Shane Bond - Strength brings speed, and enjoyment

Understanding the sheer enjoyment Shane Bond gets from bowling fast is not hard.

Every ball he bowls is one step further removed from a legacy of frustration and pain that hampered the formative years of his cricket career.

The 27-year-old now rated the third fastest bowler playing the game, and possessing the least controversial action among the world's quicks, was entitled to wonder, between the ages of 18 and 21, whether he would ever realise his potential.

He says now he wasn't fit enough or strong enough, with the complicating factor that he was still growing, to take the strain he was putting on his body at that age.

As a consequence the fast bowlers' curse, stress fractures in the back, struck and it all became a struggle.

But recovery began as he came under the influence of Denis Aberhart, when he was coach of the Canterbury team, and also Dayle Hadlee when Bond was part of the 1997 New Zealand Cricket Academy intake.

His bowling style had been "pretty wild" by his own terms, and while they didn't provide the definitive answer, they set him thinking about his arms, wrists and hands, and what they could be doing, and what direction they could be working in, to refine his technique.

There was talent, but no sign of the speed factor that has shot him to world-wide fame, when he was first selected for Canterbury in the summer of 1996/97. That would come later, and when it did, he didn't even appreciate just how fast he was bowling.

He took five wickets for 59 runs against Auckland in his first summer, and any wicket against the Queen City boys is welcomed by a Cantabrian. It was part of a 21-wicket season haul at 25.23. A useful start by New Zealand standards.

The next year his appearances were confined to the newly-introduced Conference system where the best 36 cricketers in the country were drafted into three sides for an early season competition aimed at reducing the gap in standard between Test and first-class play.

Four games followed in the 1998/99 season and then he went to Furness in the North Lancashire League where he picked up 118 wickets.

But any thought of putting that experience to use was put on hold as he entered New Zealand's Police Training College in Porirua, near Wellington, necessitating full concentration on his studies.

Yet it was that time, and achieving a degree of physical fitness required as part of the training process, that was to stand him in even better stead when the time came to try himself out in cricket in the summer of 2000/01. As so often happens as players reach a plateau in their lives, for whatever reason, Bond found he was able to relax.

He had his fitness from his police work, he had his enthusiasm and he had his enjoyment.

"I knew I had a job to go back to after cricket. I was relaxed. So I just said to myself I would try and bowl faster," he said.

Now standing 1.88m and weighing around 90 kilos, Bond was also much more comfortable with himself.

It was in his second appearance of the summer, at the unfashionable Canterbury No 2 ground at the Village Green, at Queen Elizabeth II Park, that the metamorphosis was first obvious.

He took only one for 78 in an innings against Auckland but the Canterbury coach of the time, Gary Macdonald, pointed out to Bond that he was bowling as quick, if not quicker, than anyone else around New Zealand at the time.

"I wasn't in my best condition and was still underdone but I did think that if I put in the work I could do better."
Seven games for Canterbury resulted in 19 wickets and the word went around the traps pretty quickly that Bond was bowling with real pace and, if he could hold together, he could be worth looking at.

Such was the fall-out rate of bowlers in New Zealand at the time, that opportunities for those fit and ready to take them, tended to come along sooner rather than later.

So it was with Bond. New Zealand were due to make a second visit to India's Buchi Babu pre-season tournament with a New Zealand A side. Scott Styris was forced to drop out with injury and Bond was elevated into the side, leap-frogging others in the queue.

Any criticism of his choice was quickly forgotten in an outstanding match against the Indian Railways, a semi-final New Zealand needed to win, but were only able to leave them a target of 169 to achieve that win.

Bond rattled the Indians with some short-pitched bowling and ended with seven for 45, as New Zealand won by 23 runs. It was a performance to note, especially achieved in unfriendly conditions. The rumours that had done the rounds had been verified, Bond was bowling very quickly.

Tempting as it may have been to include him in the side to tour Australia, the selectors decided to put their faith in their tried players. So much had been put into getting Dion Nash, Chris Cairns and Shayne O'Connor back to full fitness that they had to be tried first.

As it was, O'Connor and Nash both succumbed to injury again and Bond was given the call-up.

There was no gee-whiz, wow factor in being selected. He was chosen to do a job, he believed he was capable, and he was given a reminder by Cairns before his first Test, at Hobart where New Zealand was playing the second match of the series after coming very close to stealing the drawn first Test from under the noses of the Australians, that being a Test player wasn't enough, being a good Test player was what it was all about.

It was a rain-affected draw, but it did provide Bond with his maiden Test wicket, Steve Waugh memorably worked over by the rookie, who was unfazed by the 223-run opening stand Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer had managed, before trapping him leg before wicket.

What his experiences in that environment did show him very quickly was that he could compete. Picking up Waugh, Hayden and Langer in the second and third Tests was evidence that he could get good batsmen out.

He came home to prove too fast for the Bangladeshis and returned to Australia for the VB Series, the finishing school that gave his career its lustre.

"I knew it wasn't going to get any harsher than performing there and against them. If I could have success there, and if I improved, I could do it. The one-day series gave me huge belief in myself. It was good to see guys, who I had watched in action on television, making mistakes that anyone could make."

Bond believes most of the battle in the international game is in the head. There were players in New Zealand who were capable of succeeding at the top level but their success depended on their mental approach.

Greater involvement with New Zealand has also resulted in more contact with NZC's bio-mechanics expert Ashley Ross and there was a chance to work on different ways of using his fingers and wrists on the ball without changing the dynamics of his action.

Doors opened as a result of his success, and he especially valued the month he spent at Warwickshire last year while Shaun Pollock was required for South Africa. To rub shoulders with coach Bob Woolmer was especially satisfying.

"He was so good technically, and he had no problems with passing the information on. I bowled five overs in my first game there and he had some suggestions about things that I could do. Dougie Brown was also good in talking with me. It was great to pick their brains. There is not the depth of experience in New Zealand to do that. And Bond believes there is still plenty for him to learn.

"I enjoyed the whole set-up at Warwickshire, the English grounds and the players you face.

"I did want to go back for a season so that I can work on my bowling and not have to be in a situation here where you only get to try things out in the middle," he said.

Managing his bowling, working on variations, even batting day in and out has its appeal. Being on tour meant that it was the specialist batsmen who got most time in the nets and players like Bond, who rate their ability to hold a bat, tend not to get the chance to develop that part of their game.

He harbours the desire to score a Test match 50 or two, and to be a nuisance in the lower-order. He takes the view that if Australia's Andy Bichel can do it, why can't he?

Developing a bouncer was another thing on the agenda. Constantly niggled at by New Zealand team-mate Mark Richardson for not bowling enough bouncers, Bond agrees the opener, who tends to be on the receiving end often enough, is probably right. An effective slower ball is another option to work on.

Since making the international scene Bond appreciates that the fates have been kind to him. He knows he hasn't had a really bad patch yet but believes that if he can attain the high standards he sets himself he can achieve his goals.

It's more about team than self too, because he says he's happiest when the team has done well.

"It is always nice to create a bit of history, and we have a couple of chances of doing that over the next year or so."

Sri Lanka looms first, the county season, then India. That offers its own test. Bond has had problems dealing with the heat in the past, he tends to suffer problems with keeping his head cool.

"The humidity is the toughest and that is why Sri Lanka will be a test. Hopefully the more cricket I play in those conditions the better it will get. I do make sure I am properly hydrated the night before games, and plenty of wet towels are available during the day. When I bowl, I don't wear a hat between overs, just to keep my head as cool as I can.

"It will be good to go to India with a season behind me in England then we play Pakistan and South Africa at home. They are a couple of teams I haven't played before so hopefully I will be able to manage myself to get through it all."

Interestingly, during the last summer, former New Zealand captain and now television commentator Martin Crowe landed in hot water when discussing the role of Maori in New Zealand cricket, after the success of Daryl Tuffey during the Indian series. He was praising Tuffey's success and pointing out that Maori had not been a significant factor in the game because it was not a sport they tended to play. The reasons offered for that were what got Crowe off-side resulting in a public apology for his comments.

But what Crowe may not have realised, and many in New Zealand still don't appreciate, is that Bond also has Maori in his lineage, to the extent of around 25%. So the opening attack of Bond and Tuffey represented a genuine first for New Zealand, an attack representing the modern face of New Zealand society.

Bond has struggled at times to win a place in Maori selections and admitted to being disappointed not to be considered for the New Zealand Maori side which played and won the inaugural Pacifica Cup tournament played in Auckland in 2000/01.

Whatever happens, Bond has made his mark in meteoric fashion. He has been a welcome competitor who has given an edge it has not often had in its attack, a genuinely attacking fast bowler.

Chances are that his exposure to more cricket around the world will allow him to develop his skills further and, with the determination to manage himself effectively, the Bond influence could be significant in New Zealand's medium-term future.

FOOTNOTE: For his exploits in the West Indies where he took five wicket bags in both Tests, and against India where he took 12 wickets in the two-Test series (both series being won by New Zealand) and for his World Cup efforts in which he took 17 wickets, including a New Zealand record six for 23, against Australia, Bond was named The National Bank New Zealand Player of the Year. He also picked up the Winsor Cup which is awarded to the best first-class bowler of the year and the Walter Hadlee Trophy for One-Day International bowling.

Shane Bond's career in statistics up to end of 2002/03 season