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Shane Bond

The lionheart who never held back

Shane Bond was never going to compromise on his greatest strength, pace, despite everything thrown at him

David Leggat

December 24, 2009

Comments: 24 | Text size: A | A

Shane Bond started well in his first Test after returning to the official fold, New Zealand v Pakistan, 1st Test, Dunedin, 3rd day, November 26, 2009
His retirement from Tests was no surprise in one sense. Yet in another way it was © Getty Images

If you want a moment that tells all you need to know about Shane Bond, Test bowler, think back a few weeks to his return to the long game.

Gone from the New Zealand team for two years, courtesy an abdominal injury that ultimately did for him this week as a Test player, and his signing with the Indian Cricket League, Bond returned for the opening Test against Pakistan in Dunedin. On the third afternoon, Pakistan were moving along comfortably enough at 74 for 2. Then Bond came back for his second spell, and, as so often the case, he changed the shape of the match.

Mohammad Yousuf struck a delivery back low and hard. Bond, with an athleticism that so often belied his wretched medical history, stretched down in his follow-through to clutch, two-handed, a marvellous catch.

Inspired, he swiftly removed two more wickets in 10 balls. Spectators leaned forward in their seats. Suddenly the contest had a distinctive edge to it. Bond, at up around 150kph, was back, and wasn't New Zealand's bowling attack so much better for it.

His retirement from Tests was no surprise in one sense. Yet in another way it was.

Nature did not treat him kindly. His body was subject to the inordinate stresses known to all genuinely fast bowlers. Some handle it better than others for all sorts of reasons. Bond was not lucky in that sense. And yet, having worked his socks off to get back where he wanted to be after his two-year absence, he seemed to have ticked the boxes off. He strove desperately hard, did everything he had been advised to in physical terms. Having discovered during his two years away how much he missed international cricket, he was determined to go the whole hog - rather like his philosophy with the ball in hand.

The early signs for his provincial team, Canterbury, were encouraging. However that was one-day cricket. Could his body cope with the expectation of 20 overs a day? Dunedin provided the answer. He bowled 48.5 overs, took a Man-of-the-Match-winning 8 for 153, doing more than most to push New Zealand to a thrilling win on a sunlit final afternoon.

The naysayers who doubted the wisdom of Bond's return to the five-day game, and whether he could regain his pace of yore, were put in their place. Yet in the wake of his Test retirement the numpties of radioland were out slagging him off for being soft, and sneering that he'd still play ODIs and Twenty20 cricket and probably head to the IPL. That ignores the fact that hammering through 20-plus overs a Test is rather more stressful than the 10 or four of the shorter games.

New Zealand will miss the sharp point Bond provided to the Test attack. There is a similarity among New Zealand's other fast-medium men, such as Kyle Mills, Chris Martin, Tim Southee and the just-retired Iain O'Brien - all hard workers with moments of inspiration. Bond added genuine hostility. Those bowling at the other end would benefit from his presence.

Nature did not treat him kindly. His body was subject to the inordinate stresses known to all genuinely fast bowlers. Some handle it better than others for all sorts of reasons. Bond was not lucky in that sense

There was the argument that he should dial back his pace to protect a back held together by titanium screws and wire. But that goes against every part of Bond's personality. Against Pakistan he reminded us that every delivery was, to use the term, an "effort" ball. There were no half measures. Bond doesn't get the point of that. For him, bowling fast - shedding a few runs if need be - was his job, and he loved it. He has said that, given a choice between having a lengthier career doing a stock standard job, several kilometres an hour slower, and being himself, was no choice.

Bond the person is an open book in the sense that what you see is what you get. He is ramrod-straight, there is nothing prima donna-ish about him. He answers his phone when journalists call, rather than let it run to a message that can be ignored; he talks as he bowls: direct, to the point. No grey areas. No smart-alec answers, no ducking curly questions. In short, he's a sportswriter's dream.

One story gives a clue to the character of the man.

On the morning he received the grim news that the Dunedin injury was worse than feared, and the dark voices began telling him his Test days were up, he was due to meet a journalist in the team's Wellington hotel foyer. The reporter noticed when he walked in that Bond seemed not himself. ''Give me five minutes,'' was the gist of the greeting.

Doing the interview was probably the last thing he fancied, given what was rattling round in his head. Instead, he fulfilled the obligation made the day before, with grace and goodwill. Lesser men would have waved it off, or at least postponed it.

A lesser man might also have taken the easy path out of his ICL deal when things were getting tasty between the rival Twenty20 operations and he was being leaned on. But Bond had given his word; that was that.

He is not afraid to have a chuckle at his own expense. Asked how he thought he would be remembered in Test terms, he laughed: ''As someone who was injured a lot.''

Of his 18 Tests, New Zealand won 10; from his first Test to his last, New Zealand played 66 tests. Was he sorely missed? You bet. Bond fell short of 100 Test wickets. He didn't play a Test at Lord's. There will be disappointments.

The good news? He's still around for the shorter games. He's relished butting heads with Australia. Five ODIs are beckoning. His record against them in that form is remarkable: 35 wickets in 12 games at 14.45 apiece.

The Dunedin Test turned out to be a teaser, as if to show what the New Zealand public had been deprived of for so much of his career.

Those who bag him miss the point. He didn't need to come back to Test cricket; he wanted to. Softy? More a lionheart.

David Leggat is chief cricket writer and chief sports reporter of the New Zealand Herald

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Sidhanta-Patnaik on (December 29, 2009, 17:30 GMT)

Bond is the best! He is a treat to watch for anyone who still is in the mould of classic Cricket. He is as pure as H2O.

Posted by afs_talyarkhan on (December 26, 2009, 20:27 GMT)

bondy was someone who made you want to get up in the morning and watch or listen to cricket - 'nuff said!

Posted by phyvik on (December 26, 2009, 3:15 GMT)

Its truly sad and unfortunate how things unfolded for such a talented bowler. Really anted to see some of Bond-Sachin and Bond-Ponting battle in the test matches.

Posted by swervin on (December 25, 2009, 21:14 GMT)

surprised to read he only played 18 tests - a great bowler and a great shame he's retiring - and i'm not even a kiwi!

Posted by TariqHaque on (December 25, 2009, 19:38 GMT)

He reminds me a LOT of a fast bowler we had in Pakistan, Muhammad Zahid... so much potential and so much more bad luck. Truly, Bond was one of the few whom numbers never can do justice. A truly remarkable and intelligent bowler who shone whenever he played.... Truly New Zealand's best in recent years.

Posted by vjven on (December 25, 2009, 18:05 GMT)

Even as an Indian supporter, what a sad, sad day it was when he decided to retire. I would rather 5 top batsmen retire than this excellent bowler. Perhaps it is an effect of the game being loaded more and more in favor of the batsman (shorter grounds, flat pitches) that we yearn for great fast bowlers. Bond was one of those last few hopes, and it is unfortunate for both New Zealand and the rest of the cricket world that he is lost to test cricket.

Posted by fnky on (December 25, 2009, 16:20 GMT)

It is truly a great loss to world cricket that followers of the game were not able to see him more often. In my mind, Shane Bond is one of the best fast bowlers of the modern era. There is no point comparing him to other great pacemen from Australia, West Indies, South Africa and Pakistan. They all had great traits too. Shane Bond gave it all on the cricket field, and let his bowling do the talking rather than resorting to crude and disgraceful theatrics to intimidate batsmen and umpires (unlike a lot of the other "great" fast bowlers). As an Indian, one game immediately springs to mind. This was the one-day semi-final game at the WC in SA in 2003. NZ was protecting a really small total (around 145), and India were supposed to easily win. Of course, Bond did not think so :) In his short spell, he was a terror. The in-swinging yorker to bowl Ganguly was just awesome and will always remain in my memory. We will miss you, Mr. BOND!!

Posted by Salutethebond on (December 25, 2009, 16:06 GMT)

Right since the day he made his debut against Australia at Melbourne in 2002 I've always been fascinated to watch him bowl. And every single time he set out to unleash himself on the cricket field, he captured the imagination of thousands of spectators all over the world more often than not leaving them in awe of his spectacular performances. The game of cricket has not been privileged enough to get a full taste of his fantastic talent. No sportsman ever had to endure anything like what he has and then make a special comeback with a literally artificial spinal cord. His career had everything from Hostility to Inspiration. I've been his biggest admirer from the day he started his career. Yes, if some people remember the phrase " Awtite ppl... The Bond's back " you would sure know me. Salute the Bond because a "Lionheart" sure he was.

Posted by insightfulcricketer on (December 25, 2009, 15:05 GMT)

Watching an out-and-out fast bowler bowl brings that edge of the seat thrill even if your team is on the receiving end. I remember that 2003 World Cup Super Six game between India and NZ. As long as Bond was bowling Indian win was not gauranteed. I fully agree that Bond brought the full heartedness of an express bowler and I watched his spell in ICL when the crowd was buzzing during Bond's spell. Bond was touching 150's regularly then. This is for hoping Bond is at full tilt during the 20/20 World Cup in WI next spring. No spectacle is better than that.

Posted by zak123kaif on (December 25, 2009, 12:17 GMT)

Its really sad that Bond retired without 100 test wickets.But he was in the same league which consisted of Mcgrath,Wasim,Ambrose,and Donald.An average of 22 per wicket on today's flat wickets says it all.However its a great news that he will play both in ODI's and 20-20 and there we could see this speedstar once again.Also love to see him in the IPL.

Posted by 20metres on (December 25, 2009, 10:38 GMT)

It's heartbreaking to see a man with so much to give cricket, give just 18 Tests. It's doubly so to realise that this one-in-a-generation bowler could have transformed NZ cricket. With more time on the playing field, his success would have seen many kids in NZ wanting to "just bowl fast": some of them would have gone on to play for their country, still just bowling fast. I'm an Aussie who is proud of the likes of McGrath and Gilchrist, but NZ should be proud of one of their finest ever.

Posted by nomro on (December 25, 2009, 10:05 GMT)

I vividly remember when I saw him bowl for the first time in International Cricket and my reaction was ' Wow what a beautiful action! I have simply loved his action and did miss him during his 2 year absence from International arena.

It's really really unfortunate that he kept getting injured a bit too often as he is a genuine talent and his retirement from Test cricket makes me sad.

The positive is that he'll be around for ODIs and T20.

May God be kind enough to let him prolong his International career as he is simply a delight to watch.

Posted by Zackstar on (December 25, 2009, 8:50 GMT)

Shane Bond belonged to that select band of fast bowlers who brought many to the game simply to watch them bowl.

Posted by SoftwareStar on (December 25, 2009, 5:57 GMT)

he was a joy to watch.. barring Hadlee and Crowe of yester years.. he was the most exciting NZ cricketeer to watch. i.e. he was one who would make you watch NZ cricket till his spell was over.. otherwise, any other player, we would quickly flip channels..

Posted by MaheshSPanicker on (December 25, 2009, 5:42 GMT)

Shane Bond is a would have been great pacers the world has ever seen. it is so very sad that he is not going to be there to provide great moments at the highest level where the game is played. 87 wickets in his 18 test matchs, that too as part of a bowling attack that had only another bowler of real world class quality, and even that person being a spinner. even at the ODI level, Bond has given moments toremember, like his destruction of the Australian top order in the 03 world cup, or that terrific spel that had even Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar being made to look like school boys. since he will be sadly missed at the test level, lets hope he will provide a sense of what are missing by performing like only he can at the limited over games.

Posted by Maui3 on (December 25, 2009, 4:48 GMT)

What is phenomenal about bond is their strike rate and bowling average for a bowler with such a start-stop career. It takes fast bowlers a lot of time to settle into a rhythm and be effective (like McGrath return from his injury).

It seems like every decade we come across a bowlers who could have potentially become a legend, but is brought down by injuries. Bond in 2000's, Ian Bishop in 90s, Bruce Ried in 80s and Jeff Thomson in 70s (even with his 200 wickets and one increbile ashes against England Thommo doesn't quite stack up as a legend).

On the other hand, we also run into bowlers who have adapted arround thier injuries or age and compensated for their lack of pace with improved craftiness (Lillie, McGrath, Akram and Holding) and make us wonder if Bond and company sold themselves short.

Posted by NZhard on (December 25, 2009, 4:38 GMT)

Just added another edge to an otherwise "toiling" NZ attack. Will forever remember him for having the wood over the all dominant Aussies. One 154k yorker to knock over Adam Gilchrest's castle will always resonate.

Posted by _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on (December 25, 2009, 3:55 GMT)

A big blow for test cricket ! This last decade has shown an unfair shift in the favor of batsmen and he is one of the very few bowlers who at times rose above those challenges. Had he played more, he would have been one of the all time greats. Sad to say but I, along with many had seen this premature retirement coming. I winced and crossed my fingers with every diving and comitted effort he made in the field...and even when Vettori gave him a bear hug at the end of the game, you felt that 1 more injury would have ended his test career. Hopefully he can regain enough fitness to cont. playing the shorter version of the game. Let's hope even for his sake alone..ICC ensures more sporting pitches are prepared for this fantastic bowler.

Posted by CardinalBlitz on (December 25, 2009, 3:13 GMT)

He has most definitely been a revelation for world and NZ cricket. I do reckon if he had played 25 tests, he would easily have over 100 wickets in Test cricket. He gives so much effort - but unfortunately that was his downfall. To stand out from our current stock of 135kph pacemen he had to do something, and it didn't end well. No-one in the game has the accuracy and pace that Bond has had in the 2000s, with Dale Steyn being the other that'll come close.

I think his domestic success with Canterbury in ODIs shows he's going to be fine in the shorter form, and every IPL team has to be licking their chops at the sight of having Bond on their roster - hopefully he gets a similar amount to what Mortaza got earlier this year.

Posted by nskaile on (December 24, 2009, 20:24 GMT)

One Of the BEST bowler i ever seen in Cricket. Yes there was greats like Wasim, Waqar, Mcgrath, Donald BUT BOND WAS SOMETHING ELS! NZ was never a team which you will fear when u play against But whenever they had Bond with them, they were a totally diff unit all togather. Bond is kind player which brings the crowd in to the game. There are, were and will be many great bowlers, but there will never be a another Bond!

Posted by andygandhi on (December 24, 2009, 14:01 GMT)

The name is bond - Shane bond, in this decade he is the only bowler who is gifted with lively pace and accuracy, brett lee and shoaib akhtar are not in his league, it's sad that he will no longer play test cricket but he is still around in one dayers and t20. This man was one of the reason steve waugh had to retire from one dayers, anyone who has seen one day series in 2001-02, would remember. This was the debut series of him and he was amazing. It would be treat to watch him, we all were disappointed when he joined ICL but that was his personal decision which needs to be respected.

Posted by NZfan08 on (December 24, 2009, 12:59 GMT)

Had he been able to play for a longer period of time, he'd have become one of the highest wicket-takers in the game. It's a pleasure to watch him bowl whether you are a kiwi supporter or not. His retirement from test cricket is a huge loss for the game. I just hope he will be fit to play in the blackcaps outfit in the shorter version for a good period.

Posted by goughyz on (December 24, 2009, 11:20 GMT)

Couldn't agree with you more. Shane Bond added the 'fear' element that New Zealand cricket have been so short of over the years. As a huge fan of NZ cricket, when you saw Bond steaming in, you thought you had a chance to win the game, regardless of the current situation. Now - New Zealand is back to their 'trundlers, guys that steam in and bowl 132km hour (down wind). Let's hope Bondy still has a few years left in the shorter version of the game.

Posted by becham100 on (December 24, 2009, 8:59 GMT)

Totally agree with you here. It's really a shame that a bowler like him didn't get to play as long as he should have. Luck really does play a big part in a person's life.

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