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, having almost 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. He was also the first player to complete the double of scoring 1,000 runs and taking 100 wickets in ODI history.
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.
Since the reduction in First-Class games in 1969, only two players have achieved the all-rounder’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets...in 1984 Hadlee scored 1,179 runs and took 117 wickets. The second, just four seasons later was another great Notts import, Franklyn Stephenson.
In an online poll during the 2020 Coronavirus 'lockdown', Sir Richard was voted the greatest all-time Notts cricketer by supporters, ahead of such luminaries as Derek Randall, Clive Rice and Chris Read. His honours in the game are legion but include: New Zealand Cricket Almanack Player of the Year: 1979, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987; Professional Cricketers' Association Player of the Year: 1981, 1984, 1987; Wisden Cricketer of the Year: 1982; The Cricket Society Wetherall Award for the Leading All-Rounder in English First-Class Cricket: 1982, 1984, 1986, 1987; Indian Cricket Cricketer of the Year: 1989.
In December 2002, he was chosen by Wisden as the second greatest Test bowler of all time. In March 2009, Hadlee was commemorated as one of the Twelve Local Heroes, and a bronze bust of him was unveiled outside the Christchurch Arts Centre.
On 3 April 2009, Sir Richard Hadlee was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame; he has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Letters from the University of Nottingham, and is a former chairman of the New Zealand board of selectors.
Nottinghamshire First-Class Number: 479