The new Adam Gilchrist?
How do you follow in the footsteps of greatness?
Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin is the man charged with filling the gargantuan void left by Adam Gilchrist's retirement. Gilchrist, of course, was not only an accomplished keeper but elegantly savage with the bat. He averaged 47.60 in Test cricket, scoring 17 hundreds and 26 fifties at a phenomenal strike rate of 81.95. When news of his retirement broke Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was rumoured to have telephoned Gilchrist to ask him to reconsider.
As Haddin himself puts it: "Gilchrist changed the perception of the role of the wicketkeeper. You have to be a wicketkeeper/batsman, a genuine all-rounder these days."
A few weeks ago I telephoned legendary Australian keeper Rod Marsh in Adelaide to get his take on the new man with the gloves for the green and gold. Marsh played 96 Tests for the Aussies in a 14-year career between 1970 and 1984 and his 355 Test dismissals was a record that stood until 1998.
Marsh's words were laced with a dry, acerbic wit, often followed by an easy laugh. He was a relaxed interviewee who nonetheless bristled when the subject of sledging was raised and is clearly a man with strong opinions. He has also known Haddin for a number of years.
So just who is Haddin? And more importantly, how good is he?
"I don't think Haddin will destroy or dominate an attack as completely as Gilchrist," Australian great Marsh told me. "But if he gets going there will not be a hell of a lot of difference."
Ominous words - that are reasonably well substantiated by a record of two fifties and one century for Haddin in his 15 Tests with an average of 37.54.
"He was a bit brash but there is nothing wrong with that," added Marsh, who headed up the Academy from 1990 until he took up a similar role with England in 2001. "Brad was full of confidence and loved hitting the ball long."
Marsh is a keen advocate of letting players work things out for themselves, suggesting that good players quickly realise what they need to do to suceed at the highest level. He recalled a match the season after Haddin left the Academy that suggested the young player was coming up with plenty of answers.
It was played at Bowral, the town where Donald Bradman grew up, and saw NSW's second XI take on March's Academy side. Haddin smashed a double century for NSW, including a tally of sixes well into double figures.
"His batting technique is excellent, really superb," enthused Marsh. "I don't think he is that far from doing something really special in Test cricket. I am looking forward to it."
Such was the dominance of Gilchrist - rated by Marsh as the most destructive batsman in the history of the game alongside Sri Lankan Sanath Jayasuriya - that it was a long wait for Haddin in international cricket.
Haddin experienced early representative honours as Australia Under-19 captain and went on to captain his state side when Simon Katich was away on international duty.
His record in state cricket through the middle of this decade was brilliant, averaging more than 50 in four successive seasons. He made his one-day international debut in 2001 and featured regularly for Australia A. Haddin was also a member of the touring party to England in 2005, although his only appearance came as a supersub in a one-day match; plenty of supporting roles but never more than fleeting appearances on the main stage.
Yet Haddin, who is now 31, does not describe it as a frustrating wait for his chance while Gilchrist rewrote the record books.
"A lot of people think it has been a long journey but I do not see it that way," added Haddin.
"If my time never arrived, I could've lived with that, but thankfully Adam retired when he did."
Gilchrist finally called it a day in January 2008 and Haddin's Test debut came in the West Indies several month's later.
It was far from plain sailing as the debutant fractured a finger on his right hand. But having waited so long for his chance he was not prepared to surrender his place and played the remainder of the series with the injury. By the end of the year Haddin was an established member of the team and even skippered the Twenty20 team when several other experienced players were rested.
Marsh describes him as a "very safe" wicketkeeper, and reckons that even if Haddin initially struggles a bit with the gloves in English conditions he will adjust very quickly because he has a good technique. As for Haddin's batting in England, Marsh again believes that the Australian should concentrate on watching the ball closely rather than contemplate altering his essentially back-foot technique.
Haddin himself sounds pretty sanguine about the challenge of English conditions.
"We are in England, testing ourselves in an Ashes series," he said. "Where else would you want to be?"
England keeper Matt Prior is another who Marsh has tutored - so how do the two keepers compare?
"I think you'll find they have two different techniques," said Marsh, before a long and deliberate pause. "I know which one I prefer.
"Brad moves his feet a lot more than Matt. People say that in England you should not move your feet too much to take the ball on the inside, which I believe is the biggest load of poppycock I have ever heard."
Marsh refuses to be drawn on whether Prior would be his England keeper - "I'm not an England selector anymore" - but will say that the current incumbent is not the best technician behind the stumps.
He is more fulsome in his praise when it comes to Prior's application and batting ability.
"Matt can be very explosive - you don't want to give him any width on the off side or he will put you away," added the 61-year-old.
"He is a good player who has worked very hard at his batting and keeping in order to become more consistent."
Neither keeper is afraid of a word or two behind the stumps - although this is an area in which either man will curry favour with March.
"I don't know whether Haddin likes to talk behind the stumps - I hope he doesn't because it is an abject waste of time and energy," said Marsh. "All that mouthing off and saying 'well bowled' when the ball is three feet outside off stump that keepers do - it is ridiculous.
"What you have to do and not give the sucker an even break."
At one time or another Marsh is likely to have coached the vast majority of the players that will contest this summer's Ashes. He reeled off the English names one after another, pausing to ask whether Simon Jones was fit and quietly remarking that it is "a terrible shame" that he isn't. When asked about Harmison, Marsh said: "You never know he might be back."
Years ago Marsh coached a talented and confident but inconsistent player by the name of Ravi Bopara. "He has done very well now, with his three Test hundreds in a row," said Marsh.
Marsh reckons that there is nothing better in cricket than seeing a young player develop and mature - irrespective of their nationality. So does he ever feel slightly paternal towards young men he has coached who have gone on to become established internationals?
"I would not say paternal," concluded Marsh. "I would not like to be the father of some of those people - from either side." A long laugh followed.
Marsh isn't sure how much of the series he will actually see. He will be in Adelaide for most of it and reckons that at his age getting up early to play golf does not sit easily with late nights watching the Ashes on TV.
But he is predicting a very close contest.
"I can't see anyone being runaway winners," he told me before another very long pause. "But then, I have been wrong before."