Injuries ruined his career

FORMER Australian fast bowler Bruce Reid was a towering 6' 8" and weighed just 12 stone eight pounds. He tried everything to put on weight and was probably the biggest beer drinker in the team, though you would never know it.

The popular description in Australia for someone who can hold his liquor is "Hollow legs" Bruce could never claim this for his legs were like sticks and one of his early nicknames was Pidgeon, a nickname that Glenn McGrath would inherit when he came on the scene some years later.

Everyone looks back and says "If only" and my biggest "If only" is Bruce Reid. If he had stayed fit, there is no doubt at all that Australia would have been recognised as world champions two or three years before we were able to claim that position, simply because he was a great bowler, one of the finest I have ever seen.

None of them reached the crease and delivered the ball as he did without apparent effort. He was pure silk. That is what made his injuries all the more surprising; there was nothing in his action to suggest he would put undue strain on his body, far from it.

There again, there wasn't a lot of spare muscle on him either. Bruce was always going to be a class bowler, but in his early days he tended to bowl a metre too short, like most fast bowlers of his time and even today.

That earned him a reputation as an unlucky bowler because batsmen played and missed so often against him, but I am always suspicious when that happens.

The bowler who consistently beats the batsman without getting an edge is probably not bowling as thoughtfully as he should - you almost invariably find he is bowling too short. Bruce was.

When his arm ball cut off the seam, it moved too far for the batsmen to get an edge, but they fenced at him.

When it happened three or four times an over, the casual spectator reckoned Bruce Reid was the unluckiest bowler around.

Another consequence of bowling too short, of course, was that it gave the ball no time to swing.

Bruce became a much better bowler when he pitched the ball up and by the time we toured Pakistan in 1988 he was superb, having apparently overcome a string of injury problems.

Alas, he suffered another setback during the third Test in Lahore and faced another series of operations.

Ironically, the Australian public never saw Reid at his best because the series in Pakistan was not televised, except on the news when the players took strong exception to unfair treatment in the final Test.

Those who saw Reid take 14 wickets in the three-Test series knew we were looking at real quality and a wonderful force in Australia's cricket future.

Then Bruce felt a twinge in Lahore, left the field and began a series of battles against injury which eventually defeated him.

If Australia had taken their catches in that series, Reid would have doubled his tally of wickets, but we had an appalling run with dropped catches and he suffered as much as any of the bowlers.

I sometimes wonder if the Australian public realises just what they lost when Bruce was lost to the international game. He was exceptional.

In the early days he had a pretty low level of satisfaction.

He was a laidback sort of character and he tended to be content with three or four wickets in any innings. In fact, it took many years before he took five.

That was noticed and criticised with the critics becoming a little more audible after every match.

Good bowler, yeh, but when is he going to get five?

I think it niggled him because he began to set his own sights higher, demand more of himself.

When Bruce hit his straps he developed a great strike rate; even though his injuries set him back, he made a big impact in the matches he was able to play.

It was a cruel reality of his career that he had more time than most to sit and ponder his future.

He was always receptive to advice, in fact nobody was keener than he was to get his body in order and get on with the game.

But one injury followed another, often unrelated, which is a medical nightmare.

He worked hard at all the remedial plans, all the strengthening exercises which they cooked up for him, but in the end perhaps he was just too frail.

When we toured the Caribbean in 1991, there was a considerable amount of air travel involved round the islands and Bruce found it almost impossible to sit comfortably in aircraft seats which were a bit restrictive even for those who weren't seven feet tall.

His back started to give trouble again and, serious or not, it obviously worried him, the sort of nagging problem any sports person can do without.

It was all the more frustrating and eventually all the sadder because, for a very tall man with long legs, Bruce was never cumbersome and awkward.

Admittedly, he wasn't greased lightning in the outfield but he was pretty quick in a straight line and there was a naturalness about his loping stride.

He also had a brilliant throwing arm.

The factor which was going to make him a great Test bowler was that he could bowl on any wicket.

The nature of the pitch mattered very little because he had the ability to put the ball on the spot, swing it in, take it away.

If he had stayed fit, he would have notched up over 300 Test wickets.

Watching him in action was like watching Mark Waugh batting in full cry. Everything looked easy, inevitable.

Undoubtedly Bruce's career was the biggest tragedy in my coaching career.

And what is old spindle shanks doing now? Well, he owns a very successful indoor sporting centre, is the fast bowling coach for West Australia and believe it or not has triple chins and weighs about 18 stone!