Saturday, January 1, 2011

Summer Reads: Shane Bond: Looking Back

Review by Mark Pirie of Shane Bond: Looking Back with Dylan Cleaver, Hodder Moa, 2010, RRP $44.99. Foreword by Sir Richard Hadlee.

I remember Shane Bond’s absence during the 2003/04 season. On Saturday’s, my club teammates were often wondering when Shane Bond would return to the Black Caps. Someone said, “He’ll never be back, it’s a seriously bad injury. He’s the best bowler we’ve had since Richard Hadlee, but, sadly, I think we may have seen the last of him.”
He did come back briefly but broke down again on the 2004 tour to England. Back then, I started thinking we’d never see him again at international level. When Shane Bond did return and then see out his playing career at 35 in the 2009/10 season, I was impressed.
For Shane to make a comeback like that after a serious injury (as well as being ruled out of international play for two seasons because of a barely known ICC technicality) there must’ve been something exceptional driving him. I bought a copy of his book at Christmas time, thinking I’d get a better insight into Shane through his own words.
As expected, Shane’s autobiography written with leading sports journalist Dylan Cleaver is a straight-talking affair with plenty to get off his chest about the ICL debacle, and his list of injuries. You get the sense Shane wants to put matters right with the New Zealand public after his misrepresentation at times in the New Zealand sports media and on talkback radio.
Like his bowling, Shane doesn’t hold back, and does set things straight. He doesn’t bowl many beamers either and hits the seam often enough to make it interesting for the reader. There’s also a whole chapter devoted to critiquing the Leading Teams concept of player review and discussion. Contrast this with the recently released biography of Sutcliffe’s playing days in the 1950s/60s and you realise the dilemmas of the modern game – much more team analysis. These days, a lot more money and revenue are at stake. This all leads as Shane points out to occasionally rash selection choices, early player retirements and the harsh axing of players.
The best bits for me, however, are not about player contracts and team management tactics or disputes. Shane gets his words whizzing round like his best balls when he talks about his playing days: there are the overseas tours as well as his Test debut against Australia and the VB One-Day series of 2001/02. That was a great season of cricket. This was the series when Shane cleaned out Adam Gilchrist with his trademark in-swinging yorker.
I was at the MCG then when New Zealand was top of the VB series table. Unfortunately, the day I was there they lost to Australia after a blinder from Michael Bevan. Bevan became a New Zealand nemesis who helped defeat them again at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa after Bond had taken 6-23 off 10 overs to rip out their top and middle orders. There’s nothing here, however, about Shane scoring his only First Class century for Canterbury vs ND, 2004/05 season. Maybe the circumstances around that century weren’t interesting enough to report.
The chapter about Shane’s back puts his injuries in perspective and his frustrations while sidelined from the game. You get brief interjections in each chapter with players and teammates of Shane adding their bit in little snippets like a documentary film. There’s comments from Stephen Fleming, Dan Vettori, Craig McMillan, Geoff Allott, Adam Gilchrist, Heath Mills, Martin Snedden as well as Shane’s manager Leanne McGoldrick and his own family.
Looking Back, however, is painful to read at times. There’s almost too much information given and unnecessary management decisions seem to have been made concerning Bond’s injuries and international availability. You can’t help feeling for Shane. The writing’s not flash to read but has important things to say. Still, there’s plenty here to admire, some good match photos, and it’s those wicket taking deliveries from his playing days rather than the politics that will live with you.
Shane’s overall bowling stats are very impressive. Sir Richard Hadlee provides a nice foreword, and that says a lot about Shane’s standing as one of New Zealand’s premier fast bowlers.

Review © Mark Pirie 2011

Shane Bond: Looking Back
with Dylan Cleaver
(Hodder Moa, 2010)

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