Born on May 12, 1987, Kieron Pollard belongs to the crop of naturally athletic all-rounded cricketers coming out of the Caribbean and making their mark in domestic T20 leagues around the world. Jaideep Vaidya goes through the nascent career of the supernatural sportsman from Trinidad and Tobago.
There are times when you watch Kieron Pollard on the cricket pitch — hammering sixes or jumping 20 metres in the air to take stunning catches that are physically impossible for anyone else to even attempt — that you can’t help but have a doubt whether he is indeed a black reincarnation of Clark Kent. Standing tall at 1.96 metres coupled with a burly physique, not only does Pollard’s frame resemble Superman, but he backs his appearance with some spectacular acrobatics and pyrotechnics on the field that leaves you jonesing for more. The only thing missing is a red cape.
Pollard has that inherent ability to flabbergast you with his on-field actions. The power he gets into his shots leave spectators running for cover — that is, of course, if he hasn’t clobbered it out of the park. An outstanding fielder, Pollard’s brochure of jaw-dropping catches runs into many colourful pages. However, he is as capable of taking a one-handed leaping blinder at long-on as he is of dropping a hat-trick of catches at point. It’s that surprise element he brings into the game which funnily makes him such an exciting cricketer to watch.
Pollard is another one of the remarkable rags to riches stories in the world. Born in a poor home in Tacarigua, Trinidad, and raised by a single mom along with two sisters, Pollard didn’t have the most comfortable of childhoods as his family struggled to make ends meet. ”It was pretty tough,” Pollard told the Sydney Morning Herald in an interview. “It wasn’t ideal getting up and your mum say ‘We only have X amount of money’.”
Unlike sports like football where you just need a ball and an open field to play, cricket involves the use of many expensive equipment which Pollard struggled to afford. ”It was pretty hard growing up, and we had a lot of sacrifices to make in order to play cricket, because cricket is an expensive game, all the equipment and getting sponsors,” he said.
But Pollard persisted with his passion and was supported by his family; soon, he was picked in the West Indies Under-19 squad for the 2006 World Cup and also by Trinidad and Tobago for the Stanford Twenty20 competition. He was to soon hit the headlines when he smashed 83 runs from just 38 balls, including seven sixes, that took T&T to the final. Five months later, he scored a century on First-Class debut, with 86 of his 126 runs coming off boundaries. Nine days later, he was picked in the West Indies squad for the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean at age 18.
Pollard made his One-Day International (ODI) debut in the biggest competition on the world stage against the South Africans. It wasn’t the most fruitful of debuts as Pollard bowled three wicketless overs and scored 10 runs as the West Indies lost by 67 runs. He was to be ignored for the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup, but was recalled to the national setup for an ODI series against New Zealand in 2008.
Pollard’s major breakthrough, however, came during the 2009 Champions League T20 where he fired an 18-ball 54 for T&T against New South Wales to announce himself to the world. Pollard went on to score 146 runs in five innings in the competition at a strike-rate of almost 200. So impressed were the Australians with that knock that South Australia quickly swooped in and signed him up for the upcoming Big Bash League. Pollard did not disappoint the Aussie fans as he blitzed his way to 190 runs in six matches and entered the 2010 Indian Premier League (IPL) auction as one of the most sought-after players. After Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore all bid the maximum price of USD 750,000, a ‘silent tie-breaker’ ensued and it was Team Mumbai that secured his services for the most lucrative domestic T20 league in the world. He had earlier also feature in the Stanford 20/20 Superstars team in a match against England, where he had pocketed a cool USD 1 million.
It was a remarkable story — almost a fairytale. From being a boy in Trinidad who barely had the resources to own a bat, Pollard was a multi-millionaire at 22 and one of the most desired players in the shortest format of the game. Such was his pull that he soon became the only player in the world to play domestic leagues in four different continents.
Anyone who has interacted with the now 26-year-old father will tell you that in spite of his booming popularity and wealth, Pollard does not in any way appear high and haughty. Evidently, what keeps his feet firmly on the ground is his humble past. It’s what drives him to achieve more and not get carried away. ”For me, getting afforded the opportunity to play cricket , and being able to make a lot of money, that drives me you know, because you don’t want to end up in that situation again,” he said. “You have family, I have started my own family as well, so it’s a matter of me trying to work hard enough to provide for my family so they won’t have to go through what I went through when I was growing up, so that’s my drive to try to perform and succeed at the highest level.”
Perhaps the one blot on Pollard’s career card so far is that he hasn’t really clicked for the national team as much as he has for domestic teams around the world. At 26, he is a batting all-rounder who is yet to play a Test match, averages 26.95 in ODIs and 20.70 in T20Is. The moolah continues to flow into his coffers playing T20 cricket around the world, but Pollard admits that playing in the whites for the West Indies remains the ultimate dream.
”It sits pretty well with me, but having said that you want to play for your country, you want to play for West Indies, you want to play Test cricket,” he said. ”Every ultimate goal is to put on that white and walk out with the team, with that Test cap on your head. Twenty20 has made a name for me, but it’s a matter of me now transferring that to the 50-over game and trying to get an opportunity to play Test cricket for the West Indies.”
(Jaideep Vaidya is a multiple sports buff and a writer at CricketCountry. He has a B.E. in Electronics Engineering, but that isn’t fooling anybody. He started writing on sports during his engineering course and fell in love with it. The best day of his life came on April 24, 1998, when he witnessed birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar pummel a Shane Warne-speared Aussie attack from the stands during the Sharjah Cup Final. A diehard Manchester United fan, you can follow him on Twitter @jaideepvaidya. He also writes a sports blog - The Mullygrubber )