There can be no doubt that when Brad Haddin declared his unavailability for the second test in England he did it for the very best of reasons. His daughter was once again very Ill and every parent will tell you at these times you want to be with your child, even though there's not much you can do. That his lack of availability gave a chance to Peter Nevill would not have even concerned him because, frankly, cricket can get stuffed when your child is sick. Peter Nevill would go on to play pretty well at Lords, taking lots of catches and batting pretty well.
When it came time for the team to be selected for the third Test Match, Brad Haddin was once again available for selection. The selectors decided to stick with Nevill, the younger man with a bright future ahead of him. It is because of this decision by the selectors that articles are being published with names like An Australian legend has been fired for being a good father. In this article, Holly Wainwright suggests that Haddin was “sacked” for being a good parent. She says that “The treatment of Brad Haddin – a stoic, loyal and private man who, his mates insist, would never complain about this decision – speaks to everything that is wrong with sporting culture”, and that, “Yet Haddin has been sacked....that he is being punished for putting family first and that the price is too high.”
As for what's wrong with the sporting culture re Haddin's treatment it is that the selectors had been too loyal to him. As you will see below Haddin, aged 37, should have been replaced much earlier. My last little swipe is that Haddin has not been sacked and nor has he been punished for putting his family first. He is still a contracted player and so he is still being paid. He is not playing for Australia because the selectors believe that someone else will do a better job. To continue to select Haddin when he is no longer up to the grade is actually unfair to him.
Lastly she describes Haddin as a role model on and off the "pitch". Unfortunately for the article, while Haddin may be an awesome father he has rarely been described as a role model of good behavior on the field. In fact, Haddin's on-field antics have often been very heavily criticized as bordering on unsportsmanlike. His treatment of departing batsmen in the World Cup final vs New Zealand were embarrassing and over the top. He's a known sledger and antagonist, who enjoys the combative nature of the game. If I were to point to a player that I'd want my kids to emulate in their sporting endeavors, Brad Haddin would not be the one.
If the issue was simply that he was in the team, he stepped aside because his daughter was sick and then he couldn't get back in the side, she would have a point. However, when you start to add important context to the situation, namely Haddin's recent performances, the move makes sense.
Since the beginning of February 2014, Brad Haddin has played in 12 Test matches and batted 21 times. His batting average for this period is 15.23 and he's only gone beyond 50 once in those 21 innings. Simply put, he's been performing well below the standard we would expect of a wicket-keeping batsman for 18 months. In fact, this recent trend indicates he is performing at below half his average career output. For a selector that's an alarming trend.
One might argue that a 'keepers batting is a secondary function and that it is work in the field that is truly important and I won't deny the impact a good keeper can make. But here again the signs are that Haddin's best is behind him. His drop of Joe Root in the first Test was beyond costly and should have been a regulation catch. The fact is Haddin was pretty lucky to still have his place in the side and that the selectors had shown great faith and loyalty to him until it became apparent that he was no longer the best choice as wicket keeper for Australia.
That's really what it should always boil down to. Who is the best player for the team? We seem to fall into the trap of believing that a spot in the team is owned by the player occupying it. It's not. Each spot is merely rented and it is paid for with good performances. You can build up credit, as Haddin did in the previous Ashes, but that is not bottomless.
When the good performances are no longer the norm, you have a problem. When there is another player ready and willing to step in and perform at a higher standard the problem grows. When the other player is 8 or 9 years younger and they have a longer amount of time in the game ahead of them then it's time to seriously consider who should occupy the place.
I completely feel that guys already in the side, who have proven they are capable of winning or saving you Test matches should be given time to work through patches of bad form. I have no doubt that the selectors have afforded such time to Haddin in this case. He has, not for a lack of effort, not been able to bring his game back up to standard. As such, Peter Nevill is now the first choice wicket-keeper.
Brad Haddin's job is to now assist the team as best he can. He is still a paid member of the Australian squad and his experience will be very helpful to Nevill who has already shown the grit and determination that Australian's love in their cricketers.
Peter Nevill will be given some time to settle into and then grow into the role. Should he prosper, he will write his name into the position of Australian Test Wicket-Keeper. But his name will be written in pencil, because nothing is permanent and a spot in the side is yours for only as long as your performances warrant it.
You can follow Martin twitter via @murdriggs