Pollock celebrates 70th bday

2014-02-27 15:24
Graeme Pollock (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - South African cricket legend Graeme Pollock, dubbed the greatest left-handed batsman of all time, celebrated his 70th birthday on Thursday.

Former South African Test captain Ali Bacher said his teammate was an unparalleled batsman.

"It is quite extraordinary that, despite South Africa being banned from international cricket in 1970, Graeme still holds the second-highest batting average in Test cricket," he said.

"It's 2014 and he is still number two only to Sir Donald Bradman, which indicates his greatness."

Pollock's Test batting average stands at 60.97, behind the right-handed Bradman's unmatched 99.94.

Other batting greats high on the list are West Indian Sir Garfield Sobers with an average of 57.78, England's Sir Jack Hobbs with 56.94, and Sir Leonard Hutton with 56.67.

More recently retired batsmen Jacques Kallis had a Test average of 55.37, while India's 'Little Master' Sachin Tendulkar averaged 53.78. West Indian Brian Lara and Australia's Ricky Ponting had Test averages of 52.88 and 51.85, respectively.

Bacher said when he met Bradman for the first time in 1992 in Australia, he asked the legendary batsman how he rated Pollock.

"He is the best left-handed batsman of all time," Bradman said.

"Greater than Sir Garfield Sobers?" Bacher asked.

"Marginally," he replied, but said Sobers was "the greatest all-rounder of all time".

Pollock was voted South Africa's Cricketer of the Century in 2000.

He was 19 when he made his Test debut, facing Australia in Brisbane. He made 25 runs. In the next Test he scored a meagre 16 and two, but in the third match of the series he made his early mark on the game.

Playing in Sydney, Pollock made 122 in South Africa's first innings. The score prompted Bradman to suggest: "Next time you decide to play like that, send me a telegram."

Pollock made a further 42 runs in the second innings.

Bacher said Pollock was renowned for his innings in the second Test against Australia in Durban in 1970, prior to South Africa being expelled from international cricket. Pollock scored 274 and shared a 103-run partnership with Barry Richards, who scored 140 in the match.

"I doubt whether South Africa will ever again see a batting partnership of that calibre."

It was to be Pollock's highest score and was, for many years, the South African Test record. Pollock was just 26 when his Test career was brought to an end. He played 23 matches and scored 2256 runs. His final Test was against Australia in 1970.

Pollock retired from the first-class game in the 1986/87 season at the age of 43. He made 20,940 runs, including 64 centuries and 99 fifties. He averaged 54.67.

Limited overs matches were introduced after his career began, and he played only 112 innings in the shorter form. He tallied 4656 runs at an average of over 50.

Bacher said the cricketing legend would celebrate his birthday on Thursday with a few of his friends at home.

In December last year, the Eastern Province cricket board named the grandstand at St George's Park, in Port Elizabeth, after Pollock. It was the ground where he began his first-class career.

When he moved to then Transvaal in 1978, he was initially viewed as a traitor by those back home in Eastern Province.

In December he suffered a mild stroke, and had since undergone speech therapy. Pollock's record, however, speaks for itself.

"There can be no doubt he remains one of the greatest batsmen the world has ever seen," Bacher said.

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