By Saj Sadiq
Kieron Pollard played his first game for the West Indies in April 2007, just three months after his First-Class debut. It was a rapid rise for the hard-hitting all-rounder, who was selected after impressing selectors with 126 off just 71 balls in his first four-day game, for Trinidad and Tobago.
His One-Day International (ODI) debut was in the ICC World Cup 2007 in the West Indies, in the Super Eights match against South Africa and he has since gone on to play 85 ODIs, accumulating almost 1,900 runs as well as taking 44 wickets.
However, it’s in the Twenty20 format, both international and in domestic leagues, in which he has made his name. The 26-year-old has played 37 T20Is, scoring at a strike rate of 150 which emphasises his reputation as a big hitter. He has also taken 17 wickets at an average of 28 with his medium-pace bowling and was part of the West Indies side which won the ICC World T20 2012 in Sri Lanka a couple of years ago. Perhaps a blueprint for future cricketers, Pollard’s international achievements have been matched by his exploits in domestic T20 leagues. His services have been in demand by teams around the world, including those in the Indian Premier League (IPL) where he commands one of the largest contracts with the Mumbai Indians, the Australian Big Bash and the Friends Life T20 tournament in England, where he has represented Somerset.
Speaking with PakPassion.net, Pollard talked about his ongoing recovery from a knee injury, his experience of playing alongside Shahid Afridi at the Big Bash League, his record for the West Indies, the Caribban Premier League (CPL) and his hopes for the future.
Excerpts from an interview:
PakPassion.net (PP): It’s freezing cold and the middle of winter in England, how come you are in England and not lying on the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean?
Kieron Pollard (KP): Oh believe me, it’s cold here and I’d rather be in Trinidad especially at this time with it being the carnival season! The reason I’m in England is that I was injured in November last year and have had surgery on my anterior cruciate ligament. I’m here as part of a rehabilitation programme for the injury, spending six or seven hours a day at the Isokinetic London clinic after it was recommended to me by a couple of people that I know. I’m going through this rehabilitation programme to get better as quickly as possible.
PP: How did the injury occur?
KP: I was playing a charity game of football back home and turned sharply. The ligament snapped and unfortunately that was that. However those things can happen to anybody anywhere — it could have happened just walking up the stairs. It is what it is and thankfully I’m on the road to recovery.
PP: When do you think you’ll be back out there playing cricket again?
KP: As soon as possible, very soon, hopefully. I reckon I’ll be playing cricket again in the next six to eight weeks. I’m at the stage at the moment where I’m running and in the nets practicing. Sometimes you feel good and you think you’re ready to play cricket again, but you have to allow for the healing process to continue and be 100 per cent right before playing again. I’m batting, having sessions in the nets and continuing with strengthening and rehabilitation, but I don’t want to rush things.
PP: You must be disappointed at missing the World Twenty20?
KP: Yes absolutely, it’s every player’s dream to want to play at major tournaments, but it wasn’t meant to be for me this time. As I said earlier I don’t want to rush the rehabilitation process and also going into a World Cup with very little or no cricket behind me would have been a big risk. Not being able to play in this World Cup due to fitness problems is devastating but I have to accept it and move on.
PP: Was the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) in touch with you regarding your availability for the World Twenty20?
KP: Yes, they contacted me a couple of weeks ago to see if I’d be able to play at the World Twenty20. Not as regularly as I’d have imagined though.
PP: I believe you’ve been watching some English Premier League football matches while you’ve been in England?
KP: Yes I’m making the most of being in England during the winter and during the football season. I’m a Manchester United fan so I went to see a couple of their games. I went to see them against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge when unfortunately they lost and then I had the privilege of going to Old Trafford and watching Manchester United play Fulham.
I was like a child again at the football match, it was fantastic to have the opportunity to watch Manchester United play at Old Trafford, but the result was disappointing, a 2-2 draw. However the experience of being there at Old Trafford is one that I will always remember.
PP: Do you think David Moyes is the right man for the job at Old Trafford?
KP: That’s not my field of expertise. No need to comment on that! (laughs).
PP: What was it like going shopping with Shahid Afridi in Australia when you both played in the Big Bash League?
KP: Oh! Shahid Afridi, Boom Boom Afridi! One of my good friends and one of the craziest men I have ever met. We stayed in the same apartment when we played in the Big Bash League a few years ago. When we met up for the first practice session he said “you are a foreigner here, and so am I, so we may as well stay together.” We had some good times staying together and ever since we have been very good friends.
During my younger days I used to watch him play on television and to get the chance to play alongside him is something that I won’t forget. At the end of the day he’s a good guy, a fun loving individual who makes you laugh. I love seeing him on the field and I’m not surprised that he’s loved in Pakistan and around the world.
PP: There appeared to be a bit of beef with you and Afridi in the Caribbean last year. Fun and games or was it more serious than that?
KP: It was all fun. At the end of the day we are friends off the pitch but tough competitors on it. He’s playing for his country and I’m playing for my country so we both want to do well. I got him out once in that series and he got me out once, so we ended up even during that series last year. Whenever we are in the same country we always try to meet up for breakfast or lunch and it’s always nice to catch up with Shahid.
PP: Are you someone who avoids cricket whilst injured or do you still like to watch it while recovering from injury?
KP: No I like to keep in touch and watch cricket from around the world. With the rehabilitation programme, there are a lot of periods of rest so I’m watching a lot of cricket on television, particularly the ongoing domestic tournament which is being played in the Caribbean which I’m following very closely. I miss playing, but I’m not one of those cricketers who will avoid the game altogether.
PP: Your critics say that your batting average of twenty five in One-Day Internationals doesn’t do your talent justice. Is that a fair comment?
KP: I would join them in saying that. I’m not happy with the statistics that are there but I know what I am capable of and I’m the one who has to go out there and face the deliveries. I work hard on my game and my philosophy is that I go out there and try to win games for my team. I don’t just try to bolster my average with nice little not outs.
I could quite easily boost my average up to thirty in one-day internationals with some not outs, but what will that achieve if the team doesn’t win? For me, it’s about winning games and sacrificing myself sometimes for the sake of the team in the quest for a win, rather than just trying to improve my own average. There have been numerous occasions where I could have walked off the ground with a not out under my belt and improved my average, but that’s not the way I play my cricket.
PP: Who’s the harder hitter of a cricket ball, you or Chris Gayle?
KP: Chris, he’s the king. He’s fantastic, phenomenal. He hits the ball a long way and demolishes bowling attacks. He’s great to watch. It’s good that Chris is at the top of the order and I’m there in the middle order. He does the demolishing at the top and I go in to clean up at the end. It works well for the West Indies in twenty-over cricket and sometimes in one-day cricket.
PP: How highly do you rate West Indies’ chances of retaining the ICC World T20 crown in Bangladesh?
KP: I think they have a very good chance. You get a taste for winning titles and trophies and as a player you want to be in that position and have that scenario again. I’m sure the guys will be up for it, especially with them being the reigning champions. The West Indies have a few games against Ireland and England and have an opportunity to build up some momentum. I’m sure the boys will be looking forward to the tournament in Bangladesh.
PP: You’ve played 85 ODIs and 37 T20Is, but are yet to feature in a Test match. Do you think playing Test cricket is a realistic aim for you?
KP: Critics will say that my batting average in ODIs is only 25 and therefore I’m not good enough for Test cricket! Growing up, it was mainly Test cricket that was shown on television and that’s the format that I watched the most whilst I was a young man. That’s the format that I grew up wanting to represent the West Indies in.
It’s not happened though as yet, but I’m not old. It’s something that I would dearly like to do but I’d have to play a full season of domestic first-class cricket, as are the requirements. I’d need to make a few hundreds and who knows maybe the selectors will give me a chance. If it doesn’t happen, then I guess it’s not meant to be. If I’m destined to play Test cricket for the West Indies, then nobody can take that away from me. If the Lord has plans that Kieron Pollard will play Test cricket, then I will play Test cricket.
PP: You’re a key member of the Mumbai Indians’ IPL team. Tell us about the experience of playing in the IPL?
KP: It’s a fantastic experience. There are obviously great financial rewards so you can take care of your family which is good. It also gives you the opportunity to play in front of huge and fanatical Indian crowds. I’ve been lucky in that in all the IPL tournaments I’ve played, I’ve only played for one team and that’s really helped me.
We did well last year in winning the IPL and the Champions League T20 so that’s a couple of good successes. I enjoy the IPL, its exciting cricket and you come up against team mates from your country, you come up against friends and come up against players from all over the world. I think the IPL has made international cricket a lot more competitive also.
PP: We saw the CPL also make a successful debut last year. That must have been pleasing for all the stakeholders in Caribbean cricket?
KP: Yes it was a good start, it was fantastic. I’m sure it will get bigger and better as a tournament. For me the best thing about the CPL is that it is our own tournament. Being able to play cricket around the world in various countries and to entertain the crowds around the world is brilliant but playing in front of your home crowds and to entertain your own people is most touching for me.
We always wanted a tournament such as the CPL. It came out last year and it was a success for us as players too. The crowds came in huge numbers and grounds such as in Antigua and Jamaica were sold out and you just don’t see that nowadays in Test cricket at those venues. At the CPL, every single game was sold out which was a fantastic achievement and hopefully that can continue in the second season and beyond.
PP: How difficult do you think it is for young cricketers to motivate themselves to play Test cricket, when the easy riches of Twenty20 cricket are a big lure?
KP: I think it’s a personal decision. Yes Twenty20 competitions around the world are appetising and each and everyone wants to play twenty-over cricket but it’s down to what the individual’s priorities are and what that individual wants is the key.
For young cricketers, Test cricket is there for them, 50-over and 20-over cricket is also there for them. The opportunities are there and twenty over cricket provides huge financial opportunities and is a quick format with players only having to be on the field for three hours. The world is at the feet of cricketers and it’s just a matter of grabbing those opportunities with both hands.
PP: How can players be motivated and loyal to franchises when quite often they are only playing for them for one season and it’s one of several franchises that they play for around the world?
KP: For me it’s very simple and easy. Cricket is what I know and whichever team I play for on any given day will get 100 per cent effort from me. It’s my performance that counts. If a player plays for a team and doesn’t perform then you will look bad as an individual and teams will be thinking he came here and didn’t perform. It’s about giving 100 per cent in every match, whoever you play for. Even if I don’t perform well in some matches, I will still give 100 per cent in all aspects of the game.
I’ve played for a lot of teams around the world, but in each competition I’ve only played for one team. For example in India it’s been the Mumbai Indians, in England it’s been Somerset. If I’m presented with an opportunity to play in a competition, I will always be looking, as the first option, to go back to the team that I have already played for and where I have done well.
Yes you get paid wherever you play, but pride and performance is what matters the most and that is something I pride myself on.
PP: You’ve signed a deal recently with the Pakistani cricket equipment manufacturer CA. Tell us about the deal and what it entails?
KP: I was with SS for around four or five years but have now signed with CA. I thought I would try a well known Pakistani brand. I have always been impressed by CA’s bats, so it was an easy decision to make for me. The range for me is about identification as a player. When I was at SS I had my own KP Pollard range and a lot of guys in Trinidad and around the world wanted to buy the bats when they saw me using that particular bat. Now I’m with CA, I’ll have my own bat which will be known as ‘Big Bang KP’ and hopefully it will be seen very soon in international cricket.
The CA bats I’ve been trialling in the nets are some of the best I have ever used. They pick up beautifully and I’m looking forward to striking the ball even further.
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