does one favour matchless eye or preferable technique?  Proven matchwinner or runs in the (First Class) bank?  Haddin could save his career with a century at one of his favoured roads pitches in Adelaide; but admissions of fatigue are usually signs of severe trouble

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