Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Review: Shane Bond delivers bouncer

Shane Bond was a meteor flashing across New Zealand's cricketing sky.

Fast bowlers of his quality have been few and far between. It's not quite as rare as seeing Halley's Comet every 75-odd years but it's not far away.

You could name them during New Zealand's Test history as being Richard Hadlee, Gary Bartlett, Bond and perhaps Jack Cowie.

Looking Back, Shane Bond with Dylan Cleaver. Published by Hodder Moa

Bond was different in so many ways. He had been a first-class player for several seasons before he acquired the speed that made him such an impact player. He had a career away from cricket, as a policeman, and that training was where he recovered the stability in his fitness that allowed him to prosper for New Zealand.

He broke down regularly as his back failed to last the distance. But when he was on song, he was outstanding.

It's a measure of his quality to see some of the batsmen he regularly dismissed.

In Tests, where he took 87 wickets he had Ramnaresh Sarwan four times, Chris Gayle, Sanath Jayasuriya, Brian Lara and Virender Sehwag three times each.

But ever more impressively among his 147 ODI victims were: Ricky Ponting seven times, Brad Haddin four, Gayle, Adam Gilchrist, Damian Martyn and Sehwag three times each.

That was the beauty of Bond, he got the good batsmen out. Who will forget his effort at Eden Park against the West Indies when they needed 291 to win and were cruising at 157-1 when Bond removed Sarwan to an injury before claiming when he returned but then claiming Lara with the next ball.

He then came back after a minor recovery to end the resistance and take a five-wicket bag for a 27-run win.

It was the same in the summer of 2009-10 in his solitary Test, at Dunedin, against Pakistan when on the final afternoon it seemed the Pakistan side might be stealing a win before Bond and Iain O'Brien produced a stunning display of determination and speed to seal another win by 32 runs.

That was Bond, calm under pressure.

It must have been quite a shock for NZ Cricket chief executive Justin Vaughan to see Bond explode in Vaughan's office when he realised he had been hung out to dry by NZC after he followed the book in seeking approval to play in the Indian Cricket League.

The details of the volte-face by Vaughan are included at the start of Bond's story 'Looking Back' and they are an indictment of the methodology by which cricket operates. NZC has every reason to be grateful that Bond did not take them to court. The consequences would surely have strained the exchequer.

Sadly the ineptitude of the New Zealand administration is a reflection of that which guides the game at international level and which has so far proven unable to come to grips with the many issues now confronting the game.

But Bond, who was treated unfairly by armchair critics hiding behind the anonymity of talkback radio throughout his career, has shown his mettle and fortunately for cricket bears no apparent grudges toward the game. Central Districts' bowlers are going to be the immediate beneficiaries of his skills which will fortunately not be lost to the game.

His story will be a reminder of the fleeting moments of delight he brought to New Zealand's game, a genuine fast bowler, who had a happy knack of knocking over top-quality batsmen but also represented is the changing nature of the relationship between players and administrators, and sadly it is the players who so far appear best to have appreciated the requirements of professionalism.

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