Walter Hadlee

Patriarch of a cricket clan


Walter Arnold Hadlee, accountant, cricketer and administrator: born Lincoln, New Zealand 4 June 1915; OBE 1950, CBE 1978; married 1940 Lilla Monro (five sons); died Christchurch, New Zealand 29 September 2006.

The name Hadlee is as meaningful in New Zealand's cricket as Grace is in England's. Walter, the patriarch of the Hadlee clan, died in Christchurch on Friday aged 91 after a career as a player, captain, coach, manager, selector, chairman and president of his country's cricket, a leading delegate and influence in what has become the International Cricket Conference.

What's more, he had five sons, three of whom played for New Zealand: Dayle and Richard, who appeared in Tests, and Barry, who played in the World Cup. Richard, an outstanding all-rounder and one of the great fast bowlers, made the name ring around the world with his triumphs for his country and for Nottinghamshire and rightly retired as Sir Richard. Very few sporting accolades have been more deserved.

Walter could have walked straight out of a pre-war advertisement designed to attract the English gentleman. Tall, bespectacled, long-legged, pipe-smoking, he was a tough right-handed batsman who occasionally opened, one of sound defensive technique who could score quickly when the New Zealand team of his day could afford to attack. He possessed a handsome off drive, front or back foot, and a range of other shots not seen too often. He was a top-class fielder, often at mid-off, fast and never tiring, a sure catch and a good throw. As a captain he acted quietly and firmly but in the field showed a ruthlessness in driving his men, himself most of all.

He emerged from Christchurch High School to appear for Canterbury in 1933 and was chosen to tour England in 1937, scoring 93 in 135 minutes in the second Test at Old Trafford before slipping and treading on his wicket. He made 1,225 runs on the tour, at an average of 29.87, and then, like many of his generation, lost his best years to the Second World War. He reminded New Zealand's selectors with 198 for Otago against the visiting Australians in Dunedin in 1946.

His hour came when he led New Zealand in their first-post-war tour of England, at a time when some critics felt that to give the Kiwis four three-day Tests was overtaxing their resources. John Arlott wrote:

They had expected to play three four-day Tests; but eventually it was decided, for financial reasons, that they would play four of three days each. That shrewd captain Walter Hadlee, smiling grimly, observed: "Well, that means we can draw all four." And they did.

This despite losing the toss in the first three Tests.

Hadlee contributed 1,439 runs and had some powerful batting lieutenants in the world-class left-handers Bert Sutcliffe and Martin Donnelly, the aptly named Verdun Scott and the superb all-rounder John Reid. The bowling was much weaker, so Hadlee contrived to contain England's big-name batsmen - Len Hutton, Cyril Washbrook, Bill Edrich, Denis Compton - by insisting on strict length and line, backed by relentless fielding. Hutton thought Hadlee's fields the hardest to penetrate. Rex Alston commented:

No touring side has had a more unselfish, conscientious or thoughtful captain. He was an expert placer of his field, his judgement of a tactical situation was sound and his wise handling of his team, allied to his own splendid fielding, made him a captain to be remembered.

Two years later Freddie Brown's England team, after a hectic 20-week tour of Australia, had a chance for revenge in New Zealand, Hadlee scoring 116 in a draw at Christchurch. There, and at Wellington, where England won by six wickets, the grounds were full, E.W. Swanton remarking that "the quietness after the behaviour in Australia remains a memory to this day" before pointing out that Hadlee had committed a grievous error:

[Alex] Moir bowled the last over before tea from one end and Hadlee unwittingly put him on first at the other end afterwards.

Swanton often referred to Hadlee as "an old friend", even if New Zealand's mealtimes could be a dashed nuisance:

Apart from the inconvenience - even the impossibility sometimes after a day's cricket - of having to dine at six-thirty sharp I greatly enjoyed New Zealand.

In the following decade Hadlee managed New Zealand teams and when Kerry Packer launched his rival World Series cricket in 1977 Hadlee was a forceful opponent as New Zealand's president. He was appointed OBE in 1950 and advanced CBE in 1978. He averaged 30 in his 11 Test matches, 18 centuries at an average of 40.44 in his first-class career. Although he retired as early as 1951 he played his last game of cricket in 1990.

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