Sir Richard Hadlee InterviewJames Nixon |
CW: In the post-Sobers era, you have been widely considered as one of the four great all-rounders. The others being Kapil Dev, Ian Botham and Imran Khan. Each of you have taken well over 300 wickets and scored over 3000 runs. Who do you consider the greatest all-rounder of all-time?
RH: Sobers is regarded as the best ever his record speaks for itself. He had all the skill and the versatility. He would be one of the first selected in any world team. Wisden rated him 2nd to Bradman says it all.During the 80’s it was the ‘Battle of the Allrounders’ it was a real contest between the four of us. We all knew what each other was doing around the world and when we played against each other there was a will and desire to outdo your opponent.
Of the four of us I would rate Imran as the better player because of his all round consistency with the bat and ball. He could play any type of innings and make the Pakistan team as a batsman alone. He was a potent strike bowler and an influential player in many of Pakistan’s wins.
CW: Who gets your vote as the best current allrounder?
RH: It does not appear to be the same today as it was in the 80’s. I guess Kallis, Pollock, Klusener, Cairns contested the honour a few years ago. However today Klusener has not been selected, Cairns has been injured off and on for three years, Kallis’ bowling is not as good as his batting. Pollock has a very good record and is probably regarded as the best today.
CW: Your career bowling average of 22.29 puts you among the elite bowlers of all-time. Who, in your opinion, is the best international bowler currently?
RH: For all round consistency in nagging line and length with bowling skills, Glenn McGrath is still the best fast bowler. Wasim Akram may have finished his international career but it is hard to believe that there was a better left arm pace bowler than him. Muttiah Muralitharan may have the opportunity to go on and capture over 600 test wickets which will be quite remarkable he has wonderful skills. Shane Warne is still a treat to watch and should capture over 500 test wickets.
Up and coming stars with big reputations are Shane Bond from NZ with Brett Lee, Shaoib Akhtar exciting the crowds with their added pace. Young James Anderson from England has made an early and a big impression but like Bond, he will need to be judged over time and not in one or two years.
CW: You took 130 wickets against Australia in your Test career. You must’ve really enjoyed playing them. Which country has been your favourite opponent over the years? Why?
RH: Playing Australia brought the best out of me. As our big brothers across the Tasman Sea, they did not really rate us in the 1970’s and when we started to beat them, the rivalry went to another level. The Aussie crowds gave me a tough time and inspired me to lift my performance.
CW: In the modern game, the bat has certainly progressively dominated the ball. With batsmen such as Ponting, Lara and Tendulkar around, it must be tough to be a bowler. What current batsman are you happy that you didn’t have to face when you were playing?
RH: Tendulkar is the most complete batsman in the world today and will go down in history as second to Bradman. His wicket is regarded as the most prized. He has quick hand eye coordination, can play any shot in the book and he can destroy any attack in the world in any type of conditions.
CW: Which batsman did you least like to face during your esteemed career?
RH: Viv Richards was the most destructive and unorthodox batsman I bowled to – good balls would be dispatched to the boundary for four. He had a physical presence about him that intimidated the opposition the swagger to the wicket suggested he meant business. Balls outside the off stump went to mid on and mid wicket for fours, balls outside leg stump sometimes went through the covers for four. He had wonderful eyes to pick up the line and length of the ball. He took the bowlers on.
CW: What are your thoughts on the integration of technology into the game in umpiring decisions?
RH: If technology is conclusive and the right decision can be made, use it. All the players want the right decision. In a very professional era where player’s futures are at stake, the right decision becomes very important to their livelihoods and future selections. The result of the game will also be influenced by technology. The only sad thing with the use of technology is that the benefit of doubt which has been in the game for over 200 years, has started to disappear and umpires will use technology ahead of backing their own judgment to avoid being exposed on TV by making the wrong decision.
CW: Would you like to comment on New Zealand’s recent World Cup venture?
RH: We won 5/8 matches and although we did not go to Kenya and conceded 4 points, our destiny was in our own hands when we had to beat either Australia or India in the Super 6 rounds. We had Australia 87/7 but failed to dismiss them for around 100-120 and chasing over 200 was too much for us. Had we gone to Kenya and won, Kenya would not have qualified for the SS rounds, SA would have gone through, because we beat SA we would have carried through 4 extra points and then we would have needed to win one of the three SS matches to go through to the semi finals we beat Zimbabwe in SS rounds. We expected to do better than we did.
CW: There have been some comments of Shane Bond being the next Hadlee. Being the expert on the subject, do you see anyone in the current New Zealand set-up who would possibly rise to the kind of success which you achieved?
RH: It is dangerous to make comparisons. Hadlee was Hadlee and any new player needs to be himself. If Shane Bond can maintain his fitness and survive international cricket for another 4/5 years he could capture over 200 test wickets which would place him as the second most successful fast bowler in NZ history. He has extreme pace which is a valuable asset but with two back stress fractures he will need to be looked after. The question is, how will he come back and how long will he last? Most fast bowlers today last about 10 years I had 18 years and very opportunity to get wickets and fashion the career that I did. The success of any fast bowler depends on an efficient technique, superb fitness, wonderful skills and a big heart to dig deep when it gets tough in trying conditions and when the batsman is dominant.
CW: What are your thoughts on Stephen Fleming’s captaincy, and who do you regard as the best captain in the world currently?
RH: He is regarded as the best in the world in both forms of the game. Over the last 2 years he grown in confidence within the role, the team has had some very good successes and he is staring to perform better with the bat. He is NZ’s most successful ever captain and he has a lot more to offer. He appears to be calm under pressure and he is starting to get the best out of his players even without some of his experienced players being available.
CW: Here are some questions from Cricket Web members
Lee1979: What are your thoughts on the current New Zealand side and how do you see them progressing in the next few years, especially in the light of Cairns’ recent decision?
RH: There is every reason to be optimistic about our game. We have not had Cairns for many games over the last three years because of injury, yet the team has performed well 3rd in test ratings and 5th in the ODI’s. There is competition for places, some youngsters are coming through and performing and with John Bracewell appointed as the new coach, NZC has some big expectations.
Reuben Verghese: What was the feeling to be playing for your country and doing well then?
RH: It was a wonderful honour to play for NZ. I played in a successful era and I was proud of my own and my team’s performances. Money did not buy our successes. If players have the skill, the right attitude, make the sacrifices and perform, the money and the rewards will take care of themselves. I played as an amateur for six years, a semi pro for three years and a full time pro for the last 9 years of my career I had an understanding of what was required during the different eras.
Luckyeddie: As someone who played for many years alongside Clive Rice in your time at Nottinghamshire, just how dominant do you think he would have been in the test match arena if he had been allowed the chance to play?
RH: He would have rated and been as successful as Botham, Imran, Kapil and myself during the 1980’s. He was a talented all rounder a very good batsman and an express fast bowler. He was a tough and uncompromising competitive person who proved himself by winning several World All Rounder competitions against the rest of us including Malcolm Marshall and others.
Luckyeddie: Your own performances at international level seemed to improve dramatically following your move into the English county game. Why do you think that was?
RH: This was the greatest opportunity of my playing career. Playing 6 days a week fine tuned my skills and made me the player I turned out to be. I got into good habits, disciplines and routines and I learned how to manage myself and understand the requirements of what was needed to be an international player. The county competition was of a very good standard with at least 30 of the world’s best players playing along with England’s best. To survive and get a contract renewed, I needed to compete and perform.
Luckyeddie: Can you remember what you said to Vaughan Brown when he dismissed Geoff Lawson at Brisbane in 1985 after you had taken the first 8 wickets – and more to the point, what did HE say to YOU? Were you tempted to, er, ‘accidentally’ drop the catch?
RH: “Congratulations on your fist test wicket.”
When the ball goes in the air, every player will want to catch it. There was never any doubt on that occasion.
Luckyeddie: Is the emphasis nowadays on one-day international cricket to the detriment of the development of test players?
RH: One day cricket pays the bills and will keep the game alive. For me test cricket is the ultimate challenge a test of skill, fitness, adapting to pitch, weather, and state of the match conditions over 5 days. That is why it is called the ‘test’.
With all the cricket being played these days it is obvious and very necessary for countries to have a base of more players, hence the need to have specialist test and one-day players, and the need to rest and rotate players to keep them fresh and prevent burn out and injury.
The one-day game is starting to produce more and more multi-skilled players which can be detrimental to producing quality test players because neither skill is perfected there is not enough time to specialize but instead the time is split in training when doing both batting and bowling. To be a quality all rounder, you need to be a special sort of person.
On behalf of Cricket Web and cricket fans everywhere, thank you so much for your time and cooperation Sir Hadlee.
Learn more about Sir Richard Hadlee on his website www.hadlee.co.nz. There you will find the biography and statistics documenting the esteemed career of the greatest New Zealand cricketer. It’s definitely worth a visit.