Consistency, not just pace is what fast bowlers should strive for: Shane Bond

Shane Bond was one of the fastest bowlers in the world and holds the second best strike-rate in Test cricket amongst bowlers who have bowled minimum of 2500 deliveries © Getty Images

By Saj Sadiq

At the peak of his career, Shane Bond was considered a worthy successor to New Zealand bowling legend Sir Richard Hadlee. His fastest recorded delivery of 156.4 km/h in the 2003 World Cup would have sent danger signals to most batting line-ups around the world and also marked him for greater heights of achievement in the future. To date he has the second best strike-rate in Test cricket amongst bowlers who have bowled a minimum of 2,500 deliveries.

However, his playing career was brutally cut short by a series of debilitating injuries. Bond retired from all forms of cricket in May 2010. During his short but eventful career, he played 18 Test matches, taking 87 wickets at an average of 22.09. He was no slouch in the shorter format of the game either, playing 82 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and 20 T20Is and picking up 147 and 25 wickets respectively. 

Whilst his playing days might be over, New Zealand Cricket recognised the invaluable skills that Bond could offer to and duly signed him up as their bowling coach in October 2012.

Bond spoke exclusively to PakPassion.net about his playing career, his present role and his views on the New Zealand bowling attack and their expectations on the tour of England, as well as issues facing bowlers round the world.
 
PakPassion (PP): What do you see as your aims and objectives in your role as New Zealand’s bowling coach?

Shane Bond (SB): What I want to do is to produce world class fast bowlers and to get them ready at the earliest. The role of a bowling coach is to facilitate that learning curve. A bowler has to play and it’s important that they learn for themselves and by having that relationship and having those conversations with your bowlers about things that happen around a game, you can speed up the learning process.

PP: Was coaching something you had envisaged taking up after your playing career was over?

Shane Bond: Yes, I enjoyed playing cricket and I’ve always enjoyed watching cricket too. Even when I played I watched every ball. If you want to be a coach you firstly have to enjoy watching cricket. I’ve always enjoyed the analytical side of the game which lends itself to coaching. As for wanting to coach for the long term, I’m not so sure, but at the moment and for the short term I’m really enjoying this role and it’s something that I definitely want to do. 

I’ve got a great bunch of guys to work with and it takes you back to when you played and the guys going through the same experiences you had as a player, not only in terms of the playing experience but also the anxieties, nerves and the mental side of the game and that is an area where I feel I can help.

PP: Do you think being a former player and a role model to many of the current squad helps?

SB: I think if you have played at the highest level you get that instant credibility from the players, but that only lasts as long as the work you are putting in and what you are offering provides results and success. If you aren’t providing results, don’t offer anything and aren’t working hard, then that credibility will not last very long.

It can be strange sometimes, for example Trent Boult recently showed me a picture of him with me when he was 17 years old and had won a fast bowling contest. And now here I am working with him as his bowling coach. Boult is a fine fast bowler in his own right. It’s also a challenge to work with players who I have played alongside for a large part of my career. 

PP: New Zealand seems to be undegoing a resurgence in their fast bowling department. It must be exciting for you to be working with the likes of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell?

SB: Yes, absolutely. And Neil Wagner too had a very good series against England. The pleasing aspect is that there is competition within the group. Mark Gillespie is here in England too and he’s a fine bowler. We also have Mitchell McClenaghan to come back. There’s are a few other exciting young up and coming quick bowlers back in New Zealand. All these guys know that they have to be on top of their game if they want to be in our side, whatever the format. 

The good thing about this is that they all get along very well and the relationship between all of them is very good and that they help each other on and off the field. It makes my job both interesting and fun.

PP: We’ve recently seen Wasim Akram hold a fast bowling camp for both international cricketers and up and coming pace bowlers. Is this something that could work in New Zealand?

SB: I think it’s a little different in New Zealand due to the difference in size of the two countries. New Zealand is much smaller in terms of size and population and you sort of know who is “around the traps” already and everyone is generally aware of who is coming up around the country. For example, I was aware Kane Williamson when being talked about as a future international cricketer when he was just 14. That is purely due to the [small] size of our country; word getting around pretty quickly.

It’s always exciting seeing those young cricketers coming through and before my current role I was working at development level, so I was seeing the likes of Doug Bracewell and Adam Milne and working with them. It’s pleasing to see those players filter through to international cricket. Even though I’ve worked with these guys at international level, it’s nice to think back and realise that a good relationship was built with them at junior level and to try to instill those high standards at a young age. 

PP: Workloads, particularly of fast bowlers, seem to be very heavy these days with the three formats and also with the temptation of Twenty20 tournaments around the world. What advice would you offer to pace bowlers on managing their workloads?

SB: We (New Zealand Cricket) think that playing all three formats of international cricket for a pace bowler is unsustainable and a lot to ask. It’s not just the physical aspect and demands of playing all three formats, but also the mental exertions and the time away from home. It takes its toll on bowlers eventually.

However, I think it’s important for our guys to experience tournaments such as the Indian Premier League (IPL), not only for financial reasons but it also gives them a chance to face opposition from all over the world and to play alongside players from all over the world and to experience playing in different conditions. If you are a good bowler and if you feel you are playing well then you want to play all of the time and that’s fine but then the job that bowling coaches around the world like myself have is that we have to make sure that our bowlers are fresh and peaking for international series and to monitor and assess them.

Our guys are very good and understand this and you get a sense of when they need a break. Sometimes bowlers don’t want to take a break and give someone else the opportunity to take their place in the team. We have to think about the long term objectives, sometimes it’s better to play less and stay fit than to keep on playing in all formats continually and pick up injuries.

PP: Trent Boult looks a very exciting prospect. What are your thoughts on Trent and how he is developing as a pace bowler?

SB: One of Trent’s biggest assets is his fitness. He’s one of those bowlers who will just keep on bowling over after over at a good pace as was evident in the series against England in New Zealand. Trent’s also very competitive and he’s a very bright lad who thinks a lot about cricket and he’s always thinking about ways of improving his game.

He’s always in the game and swings the ball at good pace. Trent, like all of our quick bowlers, needs to be consistent and should understand the length he should bowl at and, hit that length on a regular basis. The longer the likes of Trent and Doug (Bracewell) play, the more cricket they play around the world, the better they will become. Providing they can stay fit, we will see a natural progression in these boys.

PP: Your own strike-rate in Test cricket was phenomenal and you were always regarded as an attacking bowler. Is that philosophy something you are attempting to instill into the current New Zealand bowling line up?

SB: My philosophy was always that if you pitch the ball up, you will take wickets. I’m trying to get the boys to have the confidence to pitch the ball up and bowl on a fuller length because they all have the ability to swing the ball. I always say that regardless of the conditions be prepared to be driven and to use their best asset which is the ability to swing the ball. 

I can’t fault the bowlers for effort but you are always looking for those improvements from them tour by tour. Each of the bowlers has a plan and have the skills and it’s all about sticking to those plans and having the necessary patience. The bowlers showed in the home Test series against England that by sticking to their plans they can be effective and successful.

In one-day cricket you have to take risks. Brendon (McCullum) is an attacking captain and takes risks when he is at the crease. I’m a firm believer that you have to attack the opposition in one day cricket whether it’s with the bat or the ball. We have bowlers there who look to restrict the opposition but taking wickets in my opinion is the best way forward in the shorter formats. With the current rules, as a bowling side in one day cricket you have to take wickets rather than be defensive.

PP: What advice would you offer a 7 foot 1″ fast bowler?

SB: (laughs) “Look after your back, mate!” I think it’s scary to see a bowler bowling from that height and so fast and I certainly wouldn’t want to face him. Having said that, regardless of pace, you have to bowl consistently to be successful. There’s a mystique about pace bowling that you take wickets by just bowing fast which is untrue. Pace alone does not get you wickets, you have to have more than just the ability to bowl quick to be successful. 

Look at some of the bowlers who were not express over the years, the likes of Kapil Dev, Glenn McGrath and Richard Hadlee and now Vernon Philander; what they did was bowl consistently and that is what we are trying to get our bowlers to do. The message is simple for any bowler whether he is express pace or medium-pace, find the right line and length and you will make life difficult for the batsman irrespective of where you are playing and whom you are up against. Consistency, not just pace is what fast bowlers should strive for.

PP: Looking back at your own career, it must be frustrating to see that figure of just 18 Test matches against your name?

SB: Yes, it feels weird when the likes of Trent (Boult) and Doug (Bracewell) say that they’ve played 15 or 16 Tests and they are in their early twenties and I think that I only played eighteen Tests. Yes of course I would have liked to have played more Tests and also what is disappointing is that I never reached the mark of 100 Test wickets. I would have loved to have got to 100 Test wickets but looking back I loved every minute of it. 

It’s what you live for and I’m not reliving it now but what I say to the guys is to get everything out of their careers so when they finish playing they can say that was fun and they did everything they could during their playing days. I have no complaints about my career at all though.

PP: No complaints, but any regrets regarding your playing career?

SB: No regrets, in fact I think I was lucky, you can always look back and think what if I had done this and life’s like that but to get to play for nine years all over the world and to make friends and to play cricket for a job was great.

PP: Any particular bowling spells which you look back upon now and think that was a very satisfying spell of bowling?

SB: Yes, that spell against Australia in the World Cup in 2003 when I got six wickets, that was one of my career highlights. Also, the six wickets against India in a One-Day International in Bulawayo in a tri-series match where I got some good players out was satisfying. Also whenever I took wickets in Test cricket was amazing because you knew that you were too good for the opposition batsmen as it wasn’t as if they were having to score runs off you in Test cricket, unlike limited-overs cricket. It was always a great feeling to contribute in the wickets column in Test cricket when the team won.

PP: How do you see the upcoming Test series against England going?

SB: Hopefully it won’t be a lot different to how the series went back home against England. We dominated two out of the three Test matches at home but England will be a tougher proposition here as they will be coming off some County cricket. I was not surprised at how well we played against England at home. We came off the back of a hammering in South Africa but it was hard cricket and then we got stuck into some domestic cricket and I knew we would make life difficult for England particularly after England had that break. It was always going to be difficult for them to get up psychologically after the break. 

I think England will be better in this series but we have a blueprint particularly around bowling at the English batsmen and if we can bowl to the level we did at home against England then we can be very competitive and we can bowl England out twice. We need to take our catches though as that probably cost us the series against England and if our batsmen can get 300 plus in our first innings then we can put pressure on England. It’s a shame that it’s only a two-Test series but the challenge for us is to hit the ground running and if we can just continue the form that we had at home it should be a very good series.

PP: What are your thoughts on the current England pace bowling attack?

SB: I always enjoy watching good bowling attacks. I enjoy watching our pace bowlers, but it’s always fun to watch good quality pace bowlers such as Dale Steyn and James Anderson representing the opposition. England has a fine group of fast bowlers and they’ll need all of their fast bowling resources as they have a lot of Test cricket coming up so they will probably have to manage their resources and move and rotate their pace bowlers around. It will be interesting to see if we come up against the same three quick bowlers we did in New Zealand and in their home conditions with a ball that they are familiar with and at grounds they are familiar with I’d expect them to be even better and harder for our guys to face.

(Saj Sadiq is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net, from where the above article has been reproduced. He can be followed on Twitter at @Saj_PakPassion)