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Shaun Tait's career: Nasty, brutish and short

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Shaun_Tait_Australia_CricketThe third T20 between India and Australia at Sydney, on January 31, 2016 was a run-fest. India finally won what was clearly a bat-dominated contest. Sydney lit up with fireworks from Shane Watson’s 124. This knock was bettered, impact-wise, by Kohli’s fifty.

The bowlers? They were pummeled. Nehra, Bumrah, Boland, Watson all went for runs.

But one particular bowler wasn’t too happy.

His figures were as poor as the Zimbabwean economy. 4 overs, 46 runs. 4 wides. And this in a T20! Shaun Tait had played his last international T20 for Australia, a team he represented from the onset of 2005 with very few appearances, up until he hung up his boots.

The many difficulties of being Shaun Tait

Akin to being haunted by a ghost, Shaun Tait was haunted by injuries. So much so that even after reducing himself to playing merely the shortest formats, he could hardly fit in. The truncated appearances for Big Bash league and erstwhile IPL outfit, Rajasthan Royals reveal as much.

In Tait’s life, there were more injuries than maiden overs or five-for’s, both of which are enticements for a genuine fast bowler.

Back aches, calf strains and even tendon trouble- Shaun Tait’s elaborate run in international career would sadly be remembered for mostly bench-warming when not re-bowling an additional delivery.

All of this, despite raw, genuinely fast pace

Where some fast bowlers marginally overstep the bowling line, Tait harrowingly over-stepped, going far too wide off the crease, seemingly covering a distance of Sydney to Wollongong.

With just 38 international games under his belt, interrupted horribly by constant run-ins with injury, the unlucky South Australian could collect only 67 wickets.

It’s a shame. These numbers do no justice to a resoundingly talented fast bowler who could bowl rapidly and generate a lot of bounce. Doing both naturally, without much ado.

For talent to reach full potential, it needs accuracy & execution

Shaun Tait, who announced his retirement from all forms of cricket on March 27, had neither. He was fast, genuinely quick. But at times, the sheer range of his balls that went meandering outside off-stump would give enough space for 3 Arjuna Rantunga’s (with all due respect).

Michael Clarke didn’t enjoy Tait’s predicament. Just as Clarke lavished effusive praise on Tait when he delivered a thundering bolt of a delivery at 160 km/hr to Imran Farhat, he wasn’t too happy with Tait’s sitting out on key games, due to back and leg muscle troubles.

At 1.93 meters tall, when Shaun Tait ran towards you, you didn’t just shudder in fear, thinking where the ball might hit you. You prepared for the worst, given that he was, at his peak, a limited period sidelined by physical anomalies- 2007 to 2011- a genuinely quick right armer.

But you were happy and sighed in relief when the ball pitched so waywardly shot of good length, extracting such bounce that even a Curtly Ambrose as keeper couldn’t collect it. Next thing, 4 byes conceded. With Tait hanging back languidly as if some bee stung him at the back of his leg.

In doubt. Suddenly, in despair.

A career that saw cricketing action as much from the sidelines as courtesy repeat telecasts, whether through recapturing of a brilliant Watson cameo or a stellar Johnson spell in the pavilion and in the green room, as a fan you could sense that the frustration of not coping with strenuous demands of international cricket were growing within Tait.

Shaun distaste or Shaun in a haste. Not merely Shaun Tait.

It only compounded his problems further that the South Australian had almost no control on his line as well. And did, rather shockingly, concede plenty of runs despite his bullet pace.

Consider his debut game. 4th Ashes Test. Nottingham, 2005. Tait roars in at the England batsmen. Bowls hard and bowls quick. Even collects 3 wickets. But at the end of the Test, has a sore body – by his own admission – and has already conceded 121 runs.

It wasn’t too different in his first or final ODI games either. Tait made his debut against England in 2006, opening the bowling to throw some cannons at Ed Joyce and Ian Bell. But by the time his 10 overs are completed, he’s already cost Australia 68 of England’s 292 runs. But he’s taken 2 wickets. Problems only worsened for him when the umpires would tell him to stay off the batsman’s pitch. Very clumsily, he would, by this time, have conceded 5 wides.

That’s a lot from a premier fast bowler. The Shaun Tait phenomenon- of a scorching albeit troubled bowling eagle completely consumed by lack of control and drive- became an implosion that neither the smiling lad or Australia could avoid, by the time he bowled in his last ODI game.  

At Ahmedabad, in 2011, where he went for 7 an over, delivering 6 wides, 2 no balls, but collected a solitary wicket.

It could be argued, the classic Shaun Tait lesson is that whilst fast bowlers can often top the speed traps- as did Tait through a ball that measured 100.1 miles/hour- hurled at Craigg Kieswetter- the cause for decline is a rabid implosion that happens within. Pace bowling is not just about being meager in conceding runs or miserly in economy rate. Being dry on the run-front in addition to being in control of oneself is what matters upfront. Else, the result is the spiral downfall.

The thing that stung Tait and pained fans and those who’ve believed in him again isn’t just the fitness concern. Rather the divine mystery that a bowler who had some much going for him- height, frame, power and speed, failed to control himself. It’s like Tait left cricket before Cricket could leave him.

 

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