“This won’t be as fun as when I was playing,” quipped Brad Haddin as he dropped into the chair that was set up in front of cameras and journalists in the Ageas Bowl indoor school ahead of Australia’s warm-up match against England.
Whether it was fun or not, it was hardly surprising that Haddin’s first press conference for Australia ahead of the Men’s World Cup was punctuated by questions surrounding Australia’s much-vaunted change in team culture and the team’s likely reception by English fans. The former vice-captain was renowned as one of Australia’s most combative players, particularly towards the end of his career, a period which has come under scrutiny in the wake of the Newlands ball-tampering scandal.
Barmy Army songs? Heckling from the crowd? All welcome, insisted the current fielding coach.
“I’d be disappointed if the England crowd weren’t involved in the game,” Haddin said. “One of the pleasures I had in my career was the theatre of touring to England and when the Barmy Army come out to Australia and what it brings to the game.
“The one thing I have noticed is that they still respect good cricket. They’ll still have their songs and their fun, but I have never known an English crowd not respect a good hundred or a five-for or a good performance in the field. It’s something for me, personally, it was great part of coming to England. It was fun. We don’t get a lot of that sort of crowd in Australia so the guys are very excited.”
Haddin brushed aside questions about his own conduct around the 2015 final against New Zealand, during which he was memorably involved in ‘send-offs’ to Grant Elliott and Martin Guptill, and his joking comments that “they deserved it”, pointing out that no charges were made by the ICC.
When one journalist suggested Haddin was well-known for his sledging abilities, he laughed in response.
“Beg your pardon?” he replied, with a hint of self-deprecating incredulity.
“You want a contest out there, that doesn’t have to be verbalised. That’s the way you present yourself with your body, the way you create that environment, you can create that environment with the presence you set. All anyone wants is a fair contest and I think every time Australia play England, we all know we’re going to get one hell of a great contest.
“I know the guys are excited about the World Cup and we will play the cricket we always play. There’ll be a contest out in the field. But as we know probably better than anyone else, there are places you can go and places that you can’t. I hope they are smiling. It’s a huge event the World Cup and if they are not smiling it will be disappointing. We’ll be encouraging them to smile and compete.”
Along with Ricky Ponting, Justin Langer’s choice of Haddin as assistant and fielding coach gives the players in the side a wealth of World Cup experience upon which to draw, and they have taken advantage of that fact.
“Yeah it’s been good, just informally,” Haddin said. “We’ve had a pretty big lead into this whether it’s just over a coffee – you’ve got a lot of time on the team bus in the UK to get around with the players. You’ve got obviously Ricky’s experience, I think he’s been to five and I myself have been to three, but there’s also that we all played different roles.
“I remember my first World Cup I had the time of my life in 2007, didn’t play a game but that still felt just as good as it did when I played in 2015. So it’s just sharing those experiences and the boys are as clear as they possibly can be. If they have got any questions, no question is too silly. Leading into that first game [it’s important] they’ve got a really clear mind of the expectations of a World Cup.”