The one thing that strikes you about fast bowlers apart from pace and their wickets column is the list of injuries.
So first up, a fact.
Shane Bond, frankly speaking, disappoints in neither.
Maybe that’s precisely the biggest low about a seriously gifted cricketer.
As often as he would run into batsmen, Shane Bond would also frequently stay away from the game.
What was he doing?
For someone whose prowess lay on the ground, it might have been endlessly disappointing to be on the surgeon’s table.
Career cut short by injuries
With all the makings of a deadly pacer- a long run-up built on great tempo, lightning pace, and a nicely judged action with the landing foot showing great thrust- Bond should’ve gone a long way. But he didn’t.
Articles have been written extensively on the extent to which Shane Bond would undergo ‘repair work’ to make himself available for selection.
While we don’t talk about it generally, imagine how big a loss might this have been for New Zealand who saw their premier fast bowler miss twice as many games as he played during his career?
But let’s dispense with sadness.
Truth is, a cricketer can make do for missing out a major chunk if his career is mired in longevity.
On the contrary, Shane Bond played the game for only 9 years.
Understandably so, he managed to not even play 100 ODIs, the first big landmark any cricketer with a commitment to serve the country desires.
Yet, what strikes us about Shane Bond is the impact he had in just 82 ODIs.
Promise and pace at debut
Better still, the impact he had in the first-ever opportunity cricket afforded him.
In the opening match of the 2002 VB series, Bond opened the bowling for New Zealand against no easy opponents.
But it was Australia who appeared clueless confronting the new fast bowling machine.
From a full spell of 10, Shane Bond removed Mark Waugh, Ponting, and Bevan, giving away only 53.
Bowling far often too full, but with great speed, he’d beat the outside edge of top-rated batsmen.
Beven and Mark Waugh established by then, Ponting rising in his stature.
That’s not all.
For a newcomer, the dashing pacer bowled a maiden and immediately clocked over 145 kmph.
How often, given the Australians in their prime, did the team total fail to reach 200?
The 176 all-out at the MCG wasn’t due to Chris Cairns or James Franklin.
It was thanks to a man who bowled at bullet pace, but someone one knew little of.
Consistent till the end
But the thing that deserves most attention about Shane Bond is his level of consistency.
He last played an ODI in 2010, interestingly against the same opposition. The only things that changed from 2010 were bowlers who played around him and the captain he played under.
Fleming had moved on, Vettori was the leader.
The sun had set on James Franklin and Chris Cairns with Daryl Tuffey rising.
But what didn’t change was Bond’s immaculate bowl control and the result of his fast bowling. To this day, we haven’t figured if anyone got on top of that deadly in-swinging yorker?
For someone who announced his arrival with a match-winning 3-for, ended his ODI run with a sensational spell 4 for 26 from 9.1 overs.
A backbreaking spell of searing energy had blunted Australia’s charge.
In pursuit of a gettable 242, with Watson going strong, Bond got Haddin early with brute pace, bowling one shorter with the right-hander holding out to square leg.
What followed next was a good quick bumper, Ponting beaten by sheer pace, eclipsing for a first-ball duck.
Frankly, with Australia at 2-27, Shane Bond, in his final appearance, was on a hat-trick.
How many top-ranked fast bowlers of their time have done so at the twilight of their careers?
Yet, from 2002-2010, Shane Bond contested with grit, unsullied by the constant chops and changes New Zealand’s fast bowling department underwent.
While there were Franklin and Tuffey, none seemed the permanent solution.
The very aspect of Kiwi cricket that today gushes at Boult and Southee, a decade before, rested on the abilities of perhaps the most fragile man in the squad.
Stands out among contemporaries
Maybe not so much when you compare Bond to two famous contemporaries of his era- Lee and Shoaib.
Believe it or not, it’s Bond who prevails vis-à-vis two unfailingly admirable fast bowlers, both of whom played far more cricket than the Kiwi.
For nearly a decade starting 2002, the trio was embroiled in a tough fight for the world’s superior fast bowler, doing their bid to drag cricket- a game favoring batsmen- toward the bowlers.
Lee and Akhtar had been stars known for pace and guile, and for putting batsmen to their backfoot.
Yet, it was Shane Bond who neutralized the discussion by becoming the fastest to reach 100 ODI wickets.
While the blond Australian played 221 ODIs, bowling 11,185 balls and took 380 wickets, Shoaib played 163, bowling 7764 balls and capturing 247 wickets.
In reply, Shane Bond’s graph, punctuated with pauses and injury setbacks offers a knockout punch.
While he played just 82 games from which he took 147 scalps, he did so with a better economy and average than Lee and Shoaib.
You wonder how difficult might it have been for match-of the repute of Ponting and Gilchrist, Dravid and Sachin, Sanga and Mahela, Chanderpaul and Gayle, to face a speedster who’d take wickets at an average of 20.8 and an economy of just 4.2?
Lee and Akhtar boast of a nearly identical economy of 4.7.
But is that all?
It’s not that Shane Bond didn’t play Tests. In just 18 of them, he emerged with 87 wickets.
He took 5 fifers and with that 10 for 99, you just got to wonder whether in Shane Bond we had a modern giant whose rise was stunted by frequent absences and whose craft had everything but not legs to go a long-distance?
If you talk merely in terms of pace, then this was the guy who made fast bowling rapturous like Waqar and effective like McGrath, the latter his great opponent.
But Shane Bond’s contributions didn’t end there. For a culture whose first great fast bowler was Sir Richard Hadlee (431 wickets), this Christchurch-express did his part to fuel interest in that aspect of New Zealand cricket where there was hardly any attention as batting and even fielding were the main draws.
So must it not be forgotten that before Williamson attached the gift of elegance to bating and before Boult and Southee made bowling their own, there was a flash of brilliance called Shane Bond, who came, struck and vanished quite like lightning.
Short-lived but effective!
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