“You can do all the technique you want, but everyone needs luck.”
Luck is something new to you. You are born in the ‘70s in small-town Australia and develop a passion for cricket. In your school, all your friends either want to bat like the Chappells or bowl like Lillee. No one wants to keep, so you take one for the team and crouch behind the stumps.
Like Rod Marsh and Ian Healy, men you’ve grown up idolising, you can bat a bit and catch like hell. The wise ones tell you that you are Australia material. They tell you to keep your head down and wait for your turn. You are young and strong and dream of replacing your New South Wales blue with the Baggy Green. Then a contemporary of your’s earns his. Adam Gilchrist. The wise ones now ask you to find a different profession.
You don’t. Because you’re Brad Haddin. And for Haddin, nothing in life has come without a rib-rattling fight.
On Friday, soon after he scored his first century in three years to put Australia in a commanding position in the Adelaide Test, Haddin was asked in the press conference if he was happy to make his chances count, having been dropped on five and nicking one off a no-ball on 51. Haddin paused and pressed out a smile. For a man whose entire cricketing life has been a second chance, there couldn’t have been a better answer.
Gilchrist did not just change the role of a wicketkeeper with a batting average that peaked at 60 (compare that with the high 20s notched by Marsh and Healy), he nearly ended Haddin’s career before it could start. At 23, he made his one-day debut against Zimbabwe. Three years later, he played his second game. Test cricket, of course, did not happen till Gilchrist retired in 2008. Haddin was 32.
It couldn’t have been easy. Everything he did was compared against his predecessor. And his young successors were already snapping at his old heels. Haddin played his first Test series with a fractured finger. Then he was dropped for Graham Manou. Then for Tim Paine. And just when he seemed to have shrugged off the competition in 2012, his daughter fell seriously ill, forcing Haddin to take an indefinite break from the game. He was 35.
“When there’s a dire situation in the family, it’s incredible how easy a game of