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. 

%TNT Magazine% warner

“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.

%TNT Magazine% taitmain1
Destoyer: Trait’s no stranger to smashing stumps

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. 

%TNT Magazine% tait6
… or batsmen

“He’s such an impressive guy,” Tait gushes. “A total gentleman. To be that famous in a country like India and be so humble and normal, is pretty amazing.

“The whole thing’s a great life experience, not just the cricket. The people is a big thing. The best thing about the IPL is you can have a South African, Englishman, Sri Lankan, New Zealander and an Aussie in your team. I like that a lot.”

It’s much the same at Essex. Under captain James Foster, Tait’s rejoined by T20 specialist Owais Shah, who he’s played with at Rajasthan and Wellington. Opening batsmen Hamish Rutherford and Greg Smith are from New Zealand and South Africa, and Ryan Ten Doeschate is Dutch.

%TNT Magazine% tait4
Slinger: Shaun Tait’s trademark action

The Eagles, ahead of the weekend’s fixtures, were second behind Hampshire in the south group, which would give them automatic passage into the quarters. But London-based sides Surrey and Middlesex were one point behind, fighting to nudge them from second or take one of the two spots for the best place third side in the three groups. 

“We’ve got a lot of T20 experience in our side, with guys like Ravi Bopara and Owais, so we should be able to use that to our advantage,” Tait reckons. 

A notable omission from his experienced mentions is the 30-year-old himself. “I guess I’ve got better at tactics and fields,” he says. “My body’s getting older, so I’m not as nippy as I was (he still bowls over 150kmph regularly). And I have to think about change balls and things a bit more rather than being the dumb fast bowler and try to take wickets.”

 

%TNT Magazine% warner

Tait backs Warner return: Aussies need ‘dangerous’ Dave

Shaun Tait backs the return of David Warner to the Australian line-up after the opener was suspended for throwing a punch at Joe Root.

“I think you live and learn from your mistakes,” Tait tells TNT. “I’m sure Dave’s gonna learn from his.”

Warner has copped his punishment on the chin and after a 193 for Australia in South Africa is a big chance at returning to the Ashes line-up, where coach Darren Lehmann says he’d bat at number six.

“Dave’s a funny guy,” says Tait, who played in the national T20 side with the destructive hitter. “He’s a dangerous player, you want him in your team.”

The slinger adds the appointment of Lehmann, his mentor at South Australia and a mate, is the best thing that could happen for Warner and the Aussies. 

“He’s got a quality cricket head and knows when to enjoy himself. I love the old school approach,” Tait says.

Friends Life T20: Essex plays Surrey on Wed, 7.10pm, at The County Ground, Chelmsford. Quarter finals will be played Aug 6-8 at venues TBA. The semi-finals and final will be Aug 17 in Birmingham    

 

Photos: Getty