The Ashes: Brad Haddin happy to slip in from the shadows

 

For Brad Haddin it looked all over. The selectors had found a newer model in Matthew Wade who could last for another 10 years. Then, last February, came the tumult and the loss in India with two lots of Ashes series ahead.

At 35, Haddin was back in fashion. The selectors recalled him not only as wicketkeeper for this tour but also as vice-captain. From nowhere he is suddenly crucial to orchestrating the entire campaign.

"I never thought it was finished for me," he said. "The only worry was whether circumstances would allow me to get back. But I never doubted I could return and keep challenging myself to be a better cricketer, and if I had I would have walked away from the game."

Haddin is the embodiment of the gnarled senior pro, still savouring the moment, up for the fray, ready to dispense wisdom and advice. The wonder is that he had never been appointed to an official position before.

His work as captain of New South Wales was hugely admired but he insists leadership was something he neither craved nor sought. "Captaincy is not something I have ever thought about," he said. "I haven't sat at home hoping I could lead a team. No, I don't like captaining."

That approach to the job should not be mistaken for ingratitude at being asked to do it. Haddin, make no mistake, is thrilled to little mint balls to be here in England and anybody who thought these encounters had somehow diminished in appeal should have heard his simple assessment.

"It's a great honour to be vice-captain not only of Australia but in an Ashes campaign," he said. "There is no more exciting cricket that you play. You can play all the fancy tournaments around the world but this is it, the whole feeling around an Ashes campaign and everything that comes with it, this is why you want to play."

He recounted the feeling at Taunton on the first official day's play. Tour matches come and tour matches go but there was a buzz in the air that morning, not perhaps to match the one that will pervade Trent Bridge on Wednesday when the First Test starts, but easily discernible.

Excited or not, Haddin is painfully aware that he has been on the losing side in two previous Ashes campaigns, though a batting average of 45 in his nine matches does his contribution full justice. Throughout his career, of course, he has had to play in the shadow of the man who preceded him and changed the notion of what the wicketkeeper-batsman could do, Adam Gilchrist.

"I have never seen it like that," said Haddin. "All I wanted was to make sure that I was the obvious second choice. There was no way anyone was going to dislodge Adam and he actually, probably without knowing, raised the standard of wicketkeeper-batsman around the world. The numbers he used to throw out wasn't the norm for a wicketkeeper."

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