For sheer single-mindedness and determination to achieve given cricketing goals, no post-war Notts player can surely out-class Richard Hadlee. His all-round statistics in 1987 are without parallel in the history of English cricket – at least since 1864. In that momentous summer of 1987, Hadlee topped the first-class bowling table and finished third in the batting – 1,111 runs at 52.90; 97 wickets at 12.64.
Interestingly an essay in 1995 attempts to assess the relative merits of the four greatest all-rounders in the world during the twenty years, 1975 to 1995. The chosen four are Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Botham and Hadlee. After a long and complex argument, the author fails to pronounce which is the winner. They are inseparable.
Of course the author is confining his comments to international matches. In terms of Nottinghamshire first-class cricket, Hadlee’s bowling average is the fourth-best ever in a career of any length. Comparisons between players of different generations are pretty meaningless. One contrasts Bradman with anyone else and no-one doubts he is the greatest batsman who ever lived. On the lower plane of Nottinghamshire statistics, Hadlee stands clear of his nearest rival by almost the same margin.
What is perhaps amazing about his career is the way his batting improved over the years – not quite the Wilfred Rhodes level, but not too far distant.
Hadlee’s early career in county cricket was dogged by injury, so much so that he announced his retirement from county cricket in 1980 – after three seasons. Persuaded to try again, he did return in 1981, almost having re-invented himself. He materially assisted Notts in their great Championship honour that summer. From then on nothing daunted him. No-one can forget the dramatic final weeks of the 1987 season, especially the handful who bothered to go to the second day of the Cup Final at Lord’s.
On the international scene record after record fell to him. New Zealand cricket, which had been an also-ran from its first days as a Test playing entity back in 1929, was transformed. It’s rather embarrassing to recall but they were, until the 1970s, not much above the standard of Zimbabwe (memories are short, by 1970 New Zealand had won seven Tests out of 95; Zimbabwe won eight of their first 75). There’s not room here to detail the New Zealand record in the Richard Hadlee era, but anoraks can soon check it out.
Richard John Hadlee was born in Christchurch, New Zealand on 3 July 1951, the fourth son of the New Zealand Test captain, Walter Hadlee. Richard made his first-class debut for Canterbury in January 1972, making his Test debut the following season, though it was not until 1976 that he had a permanent place in the side. By 1980 he had become the first New Zealand player to complete the Test Double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets. His Notts career spanned 1978 to 1987, but his Test career continued to 1990, by which time he held the Test world record of 431 wickets. He was knighted for his services to cricket during his final Test tour to England.