Kiwi legend on his Ashes challenge
Shane Bond is about to debut in test cricket’s longeststanding rivalry. On November 23, the opening day of the Ashes series at Brisbane’s Gabba, his contribution as England’s bowling consultant will face scrutiny against Australia.
Bond is filling the role for the first two tests before resuming as the Brisbane Heat’s bowling coach in the Big Bash League from mid-December.
Outside of Clarrie Grimmett, Andrew Caddick and Ben Stokes, it’s hard to think of New Zealanders charged with more responsibility in an Ashes, certainly in a coaching capacity.
Since his tenure in charge of New Zealand’s bowlers ended with a maiden World Cup final appearance in 2015, the 42-year-old has secured contracts with the Heat and the Mumbai Indians. He was also head coach on New Zealand A’s tour of India last month.
Bond has been with England almost a fortnight, choosing to offer a mixture of the clinical and the personal in his approach.
“I’ve probably done it enough, especially in T20 leagues like the IPL and Big Bash where there is big hype, big crowds, a fast turnaround and lots of pressure. I’ve just got to get used to doing that in a longer format.
“As a coach I’ve always said ‘I’ll tell you what I think and if you’re receptive that’s great; if not, we’ll find another way to do it’.”
Bond is in charge of an attack which includes England’s top two test wicket-takers in James Anderson (506) and Stuart Broad (388). Both were involved in the 3-1 away series victory in 2010-11.
“It’s always challenging because you’re trying to build the relationship fast, but the boys have been good, especially those two. I’ll lean on them because they’re experienced players who know the environment and have had success over here.
“People won’t listen to what you say unless you take the time to get to know them. Trust is a massive part of the game, then you give them information in the background.”
So does Bond rely more on laptop data or gift-of-the-gab for persuasion?
“These days I trust what I see with the bowlers, and my ability to read people reasonably well. I talk to the team and the coaching staff to start building a picture. It’s not about pigeon-holing anyone, but offers an idea into how they operate. If you come in new and want somebody to do something for you, sometimes it’s hard to do it based on an opinion. If you can present them with hard data, and preferably stuff they haven’t seen before, it helps builds trust.
“I’ve got a couple of legendary bowlers here, but I want to be able to say ‘hey, have you thought about this?’.”
Bond said it was as much about focusing on Australia’s batsmen as his bowlers, but he was relatively relaxed until the hosts’ squad was finalised.
“We know David Warner, Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja will be there, but a chunk of the batting lineup is still missing.
“You get enough information from Jimmy or Stuart against certain players, but for those who haven’t played as much international cricket, it’s not as relevant.
“I try to marry up their skill set to allow them to dismantle a batting lineup. I like them to build a mental picture so they know they might have to do something in a test, like bowling to a certain field, rather than it coming as a surprise.”
The Ashes series is arguably the most hyped in the world, but Bond has the pedigree to cope.
He made his international debut in Australia during the summer of 2001-02 and, after taking three wickets at 96.33 in tests at Hobart and Perth, scythed through the Australian and South Africa batsmen in the VB one-day international tri-series.
His 21 wickets at 16.38 were seven more than anyone else in the competition. Those scalps made him a cricketing household name, and respected in Australia.
“Like anyone when they come here for a series, it can be slightly different.
“If one of our batsmen fails it’ll be painted as a disaster; it’ll only be a matter of time before Glenn McGrath comes out and says the result will be 5-0; then talk starts about how long it is since they’ve lost at the Gabba [29 years]. It’s a familiar pattern, but a lot of white noise.
“What’s different this time is that every time a No 4 downwards scores runs [in the Sheffield Shield], he’s a candidate to play in the test team; the bowlers are talking about whether they should take another seamer and there’s concern about workloads coming back from injury.
“That’s the sort of language you don’t often hear here. Any bravado from the media is not necessarily supported by the team itself.
“The Australian team has always been good at home, but they’re not the team of 10 years ago. I think this will be a close series if we play well and are organised.”
Bond is intrigued as to how the Brisbane crowd might react, having been on his side during the last two Big Bashes.
“In New Zealand you might wander around the boundary [at a test] and hand someone a drink with 3000 people there — this will be 40,000 and heaving.
“Maybe I won’t cop it as much in Brisbane, given I’m normally in the home team’s corner.
“I’m intending to take a few walks round to the hill [in this week’s daynight practice match in Adelaide] to see how much abuse I cop.
“I’m sure it will be hard case. We’ll see how well I can take it.”
Shane Bond is intrigued to know how Brisbane fans will react.