Haddin versus Nevill: A quandary for the selectors

Date: July 24, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

HaddinIt appears that Brad Haddin is ready to resume his role behind the stumps for the third Test at Edgbaston next week. But should he be selected?

Nobody would have wished upon anyone the situation that confronted him a few days out from the Lord’s Test when he learned that his young daughter was once again ill. As any parent would do, he immediately ruled himself out of the match. At a time like that your employment comes a very distant second.

For the feisty wicket-keeper it was a sad case of déjà vu given he had to return from the Caribbean during a Test series in March 2012 when his daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

Despite that personal and emotional setback Haddin was able to force his way back into the Test side and well he did for the sake of Australia during the last home Ashes series.

Had it not been for his fighting qualities with the willow the hosts would have found themselves in some dire situations. Time and again Haddin’s batting rescued the team from precarious positions after numerous top-order collapses. His 493 runs at 61.6 with a century and five 50s had him next in line to Mitchell Johnson for man-of-the-series honours.

That campaign remains the high watermark in Haddin’s 66-Test career. Alas, since his heroics in the summer of 2013-14 his form with the bat has been lamentable.

His last four series ahead of the Ashes saw him struggle enormously at the crease – five innings in South Africa for 26 runs at 6.5; four innings in the UAE versus Pakistan for 45 runs at 11.2; a four-match home series last summer against India produced 129 runs at 25.8; and June’s twin Tests in the Caribbean 30 runs at 15.0.

Nonetheless, his experience had him in this Ashes squad as the number one wicket-keeper with fellow New South Welshman Peter Nevill his deputy.

Unfortunately for Haddin the opening Test at Cardiff saw his trend with the bat continue with innings of seven and 22. It leaves him with a parlous record from his last 12 Tests and 21 innings – 259 runs at 15.2 with a sole half-century (55) against India Melbourne last December. Those figures simply do not cut it as keeper batting at number seven.

Whilst his batting has been well below par his work behind the stumps during his slump has maintained a high standard.One notable exception was his dropping of Joe Root, before he had scored, off Mitchell Starc at Cardiff. At the time England was 3-43 on the opening morning.Root seized upon his stay of execution to score a match-defining 134.

Even before Haddin’s personal circumstances took a dramatic turn for the worse the writing was on the wall – he needed to improve with the bat to remain a viable choice as keeper.

In his absence at Lord’s Nevill filled the breach admirably. He was fluent and assured with the bat scoring 45 off 59 balls in his only trip to the crease.

Admittedly Australia was in a very comfortable position when he strode to the crease, but nevertheless, a debut at Lord’s would always be a nerve wracking experience but outwardly the showed no signs.

Nevill entered the Test arena on the back of a dominant season with the bat for New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield, scoring 764 runs at 76.4 including a career-best 235 not out. Those figures took his overall 56-match first-class to just over 3000 runs at 44.3. Those statistics better most of the current specialist batsmen outside the Test squad.

With the gloves at the home of cricket he looked clean and efficient gloving seven catches. There was the one blemish when he failed to go for a catch low to his right that failed to carry to fist slip.

Haddin is rising 38 years of age while Nevill will turn 30 in October.

Given Haddin’s trials with the bat over such an extended period, and the fact that Nevill is more than capable man behind the stumps, if it was me choosing the XI for Edgbaston I would be going with Nevill.

The Haddin situation in many ways mirrors that of Shane Watson in the lead-in to this series. Watson was given the nod for the all-rounder spot ahead of Mitch Marsh for the series opener but he failed to deliver with the bat especially and was subsequently dropped.

Haddin was more of a sure thing to play at Cardiff but his batting again let him down.

Given what we have seen of Haddin with both gloves and bat over the past 18 months and what we saw of Nevill at Lord’s and his form during the recent summer the retention of the younger man would appear unlikely to dilute the team’s potency – indeed, on exposed form, it will likely increase it.

This series is not over despite the landslide victory in London. Australia needs to field its best XI for the remainder of this tour and for mine that means Nevill should stay where he is.

Given the adversity Haddin has faced in the past fortnight of the past fortnight it may sound harsh, but alas, elite level sport can often be just that.

While the likes of Allan Border and Ian Healy did not suffer the personal issues that Haddin has they were both denied the end to their careers that they had wished for.

Nevill is the future, and for me, the present too.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 23 July 2015, soliciting 97 comments