When one looks back at the career of the tall and lanky Bruce Reid, it is hard not to compare him to the West Indies great Joel Garner. Reid was one of the tallest cricketers, along with Garner, to play the game at the highest level. He walked in 1985 when Australia was not doing too well and almost immediately became the team’s opening bowler.
Reid’s ability to move the ball away from the right hander and bring the occasional ball in was what made him a wily customer. He also used his height to perfection by generating steep bounce that would often leave the batsmen bamboozled.
Born in Perth, Reid all of 22 when he first represented Australia in white flannels. The lack of good quality fast bowlers helped Reid’s case as he broke into the national side at an early stage of his career. The flipside, however, was that the growing demands of the game became too much for his slender body. He was a talented youngster, but was his body ready for the rigours of Test cricket at such a young age? On hindsight, the answer would be no. While his slight frame did not help his cause as a growing fast bowler, the early international career added to the pressure and eventually he succumbed.
Reid was just a 24-year-old when he first left the field due to injury in the Adelaide Test against New Zelaand in 1987. This was the start of a series of back injuries that enabled him to play just 12 Tests in the following five years before calling it quits at the age of 29.
Reid’s best performances came during those five years when he rattled England’s batting line-up by picking up 13 wickets (six for 97 and seven for 51) in the 1990 Melbourne Test, helping his side to an eight-wicket win. A year later, he tormented the Indians, picking up yet another 12-wicket-haul (six for 66 and six for 60) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Despite these splendid efforts, his body refused to take the kind of pressure that fast bowling brought along. Following the performance against India, his international appearances became limited as he spent more time in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, nursing his body after a tough series. All his efforts of changing his action to lessen the burden on his back were in vain as persistent back injuries cut short his career by a few years. He was only 29 when he was literally forced out of the game due to the recurring back problem that affected his bowling a great deal.
Reid finished his career with 113 wickets from 27 Test matches at an average of 24.63 and 63 wickets from 61 One-Day Internationals.
The early end to Reid’s career was tragic and inevitable at the same time. While it was saddening to see such a talented youngster walking away from the game due to injuries, it was his lean built that could not take the burden of fast bowling. Reid’s coach Bob Simpson once said, “My biggest 'if only' is Bruce Reid. If he had stayed fit, there is no doubt at all that Australia would have been recognised as world champions two or three years before we were able to claim that position, simply because he was a great bowler, one of the finest bowlers I have ever seen."
Today, Reid is a case study for the Australian management as they face the battle of keeping their young bowlers like James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins fit and free from any career-threatening injury. It is unfortunate that Australia had to learn the ills of exerting excessive pressure of bowling in Tests on a youngster but they will be well informed and well equipped not to let another career go the way Reid’s did.
(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is an Editorial consultant at CricketCountry and a sports fanatic, with a soft corner for cricket. After studying journalism for two years, came the first big high in his professional life - the opportunity to interview his hero Adam Gilchrist and talking about his magnificent 149 in the 2007 World Cup final. While not following cricket, he is busy rooting for Chelsea FC)
First Published: March 14, 2013, 11:51 am