The stage was the 2003 ODI World Cup in South Africa. A mouth-watering Trans-Tasman showdown was in store at Port Elizabeth as New Zealand took on Australia, the form team of the tournament, and favourites in the tie. The set script, however, appeared lost on one of New Zealand's few genuine match-winners: Shane Bond.
Bowling with panache and possessing a mean bouncer, Bond sent down a hostile spell of spine-tingling fast-bowling. Returning with what were then his best ODI figures (six for 23), the former policeman paralysed the Aussie line up beyond measure. Although the Aussies beat the Kiwis comfortably, it was sheer joy watching the ebullient Bond make the batsmen hop and dance to his tune like puppets on a string.
Bond, like most fast bowlers, came with a package deal: Fast, furious and yet as fragile as a vase of porcelain. A general consensus on Bond the fast bowler will read as follows: An outstanding paceman who ripped apart teams. If only he could have sustained it over a longer period of time, he would have become a genuine great. Save for the injuries and his stint in the rebel ICL, Bond could have pushed lesser bowlers into the background while taking over as the conductor of New Zealand's bowling orchestra.
Making his debut way back in 2001 against Australia, the tall New Zealander came to light as a tearaway who could be decisive with his speed. At that point, there was a dearth of fast bowlers outside Australia - Allan Donald was chuntering away, while those from Pakistan (except Shoaib Akhtar) and West Indies were well past their expiry date.
In his very first ODI series - the tri-nation VB Series in 2002 - Bond humiliated the men from Down Under, sending down 36.5 overs and claiming 14 Australian wickets for just 144 runs. It was the South Africa-Bond combine that kept Australia out from the final of its triangular home series for the first time in as long as the mind could remember.
Bond also tasted success against other nations, most notably India. In a Triangular series in 2005, the third nation being Zimbabwe, Bond demolished the Indians in Bulawayo. His six for 19, his best ODI figures, is widely regarded as the best bowling performance in that format in the last decade.
Injuries, however, inflicted Bond repeatedly, checking his rise to the status of a superstar. And when he hung up his boots (more correctly his Test match whites) in December last year - ostensibly to prolong his tenure in the shorter formats - the damage to his body was already done. Unfortunately or fortunately, Test cricket's loss has certainly been the gain of the IPL.
Keywords: Shane Bond