Brad Haddin’s retirement announcement brought an end to the era of Michael Clarke in Australian cricket as he was the fifth player to announce his retirement after Ryan Harris, Michael Clarke, Chris Rogers and Shane Watson.
While he could not go out on a high, Haddin’s value could be best seen in the glowing tributes paid to him by the current Test captain, Steven Smith and the coach, Darren Lehmann. It is telling that both Michael Clarke and Smith played a fair few Shield matches for New South Wales under Haddin’s captaincy. In fact, Smith was Haddin’s deputy on the A tour that preceded the 2013 Ashes series in England.
Smith paid a rich tribute to Haddin by saying, “He's been a terrific player over a long period of time for Australia, certainly one of the best team man I've ever been around - he always put the team first in every aspect. He's been a great mentor for me. I've learned so much off him, throughout [playing for] NSW. When I started there he was captain. I learned a lot off him there."
Lehmann, who played alongside Haddin for the Australian One Day team, said, “It's a sad day for Australian cricket, because he was a fantastic player, a fantastic mentor for a lot of young players. A great mentor for me as coach. I played against him as a youngster, [when I was] with South Australia, and saw him rise through the ranks and play some amazing knocks for Australia.”
Haddin had to wait for a long time before getting his first test cap in 2008. Having made his ODI debut in 2001, he served as understudy to Adam Gilchrist on overseas tours as Gilchrist played 96 tests in a row from his debut to retirement.
Haddin’s strength and courage were evident in his maiden test series in the West Indies where he continued to play despite breaking his finger in the first test.
While his returns in that series were serviceable, he announced himself on the international stage with an innings of 169 against New Zealand, where he showed flashes of Gilchrist’s batting brilliance. In fact, Haddin’s adventurous style of play meant that he came in for severe criticism for recklessness on a couple of occasions.
His shot selection was particularly criticised in the aftermath of the Cape Town test where Australia was bundled out for 47 and Haddin was caught behind after charging out to play a careless hoick.
Haddin was one of Australia’s best performers in the 2009 Ashes in England as well as the 2010-11 home Ashes series. While Australia lost both of those series, Haddin was not to be denied third time around.
While he took Australia to the verge of victory in the Trent Bridge test in 2013 in England before being last man out, he was the standout batsman in the Ashes series at home later that year as England was whitewashed 5-0. While Mitchell Johnson was named Man of the Series for his stellar performance, Haddin could have laid a claim to the title as he scored half-centuries in the first innings of all 5 tests after Australia lost 5 wickets in each test with not many runs on the board.
His glovework was exceptional in 2013, and he broke Rod Marsh’s long standing record for the most dismissals in a single Ashes series. He was also an able lieutenant to Clarke, who learnt the ropes of leadership under him at New South Wales. Haddin won back his place on the 2013 tour of India where Australia suffered a whitewash and team culture was at its lowest.
He had initially lost his place after withdrawing from the tour to the West Indies in 2012 after his daughter Mia was laid low with an illness. He made a comeback for New South Wales towards the end of that season. He took over as vice-captain from Shane Watson after the ill fated tour of India and was a key source of counsel for the skipper, as well as Nathan Lyon, Australia’s frontline spinner.
Haddin was often the ringleader on the field, and was not afraid to be the pantomime villain for the team’s cause, a fact best seen during the 2015 World Cup final where he constantly tried to disturb the New Zealand batsmen with constant chatter from behind the stumps.
While Haddin ensured that Australia did not feel the pinch of Gilchrist’s retirement too badly, it remains to be seen whether fellow New South Welshman Peter Nevill can take on the mantle of the big gloves and ensure that Haddin’s safe hands are not missed too much by the Oz.