Graeme-Pollock

Born, February 27, 1944, Robert Graeme Pollock is a former cricketer from South Africa,  considered to be the nation’s greatest cricketer to have played the game. Standing 6 feet 2 inches, Pollock was known for his excellent timing with an upright batting stance. He is also considered to be one of the best left-handed batsmen the game has ever seen. On his 72nd birthday, Abhishek Kumar lists out 18 interesting things from his life.

1. Cricketing family

Pollock is one of those cricketers who got good backing from his parents, as his father Andrew Pollock and Uncle Robert Howden too were cricketers at First-Class level. Before him, his cousin Peter Pollock had already made it to the South African international side and later the legacy continued with two sons Andrew and Anthony, and then his nephew, Shaun Pollock, who went on to play 108 Tests..

2. Nickname

Pollock got a very strange nickname of ‘little dog’ during his First-Class cricket days and his brother Peter Pollock revealed an interesting story behind it in an interview with Peter said, “Pooch actually started when I first played for Eastern Province. I was still young, and my voice hadn’t yet broken properly. And I would say ‘Howzat’ in a squeaky voice. A guy called Atholl McKinnon, a big, burly left-arm spinner, and he called me Pooch because it sounded like a dog yelping. And then along came my brother and they had Big Dog and Little Dog. Pooch became Putch, it became two dogs, putch, hoot, schweiner, my brother was called Schweiner. Later he became Schweiny.”

3. Hailed by Bradman

When it comes to the left-handers, the Australian great Don Bradman came up with two names — Gary Sobers and Graeme Pollock. Bradman called Pollock as one of the greatest left-handed batsman along with Sobers.

4. Heavy bat

Pollock was known for using heavy bats and to Greg Chappell he once revealed that his bat weighed around three pounds and after this the Australian batsman started using heavy bats too

5. Best average after Bradman

There is no one around Bradman’s Test average of 99.94 but next to him is Pollock. Among the players who has played more than 20 Tests and scored over 2000 runs in their career, Pollock stands at second position in terms of average. He averaged 60.97.

6. Record 3rd wicket partnership for 47 years

During the fourth Test between Australia and South Africa at Adelaide Oval in January 1964, Pollock and Eddie Barlow stood still at the crease and added 341 runs together, which was world record by a South African pair at that time as they broke the previous best partnership of 319 between Alan Melville and Dudley Nourse, which they put up 1947. Pollock scored 175, while his partner Barlow went on to make a double century and scored 201. This record remained unbroken for more than 48 years till it was broken by Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis in July 2012 against England.

7. Highest score by a South African 

On February 5, 1970, Pollock broke another record by scoring 275 runs in an innings against Australia, which was the highest individual score from a South African batsman at that time. He broke the previous best of Jackie McGlew, who had scored unbeaten 255 against New Zealand on March 6, 1953. Later, Pollock’s record was broken Daryll Cullinan on February 27, 1999. Cullinan struck an unbeaten 275 against England. Currently, the record for highest individual score by a South African is in Hashim Amla’s bag with his highest score of 311, which came against England on July 12, 2012.

8. How Pollock became batsman?

His elder brother Peter once shared a very interesting story of their childhood in an interview with ESPNCricinfo on how they both became cricketers or how Pollock became batsman and Peter became bowler. He said, “Graeme was three years younger than me. To get him to play, I used to have to let him bat first. Then he used to get in, I would get him out, and he would say it wasn’t out, and I would say it was out. Then we would get my mother to come in. ‘Oh shame, he is small, give him another chance.’ That would happen a few more times. The next time I got him out and he wouldn’t go, I would give him a club or something. So that also finished the game. I often joke about that, saying that’s how I became the bowler and he the batsman.”

9. ‘No’ to running between the wickets

Pollock was known for his perfect timed shots and technique. He barely used to take runs and always believed in scoring boundaries rather than moving the scoreboard by taking runs. His cousin Peter revealed that Pollock never liked running singles in an interview with ESPNCricinfo and said, “My brother will tell you he didn’t think that running round the field helped his batting. I would very much disagree with him. He didn’t like running singles. He only hit boundaries. I think if he ran a three, you would notice that he would take his gloves off and sort of have sweat jumping in front of his eyes.”

10. School ground named after him

Pollock studied in a school named Grey High School and his Peter once revealed that the front field is called the Pollock Field, which was named after Graeme.

11. No to English county cricket

Throughout his career, he got many offers from English county cricket but his answer was always “no” to it.

12. Career affected by apartheid

If South Africa were not banned from sports due to apartheid, then Pollock might have scored many runs in Tests. Prior to apartheid, Pollock could only play 23 Tests, in which he scored 2256 runs at 60.97. Just at the time, his career started booming, it was fully cut short by the policy of apartheid, which did not let him play anymore international cricket.

13. Involvement in protest against apartheid

In the year 1971, Pollock actively took part in a protest organised by Barry Richards and Mike Procter against the government’s apartheid policy. During an exhibition match, along with Richards, Pollock and other cricketers from both the teams walked off after only one ball being bowled. The match was to celebrate the 10th anniversary of formation of Republic of South Africa and the cricketers issued a statement saying, “We cricketers feel that the time has come for an expression of our views. We fully support the South African Cricket Association’s application to invite non-whites to tour Australia, if they are good enough, and further subscribe to merit being the only criterion on the cricket field.”

14. The unofficial Tests

Post apartheid, Pollock never played county cricket and due to which he did not qualify for it. But apart from that, he played 16 unofficial Tests against rebel teams from England, Australia, Sri Lanka and West Indies. In these matches, he scored 1376 runs at an impressive average of 65.52.

15. Retirement

In the year 1987, Pollock called it a day for him after playing First-Class cricket for 27-years, in which he scored 20,940 runs with 64 hundreds.

16. Role in administration

By the time Pollock retired from cricket, he has already became a known face in the nation’s cricket administration and was the president of South African Cricket Player’s Association board member selector of Transvaal Cricket Council in 1988. Later, in the year 2000, he was appointed as Test selector by United Cricket Board and remained till 2002. In this period, his nephew Shaun Pollock captained South African team.

17. Awards and accolades

In the year 1999, he was voted as South Africa’s cricketer of the 20th century. He is also one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the year in 1966. During his playing time, he was awarded with player of the year in 1961 and 1984. Further in 2009, Pollock was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame.

18. Suffered from cancer

The former South African batsman was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2013. Although he was successfully treated, it took a toll on his finances. A year later, it was revealed that he struggled to pay the mortgages for his house.

19. The benefit dinner

Pollock was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2014 and turned to South African and Indian cricket board for help but didn’t get it. Further, Pollock organised a Benefit dinner where some of the biggest names in cricket over the past fifty years featured. Mike Procter, Barry Richards, Clive Rice, Shaun Pollock, Graeme Smith among others had attended.

(Abhishek Kumar is an aspiring cricket statistician and reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed at @abhik2593.)