VETERAN Brad Haddin will be going to the Ashes and possibly also on the India tour as a back-up to Australia's No.1 wicketkeeper Matthew Wade.
National team coach Mickey Arthur has made it clear Haddin is the understudy to Wade for the huge 12 months ahead, with Tasmanian Tim Paine out of the picture for now. Replaced by Wade in the Test team, long-time incumbent Haddin is one of 21 players being considered for the four-Test tour to India next month, but that squad still needs to be cut. However, Australia will definitely take a second keeper to England in July.
''It's important we know who our second keeper is and he's comfortable knowing exactly where he stands as well,'' said Arthur, after Haddin was recalled to play in Australia's ODI matches against Sri Lanka on January 11 and 13.
''Tim's performances are getting better for Tasmania and the Hurricanes, but we still feel right now Brad Haddin is the second keeper to Matthew Wade in all forms. I do know we'll be taking two keepers to the Ashes in England.''
The added bonus for Haddin is there's every chance he could play alongside Wade in Tests operating as a specialist batsman. The massive loss in experience in Australia's middle-order following the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey could be partially filled by 35-year-old Haddin.
The NSW gloveman, who has played 43 Tests, averages 67 with the bat for NSW in the Sheffield Shield this season. Haddin was forced out of last year's tour to the West Indies after daughter Mia was diagnosed with cancer. Wade subsequently made the job his own and Haddin never expected to make it back to international cricket, let alone for a third Ashes campaign. Haddin's first trip to England was as Adam Gilchrist's understudy, then as the No.1 keeper and now in July he'll go back to being a deputy for Wade.
Arthur leapt to the defence of Wade's wicketkeeping this summer. Despite some scrappy moments, Arthur denied Wade has lost confidence behind the stumps. ''No definitely not. Wadey works really hard at his game and there were times where I thought he kept exceptionally well,'' Arthur said. ''I'm comfortable with Matthew Wade and comfortable he's only going to get better and better.''
Meanwhile, Arthur admitted the stocks of rookie seam bowler Jackson Bird had risen considerably on the back of his impressive performances in the second and third Tests. ''I think Jackson stood up really well and it's really exciting,'' Arthur said.
''We've got such a wealth of bowling talent in Australia and Jackson's just a reminder of that. He comes in with a man-of-the-match performance in Sydney, bowled really well in Melbourne, so again it's given us a pool of fast bowlers that we can call on that we know have the ability to play at this level and perform, and I think that's really important for us.''
Bird's current status as a Test-only player should allow him to return to the Shield once the Big Bash League concludes, rather than feature in the ODIs. He also shapes as a likely squad member for the India tour, along with Mitchell Johnson, who has been Australia's leading wicket-taker on their past two visits there.
with JESSE HOGAN