To the shock and horror of some, Australian fast bowler Shaun Tait took a break from International cricket in January last year. So despite Tait battling form and Cricket Australia not allowing him to participate for riches in the IPL for fear of him reinjuring himself, Australian cricket’s governing body has recently announced that Tait will not be receiving a contract, effectively ending his career.
In January of 2008 the media had whipped up a storm when Bruce Reid said Tait could break the world record for the fastest ball ever bowled while playing against India in the Perth Test. Subsequently at the WACA he fell way short, spending a great deal of time wallowing in the pitiful 80 mile an hour range with Irfan Pathan and the other medium fast bowlers.
It seemed the embarrassment and media scrutiny were too much for Shaun Tait, and he left cricket saying he needed a break from the physical and emotional exhaustion of Test cricket.
“This is a very difficult situation for me to be in at this time,” Tait said.
“This is not an overnight decision but something that I’ve been struggling with for some time.
“A break from professional cricket will hopefully give me a clear mind and a chance for my body to rest and recover.
“My love and enjoyment of the game is struggling due to these issues.”
There were those of us, and I was definitely one, that thought this was a sportsman not handling the pressure and running scared. I thought Tait needed a dose of reality and to work a day job. Geoffrey Boycott went further saying he lacked character:
To me, it shows a lack of desire. I’ve always believed that cricket is about ability to a certain degree, but not everybody is blessed with Tendulkar’s or Lara’s ability. It is about character as well as ability. I’ve always believed that your character is tested when you fail and not when you’re a raving success.
Anybody can bat or bowl when they are doing well, because your confidence is high and everything is going for you. But when you fail and things don’t go your way, that’s when you’ve got to pick yourself up. You’ve got to be mentally strong, you’ve got to dust yourself down and you have to try again.
For me, it shows a lack of character that he’s given up.
Instead of people saying, “We wish him well and we hope he comes back” (and we all wish that), I wish he hadn’t gone away and had shown more commitment and more desire.
At the time Boycott’s comments drew fire, if for no other reason than he had supported Marcus Tresothick’s “stress related illness” that sent him home from the 06/07 Ashes and also because he had once retreated from Test cricket due to stress. What Boycott and the rest of us did not know, was that this wasn’t someone who just failed once, this was a man in a dark episode of his life.
Shaun Tait has since claimed that he was never diagnosed with depression, but looking back at his statements, and the fact that Darren Lehmann and the player’s union set him up to talk with famous sportsmen who have depression, you would have to suspect it, wouldn’t you? Cricket Australia got behind him at the time, he was even awarded an extension of his national contact, even though there was no way they could know if he would play again that year.
That was all last year, this year Tait is back playing cricket (when physical injuries allow), and Cricket Australia haven’t been so kind to Tait. After picking up a hamstring injury, Tait was trying very hard to get fit for his 375,000USD dollar job with the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, and also to prove his fitness for the World twenty20 tournament that follows. Just as he was nearing full fitness Cricket Australia intervened by banning him from the IPL.
Tait was said to be “very disappointed”. He was probably consoled by the fact that if Australia was resting him from the IPL, he was in their plans for the World Twenty20 Cup. Turns out he wasn’t, as Australia went for their young Test bowlers instead. It was to get worse for Tait, as only weeks later he would lose his national contract, the same contract that Cricket Australia used to stop him playing in the IPL only a month earlier.
According to chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch, “”He took it extremely well, probably because he’s such a great bloke,”.
This is how Tait actually took it.
“Digger’s (Hilditch) trying to sugar-coat that to be honest”.
“When you think you’re ready to go and play, I thought they (CA) had me in mind for future tournaments, so that was fair enough at the time, but to not let you go, then not pick you in a squad then not give you a contract is a little bit of a kick in the teeth.”
Former Australian captain Kim Hughes clearly hadn’t been in the news much recently, and thought he would kick Tait while he is down.
“That’s Shaun Tait, and that’s why he’s not playing for Australia because, if you’re brutally frank about it, Shaun Tait’s pretty soft.”
Which is an interesting tact from Australia’s most famous crier. Hughes goes on to add Tait is overrated as well, just in case he hadn’t done enough damage. The website Adelaide Now are getting behind their local boy by putting up a poll asking you to vote whether Shaun Tait is soft or not (53% think he is, but don’t worry Shaun there is only 43 votes).
Cricket Australia have not handled this situation well, by keeping Tait out of the IPL they have not given him a chance to prove he is fit and firing, and then by leaving him out of the next tour and cutting his contract they have also restricted him from earning a living outside of their system.
Whether or not he has depression, or is just an extremely emotional person (based on his many bizarre, but honest, public utterances, either is true) is not really the issue. It would be unfair to any cricketer, but to a cricket that had to leave cricket for emotional reasons in the last 18 months this is a particularly odd move.
Cricket Australia has said that Tait is in their future plans, something that would warm Tait’s heart no doubt.