Cricket Graeme-Pollock

Published on April 28th, 2018 | by Rohit Sankar

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Graeme Pollock: A poetry in motion

🕓 Reading time:4 minutes

“Yesteryear videos show him as a class apart from several wonderful batsmen. If ever a movie was made on South African cricket, Pollock would play a guest role”. 

Dudley Nurse was perhaps the most flamboyant of South Africa’s number four batsmen in the early years. An average of 50 in 53 innings’ proved he was more than just flamboyant. Just when it seemed like South Africa had seen their best number four batsmen for the next decade at least, a young 16-year old prodigy lambasts his way to national recognition with a first-class ton.

If there was elegance personified, this was it. If there ever was something more graceful and poetic than Shakespeare’s literature, this was it. When you have the persona of an International batsman at the tender age of nine, you know you are a legend in the making.

Graeme Pollock. The finest among the finest. The classy, elegant Gary Sobers would in most likelihood come second to Pollock in terms of grace. Such was his demeanour and composure at the wicket that the mere sight of Pollock spelt doom for the opposition.

Don Bradman, the greatest of all-time, strongly believed that the South African was one of the two greatest left-handed batsmen he ever witnessed in full bloom. Garry Sobers was the obvious other one. Yet, like many of the fabulous cricketers from South Africa in that era, Pollock’s remains an unfulfilled, incomplete journey.

Graeme Pollock. Image Courtesy: ESPNcricinfo

Pollock played only 23 Tests, racked up 2256 runs and averaged a mind-blowing 60.97. Almost a half-century of years since his retirement, Pollock still remains in the finest of batsmen in the history of the game. His batting average is the fourth best in the history of Test cricket but his exemplary cricketing talent was cut short by unfortunate circumstances in the country.

“I always practised hitting bad balls: I worked on hitting full tosses in the nets and I knew when one came that I could whack it for four. I anticipated them so that they never came as a surprise. In any match I looked to hit a boundary every over”, Graeme Pollock says of his batting and how he works in the nets.

“In those days, every batsman was technically OK and could keep out the good balls. The ones that were rated were those who could punish the dross,”he says.

There is a thumb rule in cricket that even if you miss a hundred good balls, you got to put that one bad ball away. Pollock lived by it and thrived. He was ever so prepared. On pitches that were live dynamites, he not only survived, but flourished.

Graeme Pollock. Image Courtesy: Getty Images

In England, at Trent Bridge, in 1965, Graeme Pollock showcased his greatness in one sublime knock on a treacherous wicket. It was a low scoring encounter with the surface having a tinge of green and England bowlers made merry. South Africa were plummeting down like a broken rocket but found extra ammunition when Graeme Pollock assumed his fabulous self after the break. He clobbered 90 runs without breaking a bead of sweat, effortless and as easy as you like it.

The knock is often referred to as the second greatest in the history of Test cricket but the humble South African believes it is an overrated innings. “It was obviously uncovered in those days, but, to be honest, after the first session it didn’t do much.”

From what was a traditional batting technique, Pollock moved to an unorthodox, almost baseball-like stance. His maturity to accept the changing realms of batsmanship made him a pioneer of modern day batting at a time traditional was the only accepted one.

“I’m a big believer that batting is instinctive. It just felt more natural to me and I felt balanced, and balance is the key to batting.”

Sadly, he played his last Test at the age of 26. The best years in him were lost to cricket but his sheer class was on display way before his last Test. The year 1965, when he supposedly compiled his greatest ever knock, was a turning point in Pollock’s career.

A graph that had appeared ordinary till then took an upward dash and did not end until it reached a zenith. Before 1965, Pollock had 524 runs in 8 Tests at a rather innocuous average of 40.30. But since then he hit a purple patch that stayed the same for the entire duration of the next five years he graced International cricket.

In 15 Tests after that, he made 1732 runs at an average of 72.16. An unfortunate end to his International career meant that Pollock left the game at a time he has just come to grasps with the nuances of batsmanship. Imagine the havoc he would have caused had he played for a few more years!

Yesteryear videos show him as a class apart from several wonderful batsmen. If ever a movie was made on South African cricket, Pollock would play a guest role. So minimal was his contribution in terms of matches to South African cricket history that anything beyond that would mar the original purpose of the movie. But in terms of impact, Pollock would be one of the most influential characters in the movie. When on song, he was poetry in motion and the below words from the Johnny Tillotson song ‘Poetry in motion’ in the 1960s was perhaps written keeping in mind this future South Batting prodigy.

I love every movement
And there’s nothing I would change
She doesn’t need improvement
She’s much too nice to rearrange
Poetry in motion
Dancing close to me
A flower of devotion
A swaying gracefully
Whoa
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Whoa

 

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About the Author

mm

A cricket enthusiast striving to convey the finer details of the game in a capsule. I hope to present a bird's eye view of the game as I see it to the readers. PS: I am smitten by the likes of ABD but crush on pace bowlers who can make the ball talk.



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