Bond's Test retirement leaves many what-ifs

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Bond has finally ended one of cricket's most frustrating Test careers, accepting he is no longer physically able to stand the demands of the five-day game.

Updated: December 24, 2009 09:46 IST
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Kiwi fast bowler Shane Bond has finally ended one of cricket's most frustrating Test careers, accepting he is no longer physically able to stand the demands of the five-day game.

Bond played only 18 Tests for New Zealand in a seven-year career which began when he quit his former job as a police officer. His 87 wickets at an impressive average of 22.09, taken at a rate of almost five wickets per Test and with five five-wicket bags, suggest that without the intervention of injury he may have been one of cricket's finest fast bowlers.

Because his career was so affected by injury, and by a spell in the rebel Indian Cricket League which resulted in his temporary exile from the international game, Bond's record will always be subject to tantalizing "what-ifs."

His last Test, against Pakistan at Dunedin late last month, was also his first in two years because of injuries and his ICL involvement. It was minutely indicative of his career: he took eight wickets including five for 107 in Pakistan's first innings, suffered an abdominal strain and was unable to play the remaining matches of the series.

On Wednesday, Bond confirmed a decision he had largely made weeks before when he said the physical demands of Test cricket were now beyond him.

Bond took fewer Tests than any other New Zealander to reach 50 Test wickets _ 12 matches _ and was also the fastest Kiwi to 50 one-day wickets. He was a player in the mold of Richard Hadlee who transformed the New Zealand team when he played for it: when he was available, New Zealand was a formidable side, when he wasn't it was mediocre.

The most significant statistic of his career may be that of the 18 Tests he played, New Zealand won 10.

Bond is the only genuinely fast bowler New Zealand has produced in the last decade and had the ability of the world's best bowlers to take wickets when his team most needed them.

He missed all of 2003 with a back injury and in 2004 had vertebrae in his lower back fused together with bolts and titanium wire. He missed nine months in 2006 with a knee injury.

Bond realizes he may be remembered more for his injuries than his achievements.

"As someone who was injured a lot. That's probably fair," he said. "People will probably say I didn't reach my potential but I truly believe I reached my potential as a bowler.

"My longevity, or Test caps, has been stymied by injuries. It's only 18 Tests but it feels like I've had a long Test career."

The injury suffered against Pakistan in November was Bond's last straw. He took a few weeks to consider his future before deciding to retire from Tests "at the top of my game, before I was cut off at the knees."

"I found out pretty quickly after I was ruled out of the series that the injury was more severe than what was first thought," he said. "I pretty much knew what my decision had to be."

Bond will continue to play for New Zealand in one-day and Twenty20 internationals and, at 34, hopes to have a few seasons left.

"Looking back, so many of my injuries have come during Test cricket," he said. "Unfortunately my body just won't let me continue to play at that level."

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