Shaun Tait retires from ODIs as a faded force
Shaun Tait has announced his retirement from the one-day format, and his days as a cricketer, at least as most have come to know the word, are over. His decision to quit at the conclusion of Australia's World Cup campaign, in order to concentrate his energies on the many riches to be had in Twenty20, was far from a surprise. But it will sadden those who found real exhilaration in unbridled pace delivered in bursts of more than four brief overs.
In truth, the 28-year-old Tait has been a T20 bowler for quite some time, never delivering more than four overs in the one spell for Australia or South Australia over the past two seasons. He never retired officially from Test or first-class cricket, though in July last year, he had little hesitation in flatly rejecting Ricky Ponting's hopeful suggestion of an Ashes campaign.
A violent action placed unique strains on Tait's body, and caused him to gradually pare back his cricket from the peak of 2004-05, when he claimed a record 65 wickets in the Sheffield Shield - strike-rate an eye-popping 36.10 - to win an Ashes tour berth. Those days - which retiring South Australian wicketkeeper Graham Manou described glowingly when he departed the game earlier this month - have now receded well into the distance, replaced by only fleeting glimpses of the sustained speed Tait was once capable of delivering.
"This is not a decision I have taken lightly but I believe it is one that will help me to prolong my cricketing career through the many Twenty20 avenues available," Tait said. "In reality, playing all year round for Australia and South Australia is not allowing my body to stand up as I would like and I do not want to be forced into retirement through career-ending injuries.
"Twenty20 cricket allows me to manage my body to a level where I feel I can continue to contribute to the game for some time yet. My goal was to hopefully help Australia retain the ICC Cricket World Cup. However, with our involvement now finished I feel it is the perfect time to move on in a new direction."
There was no little nostalgia in Tait's retirement statement, although his tale has always been somewhat bittersweet. He endured a hellish Test match against India in Perth in January 2008. Picked despite injuries that worsened as the match wore on, Tait spiralled into a state of exhaustion, depression and utter distaste for cricket, and subsequently took nine months out from the game. He returned as a warier figure, but he was able to enjoy the high of World Cup victory in 2007 amid a general pattern of injuries and rehab sessions.
His decision to abandon the longer forms of the game allowed Tait some more space, something he needed as a man who was not always devoted to cricket - not unlike the great West Indian Curtly Ambrose.
"I've never been one of those blokes who loves cricket flat out," Tait said in a 2010 interview. "I like playing the game and I enjoy it, but I'm not a cricket fanatic and I haven't always found it as enjoyable as I probably could have, and that's probably pretty obvious.
"I don't always get up and feel like that [I'm looking forward to playing today], but the majority of the time this season I have, so it's been a plus. There was a time a couple of years ago when I didn't want to leave the house and go onto the cricket field, but it's been quite good this year . If I keep a positive mindset that's always going to help physically as well if I'm not so tense and it's going to help with my results and help the team, so it's all good."
The Indian Premier League, the Champions League and the expanded Big Bash are where Tait's future lies, and his retirement from Redbacks duty will make him a notable free agent for all eight teams to pursue for next summer.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor with ESPNcricinfo