|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Hadlee savours special era
John Mehaffey | November 24, 2005 11:40 IST
Cool and calculated with the understated menace of a wild west gunslinger, Richard Hadlee was the silent assassin among cricket's magnificent four who bestowed a special glow in the 1980s.
Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Hadlee were the finest all rounders of their era.
The almost impossibly glamorous Keith Miller was at least their equal and Garry Sobers by general consent was the best of them all but neither before nor since have such a quartet competed with both bat and ball at such a level at the same time.
Hadlee, the first man to take 400 Test wickets with his forensically accurate seam and swing, is now an elder statesman of the game, a New Zealand selector and a practised speaker on the lunch and dinner circuit.
This week in the country where he perfected his craft at Nottinghamshire, he stopped off at Lord's to study an oil painting in the Long Room featuring himself and two other giants of the time, West Indian Clive Lloyd and South Africa's Barry Richards.
He recalled past triumphs at the game's headquarters with a return to the visitors' dressing room where is on the honours' board twice for five-wicket hauls in 1983 and again three years later.
Finally he spoke about the battle of the all rounders in a decade in which New Zealand won series against each of the other Test-playing nations while preserving an unbeaten record at home.
"The respect between us all was quite extraordinary," Hadlee said as the autumn sun fell on the arena where he performed mighty deeds for country and county.
"When you were in a different part of the world, you'd always look in the paper to see what's Botham doing? What's Imran doing? What's Kapil doing?
"We were all aware of who was getting runs or wickets, all those sort of things made the era special."
England fans, still basking in the afterglow of their Ashes triumph over Australia this year, believe they have found in Andrew Flintoff an all rounder to match the heroes of Hadlee's generation.
While Hadlee finds plenty to applaud in the Lancashire giant, he believes Flintoff still has much to do.
"People are saying 'Is he the next Ian Botham?'" Hadlee said. "Well I don't think there will be another Ian Botham.
"But the signs are definitely encouraging. He can bat in the top six and strike the ball to and over the boundary.
"He plays positively and aggressively and certainly as a bowler he has come on big time. He bowls a heavy ball and hits the bat harder than you think. He's aggressive, he's at you all the time."
Hadlee said Flintoff still needed to prove himself in all conditions over the next few years to join the ranks of the elite.
"Form comes and goes but class is permanent," he said, "We will see over the next few years if he is able to do it in all sorts of conditions.
"The signs are very encouraging but to predict what will happen in the future? I haven't got a crystal ball."
Hadlee believes Imran, who led Pakistan to the 1992 World Cup in his final match for his country, was the best of his time.
"Imran was the most consistent, day in and day out. He was a potent strike bowler and as a batsman he could bat anywhere in the top four, let alone the top six, and play any type of innings.
"When it was a defensive innings, he was pretty hard to get out. When it was an attacking innings he could hit the ball to the boundary."
Hadlee scored two Test centuries, but he does not regard his Test average of 27, 10 fewer than Imran, to be the mark of a Test-class batsman.
"Batting wasn't my strength," he said. "But I rate myself as a bowler, I was probably better than the rest."
Statistics support Hadlee's claim. He conceded only 22.29 runs each for his then world record 431 wickets while acting mostly as his country's sole strike bowler.
During the 1980s, when New Zealand unexpectedly became a world force, he scored 2,040 runs at 30.90 and took 289 wickets at 19.28.
"The '80s was the era of the battle of the all rounders. There was just something special about that era. Just look at today, is it the same? In the 1980s you lifted your performance against the opposition all rounders," he concluded.
"Today they are either at the end of their career or they haven't come through yet."
UEFA Champions League 2005-06: The Complete Coverage