Sudeep Popat | 3:51am gmt 24 Feb 2008
Shaun Tait was all set to be the new Brett Lee of the Australian side. Glenn McGrath had hung up his boots, and Lee was going to be busy trying to fill the huge-sized hole left by one of the best pacemen ever to have graced a cricket field. Australia needed someone with raw pace, who did not have to worry about being the best bowler in the side rather just had to be the fastest bowler in the side. Tait had the ability to be to Lee what Lee himself was to McGrath.
When Lee first came onto the international cricket scene, he was erratic, but he still managed to pick up wickets, which matters the most. Tait's start however was not able to replicate that of Lee, for injury prevented him from playing regularly, with the only consistent performance coming during last year's World Cup, when he played the second man to McGrath. Some old-fashioned block-hole bowling gave him a handful of wickets, which have made his ODI record look good unlike Tests.
About a month back, Tait quit from cricket indefinitely in order to recharge himself. One would question why, a bowler aged 24, who has hardly played much cricket so far, would need to rest so early in his career? There are however several reasons why he would have felt that a break was inevitable.
Tait's unusual action, which relies heavily on his shoulder for the pace that he generates, is not the best in terms of keeping himself fit to play for a lengthy amounts of time. Just two Tests into his career, he was already suffering from major shoulder injuries that kept him out for months. He himself has acknowledged the fact that he has woken up on days with severe pain in his shoulder. The problems with the back and the elbow, also arising from the action, did not help either.
Another reason is obviously his inability in picking up wickets in the three Tests that he has played. Because of a lack of consistent outings in the middle, Tait has suffered from periods where he would look wayward and just not good enough to pick up wickets. Although three matches are not enough to judge the statistics of a bowler, an average of 60.40 still does not look good, and would make the bowler think whether everything is worth.
Although the Australian players have said that they did not see this coming, Tait himself probably knew that this was necessary. He has to undergo some serious changes with his action and mindset in order to be successful. He is a raw talent, who has to be nurtured if Australia at all wants some significant contribution from him. It is not only in the best interests of Tait, but also Australia, that he took this break.
Meanwhile though, it is also essential that Tait not be forgotten, and that Australia continuously monitor how he is progressing with first his rest and healing of injuries, and then with improving his action and mental prowess in dealing with pain and strength. There are going to be people like Geoffrey Boycott who will criticize Tait, offsetting the most important target of this break: refresh and come back. The Australian authorities have to make sure that Tait stays unaffected by the same and concentrates more on the better things of this commendable decision of his.