Australia fast bowler Shaun Tait has announced his retirement from cricket at the age of 34. Tait called time on a 15-year career at the competitive level, with his last match coming for the Hobart Hurricanes against the Sydney Thunder in the 2016-17 Big Bash League.
Tait, whose last appearance for Australia came in a T20 international against India in Sydney early last year – after a call-up to international cricket after five years – played three Tests, 35 ODIs and 21 T20Is for Australia.
“I honestly wanted to play a couple more years, whether it was over in the UK or here,” Tait told cricket.com.au. “I knew it was going to be difficult getting older to compete with the young blokes. I’m 34 years old and I suppose when you’re not contributing on the field as much as you’d like to, it’s time to finish up.”
Tait made his international debut against England in Nottingham during the 2005 Ashes, where his pace, bounce and swing earned him three wickets in England’s first innings. While he played just two more Tests, his ODI career had a few highlights, including the 2007 World Cup, where Tait played an integral role in Australia’s triumph, snaring 23 wickets in 11 matches to finish joint-second on the tournament charts. In all, Tait ended his ODI career with 62 wickets at 23.56. His strike rate of 27.20 is the second-best among Australia bowlers with at least 50 ODI wickets, behind Mitchell Starc.
Tait was recognised as one of the fastest bowlers in world cricket, and clocked 161.1 kmph against England in 2010, which is among the fastest balls ever bowled in international cricket. The downside of his brutal pace, however, was a career strewn with injuries.
Tait called time on his first-class career in 2009 and his ODI career in 2011, after Australia’s World Cup quarter-final exit. He enjoyed some success as a T20 specialist, playing in leagues around the world. However, his latest Big Bash season was marred by dwindling form. Tait missed parts of the tournament due to an elbow problem that has troubled him for over a decade. And in the four matches he played, he conceded runs at 12.48 an over.
“I didn’t know it was going to be as difficult as it was this year [with the Hurricanes],” Tait said. “Pretty much getting left out of the side or not being able to play because of my elbow, either way there’s no point going on with it. I knew during the Big Bash that I was going to finish up. The elbow has pretty much gone off a cliff now, it’s done and dusted.
“It would have been nice to play another year maybe, but there’s no point getting more surgery and play when I’m 35 when I’m probably not up to it anymore. If I was still performing really well, I’d probably do it [have surgery and keep playing]. But I just wasn’t. The game’s getting quicker and better and I’m getting slower and a bit older. It’s that simple.”
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said: “In his prime, Shaun was the world’s fastest bowlers. It was incredibly exciting to watch him full flight bursting through the defences of the game’s best batsmen. Unfortunately, injuries restricted Shaun at certain stages and he certainly didn’t play as much as he would have liked.”
Tait said he was not leaving cricket entirely behind, but would like to remain involved in some capacity. “It’s emotional, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “The first time when you know you’re going to retire, you look back to when you first started. It seems like it was yesterday, but it has been 15 years now. It’s probably a cliché that a lot of guys say, but just being with the lads [is what I’ll miss the most]. Being with your team-mates, having a beer with your team-mates in the change rooms, going away on a trip somewhere to wherever it might be.
“You don’t want to be away from home all the time, but sometimes it’s nice to go to India or the UK for a tournament. That’s always one of the perks of cricket, travelling to these parts of the world, which I’ll miss a bit. I don’t want to close cricket off, that’s for sure. It’d be nice to continue on in cricket somehow.”