Nathan Wade Bracken
September 12, 1977, Penrith, New South Wales
Bracks, Andy G
Right hand Bat
Left arm Fast medium
Faulconbridge Primary; Springwood High School
The search for a Test-class left-armer, a universal pursuit, led Australia to Nathan Bracken five times between 2003 and 2005, but it was as a one-day player that he was at his best. After an accomplished career as a tight and testing white-ball operator, he suffered a series of serious knee injuries and, despite coming back for New South Wales, was cut from Australia's contract list in April. He vowed to continue fighting.
Tall and slim, Bracken moves the ball both ways in the air and off the seam and fitted easily into Australia's rampant one-day squad in 2000-01. He was also instrumental in resuscitating New South Wales' fortunes, including a first-innings 6 for 27 in their 2004-05 final win over Queensland and 7 for 4 earlier that season when South Australia fell for 29. A shoulder injury cut short his maiden Ashes tour in 2001 after two matches, but following a spell on the sidelines he returned to the national set-up during the 2003 World Cup, when Jason Gillespie dropped out with a heel injury.
His Test debut finally came in 2003-04, but in three outings against the powerful Indian batting line-up he failed to make real inroads. In 2004 he was omitted from Cricket Australia's list of contracted players, but returned to the ODI scene for the 2005 Super Series and became a regular in green and gold. Work in the nets refining his swing was rewarded with two Tests in 2005-06 and he also added another string by delivering across the seam when he wanted to defend.
The versatility and control led to 46 ODI wickets for 2006, the second most in the world, and at times during the 2006 Champions Trophy he opened the attack, dropping Glenn McGrath to first change. In 17 matches between the South Africa tour and the end of the CB Series he picked up at least a wicket in each game and he missed only one match at the World Cup, capturing 16 victims in his second campaign.
His steady rise peaked after the 2008 West Indies tour when he became the No. 1-ranked one-day bowler, his 34 wickets in the previous home contest boosting his ratings. The West Indies series was also an important step following what could have been a career-ending knee injury. He required surgery and when the doctor scraped away the cartilage it was like "old paint peeling off a wall".
In 2008-09 Australia raided the fast-bowling cupboards without calling on Bracken to assist in the five-day team's revival, a course of events reported in detail most Sundays by a Sydney tabloid. The rest of the country wasn't in shock, knowing Bracken's strengths lie in containing rampant limited-overs batsmen with his clever variations of pace and length. Bracken's mother-in-law occasionally predicts his performances, but guessing how long he will continue to play is difficult, especially if the next generation of quicks continue their rapid development.
Cricinfo staff August 2010
Batting & Fielding