10 June 2011.
Kieron Pollard is at once a struggling cricketer and hot property. It is a curious dichotomy born of T20. Suddenly money can be made not from the most demanding part of the game but from an amusing sideshow. In golfing terms the imposing West Indian is making his living not from the main events but from skins tournaments.
Hereafter Pollard’s fortunes will be closely followed, because his fate and the game’s are intertwined. His experiences will help to determine whether T20 is a breakthrough, as supporters insist, a popular form of the game capable of unleashing exciting new talents or a distraction creating not greatness but its illusion.
Kieron Pollard talking to Chris Gayle at a Cape Cobras vs Highveld Lions RAM slam t20 match.
Photo © bob walker / Flickr.com
At present Pollard resembles Andrew Flintoff in his early years in international cricket. The Lancastrian first appeared as a hulking cricketer capable of bowling fast, giving the ball a mighty clout and changing the course of a contest in 10 minutes. However, he also seemed unsure of himself and was confused about his approach. He was an essentially orthodox cricketer upon who gods had bestowed formidable power. For a long time he was torn between method and brute force.
Eventually Flintoff matured as a person and as a cricketer whereupon he began to take matches by the scruff of the neck. By then, though, he had played a lot of four-day matches for his county. In effect, he went to school and then college. Cricket is primarily a craft, and craft requires study.
Ian Botham was different because he was an extrovert whose extraordinary skills included an ability to play off both feet and to combine pace and swing. Although a swashbuckler, in his youth he did not depend as much on power and was technically superior to these successors.
Until IPL, Pollard’s career was going along steadily. Already he had caught the eye as a middle-order batsman capable of hitting the ball hard but also willing to build his innings. His game remained raw, though, and shrewd observers detected a weakness on the back foot. Still, his talent could not be missed and locals thought he might help to turn West Indian cricket around.
But Pollard was not given the chance to learn the game in the old fashioned way. It was not his fault or anyone else’s. A young man born into responsibility and burdened with the insecurity that accompanies all sportsmen on their journey cannot be expected to shake his head at fat contracts. It’s no use talking about development when there are mouths to feed.
In any case T20 was new. No one could predict its effect. Indeed that remains the position. India has reason to be pleased, even relieved, with the performance of its emerging players in the Caribbean. Mind you, most of them grew up in the tried and tested way.
In a trice Pollard found himself playing T20 cricket all over the place. Inevitably it swiftly became his pathway from rags to riches. He represented his country, his region and South Australia, joined fellows like Brett Lee, Shahid Afridi and Andrew Symonds for whom T20 had become a gravy train.
But there is one crucial difference between Pollard and these players. The deed has not been done. Most of these travellers are veterans enjoying an extra pay day and relishing the roars of the crowds. Pollard is still learning the game. His Test and ODI returns are modest. He has abundant promise and spasmodic delivery.
And yet Pollard can become a formidable cricketer. He has a rare gift. Just that he needs to tighten his technique. And that means working on his back foot game not his ‘dilscoop’.