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RIchard Hadlee: An underrated genius and an all-time great fast bowler

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6th March, 2019
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Sir Richard John Hadlee, born on third July 1951, in St Albans, New Zealand, is a former New Zealand All-Rounder. Hadlee is viewed as one of the greatest pace bowlers of all time and New Zealand’s greatest cricketer.

His career had numerous highlights and at times, he was a one-man army, carrying the hopes of the Blackcaps all by himself.

Paddles, as he is affectionately known as, comes from the Hadlee family that have had generations of cricketers represent New Zealand in cricket.

In my opinion, though, Richard Hadlee at times doesn’t get enough of a mention when people in the cricket fraternity when there is the talk of the greatest fast bowlers.

There is an acknowledgment of his greatness but he doesn’t get the same mention as the other great fast bowlers of the 80s and 90s.

Statistics even show how great of a bowler he was. Out of the four great all-rounders, i.e., Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham and Hadlee himself, of the 70s–early 90s era, statistically and overall, Richard Hadlee is the greatest bowler out of all of the four all-rounders.

Sir Richard had to carry a team that only won 22 Tests out of the 86 Tests that he played. In order to foster an understanding of how good Richard Hadlee was, one would have to dissect his career statistics and Hadlee is a man who is very keen on statistics.

Overall, Hadlee’s bowling stats read: 86 Tests, 431 wickets at an average of 22.29 including 36 5fers, nine ten-wicket hauls with best figures of 9/52 against Australia at the Gabba, back in 1985.

Also, his strike rate was 50.48 and his economy rate was 2.63.

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Not only was Sir Hadlee a strike bowler but he managed to keep one end tight with such a good economy rate. He has the third most 5fers in Test matches in Test history and the second most ten wicket hauls in Test history.

Also, out of the 36 5fers, Hadlee has taken, 17 of them have come in games New Zealand won. Out of the nine ten wicket hauls he took, eight of them have come in games New Zealand won.

Richard Hadlee appeals

Richard Hadlee of New Zealand traps an Indian batsman for another wicket in the Second Test match in Bombay, India. Mandatory Credit: Simon Bruty /Allsport

In addition, he averaged under 29 against every Test-playing nation. His home-and-away record is phenomenal.

The striking feature of his home/away record is that his away record is better than his home record.

He played 41 Tests, averaging 22.96, picking up 201 wickets, with 15 5fers, three ten wicket-hauls, all at a strike rate of 53.05.

In contrast, his away statistics read, 43 Tests, 230 wickets, 21 5fers, six ten wicket hauls at an average of 21.72 and a strike rate of 48.93. Those stats are mind-boggling and when one further dissects these stats, they would get a better understanding of how great he was.

Every great career has a challenging period, and Hadlee experienced it right at the beginning of his career.

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From his debut against Pakistan in 1973 until 1977, Hadlee’s bowling statistics were quite disappointing. He played 17 Tests, picked up 61 wickets, averaged 35.57 and got two 5fers and one ten wicket hauls at a strike rate of 61.2.

From thereafter, he peaked and became one of the worlds best bowlers, eventually reaching legendary status by the end of his spectacular career.

At his peak, i.e., 1978-88, he picked up 330 wickets, in 60 Tests at an average of 19.57, with 32 5fers and eight ten wicket hauls at a strike rate of 48.4.

He is only behind Imran Khan during the 1978-88 period. Nevertheless, the statistics are just amazing.

From 1989 onwards, he played nine Tests, picked up 40 wickets, averaged 24.52 and got two 5fers, at a strike rate of 54.4. Three full seasons in Nottinghamshire in County Cricket helped him.

In Nottinghamshire, he averaged under 15 in all three full seasons he played and picked up 105 (1981), 117 (1984) and 97 (1987) wickets in each of the respective seasons that he played. People would be wondering what sparked the change in Hadlee’s performance from 1978 onwards.

Well, when he started, he was a tearaway pace bowler and then he decided to cut down his run-up.

Hadlee also lost a yard of pace, and these changes along with being mentally tougher transpired into him becoming a wicket-taking machine as well as a legendary fast bowler.

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Another striking feature of Hadlee’s bowling was his contribution to the team in victories. percentage-wise, he is on par with legendary Sri Lankan spinner, Muttiah Muralitharan as Richard claimed 40.80 per cent (173/424) of the team’s wickets in the 22 victories he was a part of during his career.

Muralitharan and Hadlee are the only bowlers in the last 40 years of cricket who have had contributed that much to the team’s wickets in victorious causes.

Furthermore, Hadlee has the best bowling average in Test wins. In 22 New Zealand Test victories during his career, he picked up 173 wickets at an astonishing average of 13.06, with 17 5 for, eight ten wicket hauls all at a strike rate of 33.5.

Asia is considered to be the toughest place to bowl for fast bowlers. The conditions in Asia, in most cases, tend to assist spin bowlers more than fast bowlers and numerous grounds in Asia have been referred to as ‘bowling graveyards’ for fast bowlers.

Hadlee is one fast bowler who has succeeded in Asian conditions. From 13 Tests in Asia, Hadlee averages 21.58, has 68 wickets, five 5fers, and two ten-wicket hauls at a strike rate of 42.7. One particular ten wicket haul resulted in New Zealand pulling off a miraculous victory against India in Mumbai back in 1989.

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Some of his Hadlee’s greatest performances have resulted in some famous Test victories for the Blackcaps.

New Zealand won a Test series in Australia in 1985 on the back of Hadlee’s phenomenal bowling effort which comprising 33 wickets at an average of 12.15, which until this day, is unrivalled in a three-Test series.

Sir Richard Hadlee and Prince

Sir Richard Hadlee, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Ambassador explains to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge how to bowl (Photo by Joseph Johnson/Getty Images for ICC Cricket World Cup)

He helped the Blackcaps pull off a series draw in India, a home/away series victory against England and Australia as well as the solo Test series victory against the almighty West Indies during West Indies 15-year reign of dominance on Test cricket.

So judging off the basis of all the stats and facts that have been provided in the article, it would be safe to say that Sir Richard ‘Paddles’ Hadlee would rank in my top three fast bowlers of all time.

Not only that but the fact that he doesn’t get much of a mention as another legendary fast bowler from the 70s, 80s early 90s.

He is a genius and an underrated one at that. If I were to select a great Test pace bowling attack, I would 100 per cent have the great Sir Richard Hadlee in it, not just because he is from my native of New Zealand, but his stats are just too difficult to ignore.

Richard Hadlee is an underrated genius who at times, single-handedly won games for New Zealand. Sir Richard Hadlee, is an all-time great and doesn’t get enough mentions when there comes a discussion about the greatest Test pace bowlers of all-time.

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