Bond. Shane Bond. Headlines in the early 2000s inevitably played on the man’s surname. That was when the New Zealand quick – very quick – made a huge splash on the international scene. That he ended up playing only 18 Tests and 82 One-Day Internationals was chiefly down to rotten luck with his back, mainly, and legs, knee downwards. If he had cut down on his pace, maybe he could have played more, but that wasn’t the Bond way.
His numbers tell the story of superb potential, which made him the first major pace-bowling star for New Zealand in the post-Richard Hadlee era: 87 wickets at 22.09 in Tests and 147 at 20.88 in ODIs. In 2010, he finished up a career where he missed more cricket than he actually played – and his involvement with the Indian Cricket League hardly helped. After Bond’s playing days were over, he was appointed bowling coach for New Zealand, and did that job from 2012 till the end of the 2015 World Cup, when his team reached the final. He has since been coach with Mumbai Indians, where youngsters like Jasprit Bumrah have been singing his praises.
Chatting with Wisden India, Bond touched upon his own career, New Zealand’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to pace bowling, the Kane Williamson era, coaching tricks with Lasith Malinga, and more. Excerpts:
On Mumbai’s all-star back room
“Mahela, Jonty (Rhodes), Ricky, Robin Singh … it’s a great backroom, isn’t it? You have to stay modern. The game moves pretty quick. It has changed massively in the last ten years. Some of us have recently played top-flight cricket. They understand the mentality of modern players, the training, the technology. Your focus might be on something specific, but we are all involved in everything, in a way. It’s difficult if you’ve been out of the game for a time. That’s why the quick transition for me, getting into a support role soon after retiring. It’s great fun at Mumbai. You need that structure, I think, to manage 26-27 players.”
Your bowling action was quite a work of art, smooth, with a lot of power, even if you didn’t have a big jump like most quick bowlers. Since you are a coach now, how do you work on a youngster’s action? Most kids just ape their heroes. What did you do?
Exactly that. When I was growing up, Richard Hadlee was the hero. It was always about Richard Hadlee in New Zealand, how his hand came up behind his head. Then, in the 1990s, there was Allan Donald, Waqar Younis, Danny Morrison … even Malcolm Marshall earlier. I tried to copy all of them at various points when I was growing up. In terms of technology, there wasn’t much those days, and I didn’t see myself on video till I was 16. I thought I looked like Richard Hadlee a bit. Then once I started playing professionally, I had a lot of problems with my back. So I spent a lot of time understanding the mechanics of fast bowling, where are the strengths and the weaknesses, working out how to make the most of it. So for kids, there’s first the natural way, and then you make changes. The easiest way is to copy someone else.
How do you approach bowling actions as a coach, especially with youngsters these days trying so many unorthodox things?
I’ve gone through that myself; this is how it should look, this is how it should be … both with batting and bowling. What you end up learning is that everyone does it different. There is no right or wrong. You have to make the best of what you’ve got. Injuries cause some changes too – I know how much my action changed over the years, even before you would have seen me on TV. Even in my time, some techniques were different. So you look at someone and basically don’t put him against a template.
And then at Mumbai Indians you have gentlemen like Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah…
I enjoy working with Mali a lot. It’s a completely different action, probably the most unorthodox in the game. He is very aware of what he needs to do to bowl well. My job is to help Mali get the best out of himself. There are a lot of questions, a lot of listening… there are cameras. I am watching things the bowler is not, and then with video footage, we try to get the best out of each player.
Jasprit again, Booms, he is a smart lad. He is aware of his action… we’ve had a fair few discussions around his action. He speaks to Mali a lot too. We all do. See, any bowler who has had success knows what he is doing. Sometimes, older players are set in their ways and would rather stick to what they are comfortable with. So I poke and prod and talk with them. With the younger guys, you can do more. Booms and Mali – I have loved working with both of them. Mali wasn’t there last year; he has a lovely relationship with Booms. I think India is looking at Booms as a limited-overs bowler, but he could be successful across formats.
You have spoken about Trent Boult’s action in the past…
Oh yes, it’s beautiful, and entirely natural. His wrist position is perfect. It’s hard to be so perfect, honestly. He manages to change that wrist position without doing anything different. Most bowlers have a particular action and they know they need to get their wrist position right; with Trent, the action and the wind-up before delivery and the wrist are all very fluid. Trent is blessed to have that action, and that helps him move the ball both ways at pace.
You did play a little bit of Twenty20 cricket before wrapping up – with franchise cricket, cricketers can get help from various coaches, dip in to the thoughts of so many people…
I did okay, I thought. The coaching is slightly different, especially in the IPL, where the teams have big background units, people from around the world. There’s a little bit of work around the scouting of the game, which is interesting. Text-based analysis was the thing when I played, not like now. I think if I were a little younger, coaches could have challenged me a little more. They could have worked on my pace a bit. But people say I should have got my pace down if I wanted to go on playing. That’s what I enjoy most – taking boys out of their comfort zone. I enjoyed T20; I thought it was a great. I would have loved to play it a bit more, but I was done.
“I never played against Virat Kohli unfortunately. I would have loved to have a go against him. One of the highlights of my career is that I played in a generation that had Lara, Kallis, Tendulkar, Ponting – legends, all of them. To have a crack against them… I got a couple of them out. It would have been nice to bowl against Virat Kohli and Joe Root and the others. Now I just sit back and admire what goes on.”
Moving to the New Zealand team, through the 1990s, you had an assembly line of slow medium pacers. Then, along with you, things changed, and now there’s a big number of pacers that can walk into any team. What’s the story?
Wickets have been pretty flat at home – I think that’s the main reason. Spinners have always struggled there. So we need guys who bowl at pace. We have a relatively small population in New Zealand, so we are blessed to have a lot of good quality fast and medium-fast bowlers. It’s as good as it’s ever been for New Zealand right now – you have (Lockie) Ferguson bowling at 150kph but not getting picked. It’s great. Trent, Tim (Southee), (Neil) Wagner, Matt (Henry), Mitch (McClenaghan)… so many more. But it’s critical for New Zealand to play players across a range so they stick around for the next five-six years. It bodes well for us.
Boult, Southee and McClenaghan are there, along with Colin de Grandhomme and Corey Anderson and Jimmy Neesham, in the Champions Trophy squad – it’s one of the things New Zealand have won, back in 2000 (ICC KnockOut Trophy). What does it look like this time?
I think we could have done better, but the real difference is in tournament-play and bilateral-play. You expect teams to beat you in tournaments. Even in rugby, New Zealand struggled in tournament-play for a while. On their day, New Zealand can beat anyone. Luck, etc … the game has evened up a lot, there’s not a lot between international teams at the top level in terms of skills and talent. It’s about turning up on the day. But I think the last World Cup should help – the next step is to win. It’s never easy, and for a little country to make the semifinals so often is brilliant, I think. New Zealand have done well and they will continue to do well.
How do you look at the transition from Brendon McCullum to Kane Williamson?
Kane has to do it in his own way. Baz was so dynamic, it takes something out of the team with him gone. So you try to play a game based on the resources and talent you have. Kane is a new captain and will learn as he goes. I hope he grows into the role. If he leads for a substantial period – two-three-four years – it will depend on the pressure and stress of the job. He has the temperament; you won’t find someone nicer and more humble. The guys all respond to him. He is highly respected. He is learning the job, and with the talent that’s there, the team can definitely do well.
“Kane has to do it in his own way. Baz was so dynamic, it takes something out of the team with him gone. Kane is a new captain and will learn as he goes. He has the temperament; you won’t find someone nicer and more humble. The guys all respond to him. He is highly respected. He is learning the job, and with the talent that’s there, the team can definitely do well.”
Talking about Williamson, and others like Virat Kohli and Joe Root, what do you think of their skills?
I’ve bowled to Kane actually, when he had just come on the scene. Did all right if I remember. AB (de Villiers) – I got him out once, in the only Test I played against South Africa. I got him a couple of times and he got a few off me too. I never played against Virat Kohli unfortunately. I would have loved to have a go against him. One of the highlights of my career is that I played in a generation that had (Brian) Lara, (Jacques) Kallis, (Sachin) Tendulkar, (Ricky) Ponting – legends, all of them. To have a crack against them… I got a couple of them out. It would have been nice to bowl against Virat Kohli and Joe Root and the others. Now I just sit back and admire what goes on. But yeah, I do wish I could test myself against them.
There’s also the tag New Zealand cricketers have picked up along the way, of being the nice guys. Does that cramp the players’ style sometimes?
(Laughs) I think we are just relaxed and chilled; it’s not a deliberate attempt to be the nice guys. Vocal stuff and sledging was never going to work – we see that. But we give it back, it’s not like we don’t.
Everything within the team always looks so happy too – it’s almost unbelievable in this day and age.
You’ll have personalities that don’t get along. But the team can gel. Some players might not necessarily spend their time off together. But it should come together on the field. The game should be competitive, but you shouldn’t cross the line; there should be mutual respect and admiration. New Zealand do that well, I think.
And tournaments like the IPL help, you think, in terms of removing boundaries?
Here in India in the IPL… there are great players that you never really knew. In the past, at the big tournaments or in bilateral series, you just said ‘hello’ in the hotel lobby. Here, guys I played against, like Ricky, Mahela (Jayawardene), we are working together. They are terrific people. Incredible cricketers. There is a lot of respect. And you get to meet their families too. Now we have friends in other countries. I think the relationship between players from New Zealand and South Africa is excellent. The games are not any less competitive. As a player, it’s funny, because you give it everything on the field and then come back and be friends.