Michael Jeh May 16, 2009

Messing with Shaun Tait

Tait can have no complaints about missing out on a contract

It’s clear that Cricket Australia viewed him as a risky proposition and have therefore left him off their contract list. He’s not long returned to the game after battling a bout of depression/anxiety/battle fatigue, call it whatever.

His return from that mental injury did not stop him from breaking down with more physical ones. Unable to sustain his pace for more than a few overs, Australia’s selectors obviously felt they cannot afford the luxury of a fast bowler who can’t bat and is ponderous in the field. Perhaps when Warne, McGrath and Gillespie were in their prime, they could have contemplated a high-risk match winner but those halcyon days are long gone. They now need 11 fit players, each of them operating at full throttle. That’s what happens when you’re back with the rest of the pack. Like the global economy, this is a time for consolidation rather than speculation. Fair enough. Even Tait wouldn't argue with that logic I'm sure.

I can’t help but feel for the poor chap though. Denied the chance to play in the IPL because he was supposedly being rested for national duties, he is then informed that his contract will not be renewed. What exactly was he being saved for?

Surely the selectors must have known their own minds a few weeks ago. What has happened in the last few weeks in the physiotherapy room to suddenly make them realise that he was not going to make the cut? It’s hardly like he’s played a few games of cricket, bowled poorly and cooked his own goose. Has he turned up late for his massage sessions or something? If they honestly felt that he was probably going to miss out on the next contract list, why on earth did they deny him a chance to earn his living in the IPL and find his form again? It would be upto his IPL coach to decide whether to pick him or not.

Tait can have no complaints about missing out on a contract. His stuttering performances in the ODI’s last summer were not those of a player who deserved to play for his country. Anyone who has to be nursed through a ten over stint in four spells is clearly not much use in the modern game. But he is entitled to be aggrieved about a basic lack of transparency when it comes to the selector's long-term intentions. At best, it smacks of poor planning. At worst, it’s just plain unkind.

On his day, at the top of his game (which admittedly has not been all that often!), his unusual action and blistering pace is good for the game. A breath of fresh air for a game that has precious few old-fashioned characters. The game owes him nothing except perhaps a dash of honesty. That’s all he’d ask for I’m sure.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane