The retirement of Graeme Smith came as a shock this morning however on reflection I really can not think of a better time for him to take this step: he has been captain for 11 years, has lead South Africa to the top of the test match world and his form is starting to wane. He is going before his form has become an embarrassment and his place in the team questioned. Put differently he has gone his own terms.
The Smith retirement has gotten me thinking about who else might retire after this series and the name that kept coming into my head was that of Brad Haddin.
I am not saying that Brad Haddin should not be in the Australian team. For mine he should be in this team for as long as he wants. And that is my point: he has earned the right to pick when he retires.
Right now seems to me to be the perfect time though to exercise that right for the following reasons:
1. There can be no bigger high than destroying the English in the Ashes and then coming to South Africa, and one assumes, and winning the against the best in the world.
2. He is at the peak of his powers with the gloves whilst in this series we have seen a slight drop in his batting form.
3. Australia’s program of cricket sees them not playing test match cricket again until September of this year (if the future torus program stands up) which is a long time between top flight games.
4. There is no position in Australian cricket that has more depth than wicket keeper: Messrs Paine, Wade and Hartley could all step into Haddin’s shoes.
5. Unlike the Ashes, no one expects it, Haddin retiring, to happen here.
No decision has obviously been made and Haddin was overt in stating he was not retiring any time soon after the Ashes. That said: the “perfect storm” I refer to above makes me wonder if it has at least gone through his mind.
The next obvious moment that might lead to retirement thoughts for Haddin is the World Cup in 2015 in Australia. I remember though the torturous final games of the Ian Healy era behind the stumps when his batting and keeping both deserted him and I hope that his current dip of form with the willow is not a guide for things to come.
The first thing I will be doing in the morning, if the test match is still going, will be to check whether an announcement has been made, like the Smith announcement this morning. I am equally parts hopeful, because Haddin deserves to go out at the very top, and fearful, because I love the way Haddin plays the game, that I will wake to read such an announcement.