Richard Hadlee is unquestionably the greatest cricketer to represent New Zealand and one of the finest all-rounders ever to have played Test cricket. His bowling action was technically near-perfect enabling him to combine swing and seam with phenomenal accuracy while, on its day, his aggressive lower-middle order batting was capable of destroying bowling attacks. Hadlee was the first bowler to reach 400 Test wickets and finished his career with 431 wickets (at the time a world record); you can see him in action here.
Incredibly determined and single-minded, he was almost solely responsible for helping New Zealand to a series of landmark Test victories during his career and was awarded an MBE for his services to New Zealand sport in 1981 and received a Knighthood in 1990 for services to cricket.
Sir Richard Hadlee is particularly remembered as he became the first player to bag 400 Test wickets. This all rounder from New Zealand was recognized as a great all rounder of the 1980s. He could extract movement, bounce and pace from surfaces that were least responsive and make playing uncomfortable for the best batsman of the era.
Hadlee played his first Test against Pakistan from 2 to 5 February 1973 at Wellington. He played in overall 86 matches and bowled 21918 deliveries and while conceding 9611 runs bagged 431 wickets. His strike rate was 50.8, economy rate was 2.63 while average was 22.29. His best bowling performance in an innings has been 9 wickets for 52 runs and in a match has been 15 wickets for 123 runs. He has been a success with the bat also and has scored 3124 runs inclusive of 2 hundreds and 15 fifties at an average of 27.16. All the Tests combined he has hit 33 sixes and taken 39 catches. His last Test match was against England from 5 to 10 July 1990 at Birmingham.
Hadlee has appeared in 115 One day Internationals in which he has scored 1751 runs at an average of 21.61 including 4 half centuries and a top score of 79. He bowled 6182 balls, gave away 3407 runs and took 158 wickets. His average has been 21.56, economy rate 3.30 and strike rate has been 39.1.
The Battle of the All-Rounders
While Sir Garfield Sobers is widely acclaimed as the greatest all-rounder to have graced the game, the 1980’s were spoilt for all-round talent with Hadlee, Botham, Kapil Dev and Imran Khan producing astounding displays for their respective countries.
The question of who was the best of the four is often a source of great debate – statistics, match-winning performances, charisma, strength of the teams they played for etc… all come into account and a definitive case can be put forward for all of them but, without doubt, the fierce rivalry between them pushed them to greater feats in an attempt to outplay each other.
Hadlee’s bowling statistics put him ahead of his rivals in that department but his batting does not compare to Botham’s or Imran’s – however it should remembered that Hadlee played all his career in a side that without him would have, arguably, won nothing….
Sir Richard was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, June 16th 1990, five days before his penultimate Test match – however he did not have it conferred until a few months after his retirement.
He has since spent time in the commentary box and is still heavily involved in New Zealand cricket as selection manager of the national side’s selection panel and has been involved as a bowling coach.
He also runs his own business, is involved in after-dinner and motivational speaking, acts as an Ambassador for the Bank of New Zealand and supports various charities including The Sir Richard Hadlee Sports Trust.