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The Cop With An Anthem

The Kiwis say he is the best they have had since Hadlee. Considering he took 431 Test wickets, it is indeed big praise for Bond. But it also means expectations from him are very high indeed.

The Cop With An Anthem
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The Cop With An Anthem
outlookindia.com
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The name itself has a ring which is hard to miss. Bond. Shane Bond. If James the spy, had a licence to kill, this one, Shane the policeman-turned-paceman, armed with a cricket ball, seems to have obtained a licence to instill fear in opposing batsmen. Not too long ago when he was policing the streets, cricket, despite being a major passion, was far from his mind.

A fearsome bowler he may be, but having dealt with dead bodies and victims of crime, there is a sensitive side to him. But that is one side of his personality he does not let the batsmen see.

Last week in the World Cup Super Sixes clash against his Trans-Tasman neighbours, Australia, he turned in a bowling performance that will be talked about for quite sometime.. That small little cricket ball in his hand resembled a missile; a weapon hurled at men on the other side of the crease with incredible speed and ferocity. Six wickets for 23 runs was his haul and among his victims was the Australian skipper, Ricky Ponting, who by now must be convinced that Bond has his number. In each of the six games Bond has played against Australia, he has picked up the wicket of Ponting who just cannot seem to get away when the "Canterbury Policeman" is patrolling the streets.

Bond loves scaring the daylights out of the Aussies. Four of his six games against Australia have gone in New Zealand's favour and they have fetched him 23 of his 47 odi wickets so far. Yet, much to his chagrin, this time at Port Elizabeth in the Super Sixes clash, a man called Michael Bevan first pulled the Aussies out of the hole and then Brett Lee ran through the lower half of Kiwi line-up to carry them to a superb win. But, Bond, now among the fastest the game has seen, is here to stay.

Not exactly an early bloomer, Bond was an above average quickie early in his career. But his troublesome back forced people to put a question mark against his name. He seemed destined only for league and domestic circuit. Sure, he was revered in the North Lancashire league where he plied his trade for the 1999 season and where his pace—then about 140 kmph—sent a chill down the league cricketers' back. He finished with 118 wickets.

On his return from England, he learnt that he had been called up for his other love—a career as a policeman. Off he went to Police Training College and missed the 1999-200 season. None would predict that two years later this same young man would be a making a living from cricket. The first step in his meteoric rise came when he returned from the Police Training College in Wellington. The solid training, the sit-ups and weight training had helped him add useful muscle and strength. Coming back to cricket at the end of 2000-01 summer, he picked up 19 wickets in seven games for Canterbury. What's more, he was bowling with a hitherto unseen vitality and it was clear that he was bowling a good 10-15 kmph faster than he had ever before. That at 150 kmph plus was more than a handful.

Then came the break that set him on road to an international career. When New Zealand 'A' team player Scott Styris was forced to pull out of a tour to India in August 2001 due to injury, Bond received the call-up for the Buchi Babu cricket tournament in Hyderabad. Critics called for a spinner in his place, but no sooner had Bond set his foot in India, he had established himself as a match-winner. In three matches, he picked up 19 wickets as New Zealand 'A' won the tournament.

His best came in the semi-finals of the Buchi Babu tournament, where Indian Railways were set a target of 169 to win in the three-day game against the Kiwis. The railmen were stunned by a sensational showing of seven for 45 in just under 15 overs from Bond in temperatures of over 35 degrees centigrade. Cleverly pitching the ball just short of a length and outside the off, Bond ran through Railways line-up as his team won by 23 runs.

Then followed the tour to Australia when the selectors were forced to look beyond the injured Shane O'Connor and Dion Nash. Bond got his next call. In the rain-ruined debut Test at Hobart, his first victim was Steve Waugh. The next Test saw him dismiss Matthew Hayden cheaply in the first innings and Justin Langer in the second innings.

But Bond's highpoint in the 2001 season was his showing in tri-nation VB series with Australia and South Africa as the other teams. In his debut game, a day-nighter in front of 90,000 people at the mcg, he sent back Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Michael Bevan, as the Black Caps scored a stunning upset.

Sheer pace and his inswinging yorkers earned him 21 wickets, including one five-wicket and two four-wicket hauls, in his maiden odi series. To cap it all, he was named the Man of the series, despite the Kiwis losing the three-match final 2-0 to South Africa.

He also helped the Kiwis win the Test series against minnows Bangladesh with 11 wickets in two Tests.

Even as he was celebrating his success, injury re-visited him. He suffered a stress fracture in his foot and was forced out of the series against England. But he recovered in time for the West Indies series where with five-wicket bags in each of the two Test matches, he played a big part in New Zealand achieving their first series win in the West Indies.

His first summer at international level saw him finish the season with 26 wickets at 25.19 in Tests and 23 wickets at 21.13 and an economy rate of 4.52 in odis. Further proof of a successful year came in the form of a call from the English county side, Warwickshire, who signed him up as the replacement player for South African captain Shaun Pollock in August 2002.

The series against India at the start of 2003 saw Bond mature even more. With 12 wickets in the two-Test series, which Kiwis won 2-0, he stamped his presence all over. The Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly admitted that Bond was a key element of the side. "Shane Bond is the key to your success wherever you go because he has the quality to bowl on all sorts of wickets," said Ganguly.

"If New Zealand is to win the World Cup, Shane will have to play a big role," his skipper Stephen Fleming said before the World Cup. How far New Zealand will get in this World Cup remains to be seen, but Bond has proved his worth amply with 15 wickets in six matches. The Kiwis say he is the best they have had since Richard Hadlee. Considering Hadlee took 431 Test wickets in 86 games, it is indeed big praise for Bond. But it also means expectations from him are very high indeed.
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