Graeme Pollock Biography
Don Bradman clubbed the soaring genius of Garry Sobers, together with the broadsword of a bat wielded by Graeme Pollock. Those were the two best left-handers in the game according to the greatest batsman ever. When Pollock scored 122 in his very third Test at the age of 19, against Graham McKenzie and Richie Benaud, Bradman commented, “Next time you decide to play like that send me a telegram.”
Anyone who had watched Pollock make 274 at Durban against Bill Lawry’s Australians could vouch that Bradman’s cricketing judgement was as peerless as ever. It was an innings that made cricket lovers go dizzy with delight.
Sadly, Pollock could play just two more Test matches after that. The evils of apartheid paid the price of seclusion, and the brilliant cricket team was lost to the world forever.
In a Test career that ended at the age of 26, Pollock plundered 2256 runs in 23 Tests at 60.97 with seven hundreds. Among all the players with at least 20 Tests, Pollock’s average stands second only to Bradman’s 99.94.
The 20,940 runs in 262 First-Class matches at an average of 54 with 64 centuries provide some indication of what might have been. Pollock was no flash in the pan. He was touched by greatness, and the contact had been substantial.
One of the first batsmen to use a heavy bat, Pollock scored freely off good deliveries while punishing the bad. Standing upright at six feet two inches, he used his reach to perfection. The long right leg would go down to the pitch of the ball, and the mighty bat would come down on it — sending it screaming through the off-side. If it was a wee bit short, his excellent balance would help him transfer the weight onto his back foot and cut it away through point.
After the isolation, Pollock continued to play for Eastern Province and Transvaal, but unlike many of his countrymen did not opt for County cricket. His prodigious powers of hitting brought him the first double hundred ever scored in List A matches — a stunning 222 not out for Eastern Province against Border in the Gillette Cup in 1974-75.
Pollock went on to play 16 unofficial ‘Tests’ against rebel teams from England, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Australia. In these matches, without official sanction and limelight, he scored 1,376 runs at an average of 65.52.
Pollock retired in 1987 at the age of 42 after scoring 144 against an Australian rebel team. “It might have been Pollock at the age of 22 rather than 42,” wrote Michael Owen-Smith. When he reflected on his career after the match, he remarked, “I can see the justice of our cricket isolation now, though it was hard at the time.”
His class was permanent, the style, technique and panache did not desert him till his final day on the field. Neither did his qualities of fellow-feeling and humanity.