The major weapon for the Aussies, when they were at their pinnacle, had been their ability to play fearless cricket. Come what may, they had a bunch of cricketers who rose to the occasion, every time the tide went against them. But with the retirement of the likes of Mathew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, and Ricky Ponting, that fighting spirit waned. Michael Clarke was having a tough time leading a squad which lacked the fighting instinct.
But after months of humiliation and struggle, Australia managed to gain back the momentum, as a clueless England squad was routed 5-0 in the return Ashes series. The Australians made the home fans proud by thrashing the Alastair Cook-led squad, the one against whom they lost the Ashes 3-0 earlier in 2013.
Throughout 2013, Australia saw some brilliant performances from batsmen like Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, David Warner and Chris Rogers. But there is one man, who even though hasn’t made most of the headlines, yet has been an integral part of Australia`s Test squad – Brad Haddin. The 36-year-old has been in phenomenal form in the last ten Tests Australia and England have played together.
Not to forget, Haddin bats at number seven – a position from where he is left in the company of tail-enders, and despite that, he has got his team out of precarious situations several times. In the first Ashes Test in England, needing 311 runs to win the match, Australia were 231/9 and Haddin (36*) was left with James Pattinson. But the wicketkeeper batsman showed his mettle, as he stitched an incredible 75-run partnership with Pattinson, during which the Poms and the England supporters witnessed several heart attacks, as Australia at one stage looked to seal a thrilling win, but fell short by 17 runs towards the end.
A calm and composed Haddin handled the fearsome English pace attack that was on fire. Nobody had a clue, that it was the start of a tremendous season for the 36-year-old batsman. In the same series, Haddin again showed his ability to bat well with the tail-enders, when he put a 97-run partnership with Mitchell Starc for the eighth wicket in the first innings of the third Test in England. Even though Australia lost the series 0-5, Haddin for sure had saved the grace with some determined innings.
Brad Haddin showed his true potential when the England came to play the return Ashes in Australia. In the first Test, Haddin played two important knocks of 94, 53 respectively. He followed it with a brilliant century in the first innings of the second Test at Adelaide, and it was a crucial knock considering his last century in Tests came in 2010. Haddin batted with a lot of maturity throughout the series and by the end of five Tests, he had scored 493 runs from eight innings – which was just 30 runs short of David Warner`s tally of 523 runs – the highest in the series.
Australia have always had the pleasure of having some of the finest wicketkeepers in their squad. Ian Healy did a wonderful job for over a decade, and then came Adam Gilchrist – a wicketkeeper batsman who gave nightmares to bowlers across the world with his swashbuckling play. Once Gilly retired, it was difficult to imagine about his successor. The selectors did try experimenting with Mathew Wade for a while, but now Haddin has cemented his place, at least in the longer format, as a result of his astonishing form in the last ten Tests.
What is more pleasing about Brad Haddin is his body language. He hardly looks nervous and bats with a positive attitude. His tendency to change the pace of the innings is something which has troubled England recently. When needed, Haddin can bat like a Test specialist, but if wickets fall in quick successions, and he is left with the tail-enders, he not only shields them by playing most of the deliveries, but also comes up with a counter-attack which often flabbergasts the opponent.
Every team dreams of having a genuine wicketkeeper batsman in their side. While Australia went through a transition phase, they needed someone down the order who could rescue them from critical situations, and Brad Haddin has done that job exceptionally well.
Australia have tasted victory after quite some time. It is a great time for the likes of Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson who are back in their groove. One might argue that the Aussies had an advantage of playing on their home ground, but the 5-0 win against England could be the much-needed lift they were looking for.
While the entire squad should be proud of what they are doing at the moment, they shouldn’t forget the consistency and the hard work put in by their classy ageing warrior. Well done Brad Haddin.