Shaun Tait: An unfulfilled talent
One of the most fascinating scenes in world cricket is watching a tearaway fast bowler beating a batsman with sheer pace and sending the stumps cartwheeling off the ground. Fast bowling is an integral facet of the game and only a select few seamers have had the physical prowess and pedigree to master the art of bowling quick.
Over the years, we had fearsome pace batteries which hunted as a pack and wreaked havoc for opposition batting line-ups. When we talk about genuinely quick speedsters who could bowl consistently around the 90 mph mark, the names of Jeff Thomson, Michael Holding, Allan Donald, Waqar Younis, Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar and Shane Bond spring up instantly in every cricket fans mind. These speed merchants set the world ablaze with their menacing pace which was too hot for even the best with the willow to handle.
However, one tearaway speedster who often does not get as much credit is Aussie Shaun Tait who bowled as quickly as anyone there has ever been.
Tait bowled with a low slinging action, generated devastating speed and bowled consistently above the 150 kmph-mark for the most part of his career. Blessed with an athletic built and muscular frame, Tait had the ability to bowl full and got the ball to swing away from the batsman at lightning pace.
He was deadly with the old ball and could get those toe-crushing yorkers to dart into the batsman and hit the stumps. On his day, he would rattle out oppositions with some terrorizing spells and emerge as an outright match winner with the red cherry.
He was wisely used in short spells as an outright strike weapon by Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke in T20 Internationals. With pace, came the responsibility of being accurate and Tait erred.
Tait was a touch erratic with his line and his raw pace became an asset for the batsman to score off him. The telling difference between Shaun Tait and his more illustrious Aussies counterpart Brett Lee was that the later had more control and discipline and thus went onto become more successful bowler in the international arena.
The tearaway pacer sprung onto the international scene after a brilliant season with the ball for South Australia in 2004-05 Shield Cricket season. He took a record 65 wickets for South Australia which turned the selectors’ attention and earning him an Australian Test call.
Tait who looked to make a real impact with his blistering pace, could not bear the gruesome burden of Test cricket and retired after merely playing three Test matches. However, he made a telling impact for Australia in both one day international and T20 cricket despite being plagued by a spree of elbow injuries all through his career.
He formed an integral part of the all-conquering Australian team which won the 2007 ICC World Cup in the Caribbean. He and Glenn McGrath were consistently among the wickets and ended up as the second highest wicket-taker in Australia’s successful campaign.
Tait was also part of Australia’s 2011 World Cup squad which saw him taking eleven wickets in the seven games he featured in. Post Australia’s exit in the World Cup, Shaun Tait bid adieu to one day cricket with an attempt to prolong his career in T20 cricket.
Tait was highly successful in the T20 format of the game as his fiery wicket-taking spells in shorts burst became a cutting-edge weapon for Australia and many of the top franchises all over the world.
He had some really good seasons with Adelaide Strikers and Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League and became one of the leading seam bowlers in T20 leagues around the world. Tait also had successful stints with Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League and Peshawar Zalmi in Pakistan Super League.
For the records, Tait is one of the select few fast bowlers to have bowled above the 160 kmph mark. He recorded the second fastest ball in international cricket when he bowled a 161.1 kmph delivery to Andrew Strauss in an ODI against England ODI at Lord’s.
In 2010, Tait also registered the quickest ever delivery bowled in Australia when he clocked 160.7 on the speed gun against Pakistan in a T20 international.
Some of Tait’s terrorizing spells are etched forever in the memory of fans. One such spell was against Pakistan at MCG where he bowled the fastest ever over in world cricket. Opening the bowling, Tait consistently bowled above the 155 kmph mark beating the Pakistan opener Faisal Iqbal all ends up. In another terrific display of fast bowling, Tait picked up 6 for 41 against New South Wales in the 2006 ING Cup final.
The fiery pacer was a perhaps touch unlucky to have played for Australia in an era when the mighty Australian team had a galaxy of pace spearheads in Glen McGrath, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Nathan Bracken. However, the South Australian made a distinct mark of his own courtesy his express pace and ability to reverse swing the old red cherry.
It indeed is an honour for Shaun Tait to be widely regarded as arguably the fastest Australian bowler ever and be right up the pecking order in Australia’s fastest seamer’s list which boasts of some genuine quicks like Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Dirk Nannes, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson.