Shaun Pollock is South Africa’s most successful bowler © Getty Images
Shaun Pollock, born July 16, 1973, is South Africa’s leading wicket-taker, and one of their most successful all-round cricketers of all time. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at ten things every Pollock fan needs to know.
Shaun Pollock is one of the finest all-rounders in the history of South Africa. Had he hailed from any other country, the previous statement would have classified him as outstanding, but the very fact that he has made his way to the top echelons in the pantheon of all-rounders in South Africa — a country that has the tradition of producing world-class all-rounders throughout its history — puts him on another plane.
On his brithday, let us look at ten lesser-known aspects of Pollock’s career.
1. It’s all in the family
The fact that Shaun Pollock’s father Peter and uncle Graeme were both South African stalwarts (how many families can boast of three cricketers of that stature?) is well-known. What is less-documented is that Andrew Pollock, father of Graeme and Peter, was a wicket-keeper for Orange Free State; Andrew’s brother-in-law Robert Howden played for Natal; Graeme’s sons Andrew and Anthony both played for Transvaal; and Graeme and Peter’s cousins Ranevor and Christopher also played for Natal.
2. First to the Mother Country
Despite having cricket of a highest quality in his blood, Shaun was the first in the family to play for an English county (he turned up for both Warwickshire and Durham). Graeme and Peter never played Championship cricket during the apartheid era, which was extremely rare among South Africans.
3. No more canines
It was surprising that neither Peter nor Graeme earned the obvious nickname Polly. They were, rather affectionately, called The Big Dog and The Little Dog respectively. Shaun somehow managed to put an end to the canine nicknames in the family when he earned the name Polly — which, as we know, is a name usually assigned to parrots.
4. Spirit of the other kind
A devout Christian, Pollock was a staunch teetotaller. His teammates had often tried to convince him to a glass or two, but Pollock remained firm throughout his life. “We’ve tried to get him (Pollock) to drink even a little half glass of liquor, but he’s not interested,” an exasperated Herschelle Gibbs had said after Pollock’s last international match, at New Wanderers against West Indies.
5. The debut quartet
In his first appearance for Warwickshire — a Benson & Hedges tie against Leicestershire at Edgbaston — Pollock became only the second bowler (after Alan Ward) to take four wickets in four ball in a List A match when he removed Greg Macmillan, James Whitaker, Phil Robinson, and Darren Maddy off consecutive balls: as Pollock left the ground, he saw Allan Donald — his senior new-ball partner for South Africa — waiting for him with the Warwickshire county cap.
6. King for four days
The injured Pollock was picked for the Afro-Asia Cup of 2007 in India; he had announced that he would play as a specialised batsman, and the selectors were fine with that. In the first match at Chinnaswamy, Pollock — batting at no. 7 — bludgeoned his way to a 110-ball 130 — going past Mohammad Kaif’s 111 not out and registering the highest score by a no. 7 in an ODIs.
Unfortunately, the feat stood for only four days before MS Dhoni scored a 97-ball 139 at Chepauk to claim the record in the third match of the series.
7. When the brakes were off
With age Pollock’s bowling lost its edge, and somewhat sadly, he had to resort to bowling off-breaks in the Test series in Sri Lanka in 2006. By then he had already been relegated to first-change (Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn shared the new ball); after being hammered by Sanath Jayasuriya at P Sara Stadium, Pollock switched to off-spin.
While his pace went for 25 runs from five overs, he proved to be an excellent foil as an off-spinner, conceding 35 from 14 overs, holding one end up as Sri Lanka faltered chasing a massive 352; in the end they won by a single wicket.
8. The hug
It was another of those close ODIs: South Africa had posted 263 for five at Adelaide Oval in 2005-06 thanks to the ever-reliable Boeta Dippenaar’s 125; Sri Lanka, in response, kept losing wickets until Chaminda Vaas joined Tillakaratne Dilshan; the pair added a few quick runs, and Sri Lanka required 11 from the final seven balls.
Vaas had a swipe off Pollock at that juncture, and Johan Botha took a good catch at wide long-on. A jubilant Pollock, all of 32, turned out and hugged Aleem Dar in joy!
9. A legend among legends
When MCC took on Rest of World XI in July 2014 for the Lord’s bicentenary match, Pollock was appointed manager for the latter. Unfortunately, Shane Warne, captain of his side, had his hand fractured by a snorter from Brett Lee. There was applause as Pollock took field as the substitute later in the match. Though he did not light up the ground with the athleticism of his heydays, he did not embarrass himself either.
10. Point no. 10
The tenth point involves, rather predictably, a no. 10. When Pollock participated in the annual horse race at Durban, the Edgbaston semifinal was fresh in his mind. He could not forget the run out of Donald (while adorning the no. 10 jersey) had been involved in.
Pollock, not being an avid racer, went to a friend for advice. With Donald’s run out jokes still doing the rounds, the man advised Pollock — in jest — not to put money on El Picha, the no. 10 horse in the race. Despite knowing the fact that the statement was a joke, Pollock bet on another horse.
You can guess the rest. Yes, El Picha won the race.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)