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Shaun Tait is a King and a Royal. He’s also a Rhino who was a Renegade, but is now a Striker and a firebrand who is a Firebird and an Eagle. Such is his life as a journeyman Twenty20 cricketer.

Since deciding – with significant input from his ailing body – in 2009 that the rigours of first class cricket were too much for his injury prone frame, Tait has been one of the most in-demand players in the most modern form of the game. 

He plays in the T20 premier leagues of India (Rajasthan Royals) and Bangladesh (Chittagong Kings), and their equivalents in New Zealand (Wellington Firebirds) and Zimbabwe (Mid-West Rhinos). In the Australian Big Bash, he started with the Melbourne Renegades but has moved back to his native Adelaide Strikers.  

Now he’s turning out for the Essex Eagles in the Friends Life T20 tournament, which wraps up its preliminary phase this week as teams throughout the UK jostle for places in the quarter finals on August 6, 7 and 8.

Getting used to a new tournament and team is part of Tait’s career now, after he enjoyed a brief three-Test career and starred in Australia’s dominant 2007 World Cup victory.  But considering he took on T20-only duties to protect his elbow and shoulder injuries, he’s still playing a lot of top-level cricket. 

“I was finding it very tough to play other forms of the game,” he admits. “If I played a one-day game I’d have to take another one off, so [trying to play first class cricket] was becoming a bit painful and annoying. But then you find that you’re trying to cover your calendar and end up playing a fair bit of cricket.” 

A former Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year, Tait had an up and down first class career due to the nature of his style – he’d rip through a team or cost hefty runs with his super-quick slingshot action that earned him the nickname ‘The Wild Thing’. 

He came into the Aussie Test squad due to the 2004 injury of another young speedster, Brett Lee, and after winning his first Cricket Australia contract in season 2004/05 took 65 wickets in the domestic first class series, a South Australian record. Later that season, he’d debut for Australia in Tests in the Ashes at Trent Bridge and took the scalps of opener Marcus Trescothick, England hero Andrew Flintoff and current star Ian Bell. 

He was as shining and exciting a young star as they come, nudging 160kmph with his missiles, the crowd loved it. In 2007, he’d debut for the ODI national team and took man of the match hauls against England and South Africa in the play-off phases of the World Cup.


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When the big money of T20 tournaments such as the IPL came in, there were real fears cricket could lose some of its brighter stars from the longer form of the game.

It wasn’t the lure of money that took him to the shorter form, though. “I did it for a reason, because my body was in a fair bit of disarray,” Tait tells us. “I would have loved to play all forms of the game, but the way it’s worked out I’ve had a chance to travel around the world. I don’t think the game was ever in any danger of losing that talent, though ... everyone wants to play for their country.”

With the high fees available to players, the competition for places in T20 franchises is fierce.

“It’s not that easy to just say I’m gonna turn up and be a pro in the IPL,” Tait says. “You’ve still got to be picked.”In globe-trotting, Tait has played with some of the world’s greatest. He lists his Royals skipper Raul Dravid – ranked the third greatest batsman of all time by Wisden – as number one. 


Talkback


Interview: Aussie cricket firebrand Shaun Tait's globetrotting T20 specialist life has led him to Essex
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