Whenever we will talk about genuine fast bowlers who have left an indelible mark on pages of cricketing history, we will always discuss the fierce West Indians in the 1970s, the era of fast bowling all-rounders in the 1980s, the Wasims and Waqars who dominated the 1990s, the time when Shoiabs & Lees bowled deliveries within the blink of an eye at the start of this decade.
But there is one fast bowler, who is not the fastest there ever was, nor is he the highest wicket-taker in history, nor was he able to dominate his time as he would have liked to; but without the shadow of a doubt, he is one of the best.
He is the enigmatic Shane Bond.
Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, few people know he was actually a cop! And his debut for the local side Canterbury was less than amazing. But soon his consistent performances and fantastic speed got the selectors' attention.
Finally, in 2001, he made his debut against arch-rivals Australia in the 2001/02 season.
Keeping in mind the trans-Tasman rivalry, and his passion for the game, its no surprise then, that he reserved his best performances against the Aussies. They will never forget his 6/23 in the World Cup which shook them, or how his bouncers even on relatively pale pitches discomforted even the likes of Ponting and Martyn.
He played equally well against West India and reaped success against India as well. He was the talk of the town, as he was one of the few bowlers whose stinging pace was flavored with mind-boggling accuracy.
I won't go into records, saying this was his average, and that was his RPO, and what not. You can find that on any cricketing site.
But I will mention what he brought to the table, besides pure pace of course.
He had one of the cleanest actions in cricket. Undisputed, unadulterated and as perfect as it can get. While other fast bowlers of his time bowled a few kph faster than him, they were also subject to some scrutiny and criticism for corrupted action.
Shane Bond enjoyed cricket more than most. He was aggressive, but still adorned a smile. He respected his opposition.
And he never gave up, always hungry to prove himself, always fighting for his team. He was the ideal team player and a great figure to emulate for young aspiring fast bowlers.
Of course, one cannot expect to read about Bond, and not see the mention his injury problems. He had back injury, knee injury, abdominal tears and more. And that deprived us from seeing more of one of the best cricketers to bless us in the past few decades.
We are in a quiet lull in the cricketing world today, as the IPL extravaganza is past us, and we are all eagerly awaiting the ICC T20 World Cup. And that is what made me think of this enigma. Could you just imagine my friends, what would have happened if Shane Bond played in the IPL, or if he was a part of the New Zealand squad today?
Many say, his career is over. Mostly due to his injuries, partly due to his connection to rebel ICL, and now due to his age. One thing is sure, we will never see this Bond in his 20s gallop down the run up, bend his back, bowl his heart out and petrify the batsman as he did a few years ago.
But one thing is sure. If there is one pure enigmatic fast bowling talent in the past two decades which we would have loved to see more of, its this one.