Pollock: The Proteas hero who did it all

2017-09-07 16:30
Shaun Pollock (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Shaun Pollock has had a career that most cricketers could only dream of.

Not only is 'Polly' the gold medal-winning captain from the 1998 Commonwealth Games side, but he was also part of the only South African team to ever win an ICC trophy - the ICC Knock-Out (now known as the Champions Trophy) in 1998.

Nine years after his retirement, Pollock still holds the record as the highest South African wicket-taker in Test cricket at 421 scalps, which, however, could soon be surpassed by fellow fast bowler Dale Steyn.

Despite those accolades, one of Pollock's defining moments came in 2000 when South African cricket was tarnished after the late Hansie Cronje was found guilty of match-fixing.

When the nation and the sport needed a beacon of light to help repair South Africa's image after 'Hansiegate', Pollock shouldered much of the responsibility.

"I had a job to do and it was in unfortunate circumstances. In that time you should feel proud about being selected as captain for South Africa, but it was under the sombre environment," Pollock told Sport24 in an exclusive interview.

"We still had the same team, the same players and we still had the same work ethic. Maybe our reputation had been tarnished a bit but all we could do was keep performing and go back to what we did best.

"Often in times of trauma that's the best option, to go back to the basics and try and perform as best as you can. That's what we did and we achieved some good results. I enjoyed my time as captain after the initial period of having to deal with what went on."

Growing up, Pollock did not need to look too far for inspiration when starting off his cricketing career.

Son of former South African fast bowler Peter and nephew to former batting legend Graeme, Shaun became the latest member of the famous cricketing family to earn his national call-up when he made his debut against England in 1995. He was 22 at the time.

"It did inspire to have my uncle playing and watching him on TV. My dad had the blazers in his cupboard, which I obviously tried on and I knew what they achieved," said Pollock.

"I definitely got a lot more media attention as a young kid compared to others. There was obviously an expectation.

"I got past that (living in family's shadow) once I represented South Africa and carved my own career.

"It was nice trying to break my dad's record with the amount of wickets he got so that motivated me. As far as the judgement goes, once they see you perform and validate your spot, it sort of goes by the wayside."

Pollock soon established himself at the highest level and became known for his consistent line and length.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, South Africa's opening bowling attack of Pollock and Allan Donald became one of the best fast bowling partnerships of all time.

In one of his finest Tests back in 1998 - and with the absence of Donald - Pollock toiled in blazing Adelaide heat to take 7-87 in 41 overs against a strong Australian team - dismissing the likes of Steve and Mark Waugh.

"I was fortunate and I enjoyed my time playing in the 1990s, when you had the likes of (Curtly) Ambrose, (Courtney) Walsh, Wasim (Akram), Waqar (Younis), (Glenn) McGrath and (Shane) Warne," said Pollock.

"From a South African perspective when we were just back into international sport, the fever for the first 5-10 years was immense. It was a great period to be a part of."

When taking up the captaincy in 2000, Pollock initially thrived. However, three years down the line the all-rounder was dropped as skipper and 'blamed' for the Proteas' disastrous Cricket World Cup exit at home in 2003.

Graeme Smith succeeded Pollock and went on to become the youngest and among the most successful South African captains.

Meanwhile Pollock, who retained his place in the Proteas squad, developed an ankle injury that saw him slow down in pace.

"My injury never really allowed for me to stay at the same pace the whole way through. I had to develop my game better. I think the fast bowling singular approach probably wouldn't have been successful in the subcontinent but it made me become more consistent and as an all-rounder I made more of a contribution to the team," Pollock said.

After playing 108 Tests, 303 ODIs and 12 T20Is, Pollock decided to retire in 2008 against the West Indies after a sensational 12-year international career.

"I always wanted to go out on top, I didn't want to hang around like a bad smell and waiting on games," said Pollock.

"I could've probably played one-day cricket for two or more years if I was number one or two in the bowling department. But one-day cricket was about building towards the World Cup, which was probably three years away so would I have made it?

"I used to fill the role of opening the bowling, which is quite a specialised role in one-day cricket, so someone else needed the time to develop into that and I just felt that the timing was right."

Pollock now spends more time with his wife, Patricia, and their two kids, Jemma (14) and Georgia (11).

"My wife has been amazing and playing season after season, she was there supporting me and looking after the kids. They're growing up so fast and it seems scary that they are already that age but I love spending time with them."

Other sporting passions of Pollock's includes golf and hockey. Pollock plays for the Queensmead XI hockey team where he plays against all the high schools first teams and Natal first schools teams.

"We haven't got the legs or the speed but we teach them a lesson or two about controlling and moving the ball around. We're competitive, we win more than we lose," said Pollock.

Pollock has also become a brand ambassador for Laureus and Nissan.

However, he is perhaps better known for appearing as a regular SuperSport commentator - even travelling as a preferred analyst for the Proteas tour to England.

"Commentary is quite a full-time job. It's nice to be in the media and give back with your opinion and hopefully teach people about the game and give them an understanding for what's going on," said Pollock.

"I try and (commentate) like I'm having conversation with people; you are telling people what's unfolding on the field and also sometimes voice an opinion."

It's safe to say Pollock will always be remembered as one of the finest bowlers South Africa has ever produced, but when asked how he would like to be remembered, 'Polly' kept it simple.

"I always want to be remembered as consistent and reliable, what you see is what you get," he said.

"I enjoyed life and hopefully people got to enjoy meeting me and experiences they've had near and around me. I have a strong faith so I liked to be remembered for my core Christian faith."

Images: Gallo/Getty

Read more on:    proteas  |  shaun pollock  |  cricket


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