January 20, 2017

'My father's contribution to the game has been extraordinary'

Richard Hadlee talks about the lessons he learnt from Walter, and the competition he enjoyed with brother Dayle
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Richard Hadlee: "We want to honour Dad and what he did for New Zealand cricket as a figurehead, and let the cricket lovers relive his story" Ariful Islam Roney / © BDnews24.com

Sir Richard Hadlee arrived at the Hagley Oval just as play started on the first day of the New Zealand-Bangladesh Test. At a ground where he played a lot of his early cricket, Hadlee spoke about a project he has undertaken about his father 's 1949 England tour as New Zealand captain, the influence of his brother Dayle, the other great allrounders of his time, and the art of intimidation without saying anything.

What was it like growing up in Christchurch?
Look at the ground out here. There were six pitches. There were two senior grade games - president's grade and second grade. All our club cricket was played on this ground. It was a nursery preparing for first-class and then international cricket. Hagley Oval was a great part of our family involvement. It is a pretty special place.

Your father, Walter Hadlee, was an important figure in your life. You've been working on a project related to his 1949 tour of England.
My father has probably made the greatest contribution to New Zealand cricket. He first represented New Zealand in 1937, and in 1949, he was the captain of the team that toured England. When he retired in 1951, he became a selector. In 1965 he managed the New Zealand team on the tour of England, India and Pakistan. So his role grew considerably. He was on the board of New Zealand Cricket and chairman of the board. He became president of New Zealand Cricket, the overall figurehead of the organisation. He became a life member. He watched the development and growth of not only myself but [his other sons] Barry, who played in the 1975 World Cup, and Dayle, who played 26 Tests. We are very much a cricketing family. My father's contribution to the game has been quite extraordinary.

On that tour to England in 1949, he wrote a day-to-day diary of the eight-month tour. It is a very detailed and historic document, one that needs to be preserved. Now that Dad has passed on, I have taken the responsibility, with the support of my brothers, to release a book called the The Skipper's Diary. We want to honour Dad and what he did for New Zealand cricket as a figurehead, and let the cricket lovers relive his story. The whole tour is seen through the eyes of one man, the skipper. We also want to respect and acknowledge the '49ers - players that went on that tour.

No other team in the history of New Zealand cricket are known by the year in which they played. When you talk of the '49ers, people know of [Bert] Sutcliffe, [John] Reid, [Martin] Donnelly, Hadlee, [Jack] Cowie and [Tom] Burtt, and all these blokes who represented New Zealand on that tour.

Walter Hadlee signs a bat during a visit to the Stuart Surridge factory on the 1949 tour of England © PA Photos

My brothers have written the foreword and I have written the introduction to set the scene. The diary is the glue of the whole book. There are stats, scorecards and a hundred photographs. We have the tour contract they all signed. There is the manager's tour report about the good, the bad and the indifferent. We have got what the players did after the tour.

It took them 37 days from Wellington to Southampton by a boat called the Dominion Monarch. So they travelled from Wellington to Sydney to Melbourne to Perth to Durban Cape Town, Canary Islands and then to Southampton. They played 32 first-class games, winning 13 and losing one.

They drew all four Tests, bearing in mind that previous New Zealand teams had lost. The two previous tours had lost a lot of money. This tour produced a profit for the first time in the history of New Zealand cricket, like £16,700.

It was a lot of money in those days. It gave New Zealand money to invest in future tours and hosting tours to our country. The war had finished in 1949, Europe was rebuilding. There was rationing, so you needed coupons to get your food. They lived in a time warp of 1949, so to bring this story about, what Dad saw as a captain and player, the functions they attended, the speeches that were made… We even have a message from His Royal Highness Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, with a Buckingham Palace letterhead. He was the MCC president in 1949, and met the team on four occasions. They played a two-day game in Germany against the Combined Forces. The factories they visited, the PR functions, dinners, lunches, cricket bat companies they visited - it is a very detailed document.

One of the funnier sides was that Dad wrote so much that he couldn't get it all on one page for that specific day. So he would have a little notation saying, "Refer to November 16". So you flicked through the diary and there was the rest of that page.

It has been a three-year project, but what makes it more different than anything else is that we are producing a two-hour documentary DVD on the tour. We have actual film footage of the tour. We have seven player interviews in the latter part of their lives.

"Another thing my father said, 'If you can't be a cricketer, at least look like a cricketer.' Put on your whites and practise in the nets. If you look like it and feel it, you have a chance of performing on the field of play" © PA Photos

You must have recalled many things about your father while doing this project. Is there anything he told you in particular that you still remember?
The biggest thing he said to me, and I presume my four brothers, is that, "Whatever you do, Richard, take pride in your performance, do your best, be happy with your performance even if somebody does it better. Doing your best and giving your 100%, no one can criticise you."

This pride became important as a motivating factor. Prepare well, train well, so you have a better chance of performing.

Another thing he said, and it is a common saying really, is that "If you can't be a cricketer, at least look like a cricketer." In other words, dress well. Even at practice, which you do in whites. He was a traditionalist. In those days you put on your whites and practised in the nets. You feel the game by doing that. You feel part of it. So look like it. And if you look like it and feel it, you have a chance of performing on the field of play.

Did you follow his ways?
He always believed in proper preparation. As a family we practised in the backyard. We had a cricket net, pitch facilities. We used to bowl and bat against each other. He always took interest in what we were doing, whether it was primary or secondary school, playing club cricket, Canterbury or New Zealand. We all knew he wanted us to do well.

When Dayle got his New Zealand cap and sweater in 1969, I wanted to get on the next tour to England in 1973 and get my cap and sweater. So there was a bit of motivation there. Whenever Dayle got four wickets, I wanted five. If he was batting at No. 7 and I was at No. 8, I wanted to score more runs so that I batted at No. 7 in the next game. It generated a lot of competition for us but not at the expense of the team. The rivalry lifted our performance and we scored more runs and got more wickets, which helped the team.

What was it like bowling in partnership with Dayle for Canterbury?
He was hugely influential in my career. He has turned out to be one of the best fast-bowling coaches in world cricket today with his knowledge and experience.

Walter Hadlee bats against MCC at Lord's, 1949 © PA Photos

He would be fielding at mid-off or mid-on and say to me, "You haven't got your rhythm, have you?" I would say, "No. Struggling a little bit." He would say, "Get that front foot down a lot quicker than what you are doing, so that you have a base to land on and support the body as you come up and over."

A little tip like that makes a huge difference. All of a sudden you are standing taller, the ball is bouncing more, you get a wicket and you're away again. So he was very supportive and encouraging. I could probably notice things as well when he was struggling, so we can revert back in a conversation and help each other.

Much like the wicketkeeper was important for me. He was in the best position to see the fields and angles. See the ball come out of the hand and through into the gloves, swinging, seaming and bouncing. Whether the batsman is in or out of his crease. He can help you adjust your line and length. I used those resources a lot.

You were from an era of great allrounders. Did you, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Ian Botham talk about each other's game as well?
It was a special era. We all knew what the others were doing around the world. We'd follow each other. We knew who was getting wickets and who was scoring runs. Whenever we played against each other, you lifted the ante a little bit. You wanted to outbowl, outbat and outperform the opposing allrounder. Whoever had the better of the contest in the match often affected the result of the game or series. There was huge respect between us. We admired and acknowledged each other's skillset. In many ways we were similar sorts of players, except I was more of a bowling allrounder. Beefy and Immy were probably complete allrounders. My weakness was batting.

The allrounder was such an influential member of the team. He can turn a match with an inspired batting or bowling performance. He can score a hundred or a bag of five wickets, come back late in the day and break a partnership or take the game away. So that was the responsibility that I felt certainly as an allrounder.

I started batting for New Zealand at No 10. or 11. I got 46 and 2 for 88 [84] in my first game, against Pakistan. Then I got dropped after that Test, so Don Bradman and myself have something in common. We got dropped after our first Test.

"I was most proud of the 102 occasions in first-class cricket I got five-wicket bags. It proved I was consistent and I did my job" © PA Photos

I was in and out of the side and it took me four to five years to settle down and start getting the successes and the consistency in my game. The greatest opportunity that helped turn my game was playing county cricket from 1978 at Notts, with great players like Clive Rice. It helped me be the player I turned out to be. I achieved some wonderful things. Perhaps one of my greatest achievements was the double [of 100 wickets and 1000 runs] in county cricket. I did it once in 1984 and I was close in 1987, when I was three wickets short of 100 wickets and also scored 1100 runs.

I was quite statistically driven, and I was criticised for it. But whatever it took to get a performance out of me was my motivation. Of all the statistics that I was able to achieve in my career, the one that I was most proud of was that on 102 occasions in first-class cricket, which includes Test cricket, I got five-wicket bags. It was like scoring a hundred hundreds. The only reason I was proud of that was that it proved I was consistent and I did my job. That, to me, was important. There were times when a batsman scored hundreds and double-hundreds, but my job was to intimidate, get batsmen out, even destroy careers. That's the way I looked at my job as a new-ball bowler. It was a good career.

Five wickets in your last match, and a wicket off your last ball.
It was Devon Malcolm. It counts, doesn't it?

Did you still have a couple of years left in you?
No, I was 39. Most fast bowlers are out of their game in the mid-30s or not as effective. I operated off a shortish run-up, 15 paces. There was no time to gradually build up. It was start, go and do it. But it gave me longevity. It was less strain on the body, a more efficient technique and three times more effective result-wise.

People say Richard Hadlee and Malcolm Marshall are two of the most complete fast bowlers in history.
We were a little different, I think. He had quite a whippy, fast action. He swung the ball. He would have been quicker than me. He was feared. I was a slightly different sort of a bowler. I was more of a probing bowler, a bit like [Glenn] McGrath. I could still bowl the bouncer and stick guys on their backside as an element of surprise. I didn't overuse the bouncers, and I don't believe there's a lot of skill in doing that.

My skill was swinging and seaming the ball and beating a guy off a length, which would vary from pitch to pitch, with the height of a batsman, getting them playing and missing or nicking out. So I probably got more wickets caught behind to the keeper, slips and gully than any other form of dismissal.

Richard Hadlee (second from left) celebrates Nottinghamshire's County Championship victory with his team-mates at Trent Bridge, 1987* © PA Photos

Any batsman you found challenging?
All batsmen were challenging. Even the No. 11 can be challenging. Seriously. Because they play and miss.

Who was the toughest opponent for you?
[Geoff] Boycott was the hardest to get out. He got 151 first-class hundreds during his career. He was a craftsman, technically efficient, play at balls he had to, let them go if it is a bit wide, collect his runs and wear the bowler down. He was quite difficult to get out. There were many tough guys. [Sunil] Gavaskar, Viv Richards, Greg Chappell. David Gower got lots of runs against New Zealand, a graceful player. Allan Border. [Javed] Miandad - gutsy, annoying - but that's what he did to the opposition.

You said you intimidated batsmen, but it wasn't with words, was it?
I didn't talk to players. I had a brief period when I did, and then when I went to England, it got knocked out of me very quickly. It was by umpires, who were former players, who said that it is not in the spirit of the game. You don't need to do that. You're a better player and person than that. Take notice.

But I still had a presence. Greg Matthews would sum that up, saying: "Hadlee was the most intimidating bowler that I have faced because he didn't say anything."

If you beat a batsman outside the off stump, stood there, there was a wink, a nod, a glare. Turn your back, get back to your bowling mark and come in again. So he always knows he was in a contest. There were times when you run in, beat a guy and go back to your mark. Sometimes you'd stand there and just let the batsman know you're around. That's what it means to have a presence and intimidation without saying anything. That was the way I played it.

January 21, 9.30GMT: The photograph has been changed because Hadlee was incorrectly identified in the previous one

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andy on January 23, 2017, 11:57 GMT

    I'm looking forward to reading the book. Please, CricInfo, give it plenty of publicity when it is released.

  • Shane on January 23, 2017, 8:29 GMT

    Hadlee personifies NZ cricket in a nutshell - would do anything for the team, and driven only to win at all times, and all the while letting his performances on the field to the talking. Some modern players could learn a lot from him.

  • Rajiv on January 22, 2017, 19:06 GMT

    Why was Hadlee never given the captaincy?

  • johnsm3366905 on January 21, 2017, 17:34 GMT

    supporttestcricket - if you want to nitpick, kapil dev did go beyond hadlee's record but had to play almost 50 more games and in the end to the detriment of the team continued playing just for that purpose.

  • Mike on January 21, 2017, 15:29 GMT

    when Hadlee got 400 test wickets, I never thought that anyone could possibly come close to that again. Richard Hadlee was a champion of note. He and Clive Rice, both as top allrounders, made Notts a powerful side - It was like having a team of 13.

  • Bruce on January 21, 2017, 13:36 GMT

    Hadlee was a typical Kiwi. Like BMac, he just cared about himself and not the team. He carried around his stats and worried about his own average. Australians play (and would die) for the cap. We have pride and heart unlike Kiwis like Hadlee and the rest.

  • Ali on January 21, 2017, 13:19 GMT

    After that nit picking part, here is something on a great player, all rounder and a visualizer. He said in a interview before traveling to India for the 1988 series, that, he had been visualizing how he would get Srikkanth, the Indian opener out for his record breaking wicket. He knew Srikkanth would be opening for India and he planned his dismissal! He did get his wicket! He also used to get his plans worked out to get particular batsmen out after noting their weaknesses. These plans were all written down on his kit bag! The player, although a batsman who comes closest to this visualizing part was Rahul Dravid!

  • Ali on January 21, 2017, 12:46 GMT

    Seems like nit picking but Sir Richard Hadlee ignored to say something about his comtemporary, Kapil Dev to a pointed question. He regards himself more of a bowling all rounder. Beefy and Immy were more of complete all rounders! Forgot completely to say what was Kaps! A complete all rounder, a batting all rounder or a bowling all rounder like him. Or just somebody lucky enough to be included in this group! I guess he was someone who just happened to overtake Sir Richard Hadlee's world record of most test wickets!

  • Edwin on January 21, 2017, 11:13 GMT

    I thought he was good enough to have carried on playing after he retired, and was surprised he wasn't asked (maybe he was?) to play in the '92 World Cup.

    Still my favourite bowler, and unlike any of his contempories (perhaps Kapil Dev) he didn't have any other world-class bowlers to help him, so he pretty much carried NZ bowling throughout his career.

  • Paul on January 21, 2017, 10:41 GMT

    A superb player and a great man. I think I cheered out loud when I read about his knighthood, and I still treasure his autograph

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