Kieron Pollard is a beast with the bat, his hulk-like frame bowls a decent ball and he’s equally impressive in the field. He’s such a sought after one-day all-rounder he graces the world’s best t20 tournaments, but rarely features in a first-class fixture.
The 26-year-old Trinidadian all-rounder is one of a new breed. While he represents West Indies in the one-day arena he is a big gun for hire with Indian Premier League and t20 franchises around the world jostling for the right to welcome him into their dressing room.
Kieron Pollard is a millionaire, but has never played a Test match. His fireworks empty the bars as he has become a symbolic poster boy of the new t20 era. But when he finally retires from cricket, and may that be a while away yet, how will his wonderful match winning one-day cameos be remembered by history?
He first made his name when he smashed 83 for Trinidad & Tobago in the Stanford t20 in August 2006. He then clobbered a 71-ball126 which included 6 sixes on his first-class debut five months later. One of the sixes got him off the mark – he doesn’t hang around.
Nine days later he was named in the provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup, and in his third first-class game he scored a second hundred, including another 6 sixes.
Pollard made his ODI debut for in a World Cup match against South Africa and was then recalled for an ODI series against New Zealand in late 2008, but didn’t set the world on fire.
“It was disappointing how I was dropped,” he has previously told the Daily Telegraph. “Yes, I wasn’t performing, but afterwards, nobody called or said anything. If I had given myself until 25 and not made it big, I would have gone back to school and become a law enforcer. So my only way out was to get back into the West Indies team by playing for Trinidad. Luckily enough, they had just qualified for the Champions League.”
The night that changed his life
The Champions League final in Hyderabad saw Pollard saunter to the crease with Trinidad requiring an unlikely 80 from seven overs to beat New South Wales. What followed was what we’ve seen so often since. Trinidad won the match with nine balls to spare, Pollard unbeaten on 54 from only 18 balls. His name was in the headlines and the global demand for his services enhanced.
Pollard signed for South Australia, Somerset and most notably was snapped up by the Mumbai Indians in the 2010 Indian Premier League auction in a deal worth a reputed £1.8 million.
He is seen by many as a freelance mercenary
Pollard has been accused of devaluing Test cricket by former England captain Tony Greig. A few of you may spot the irony there.
Michael Holding is fierce in his views of t20 cricket. “I don’t watch Twenty20. It is dumbing-down cricket. They should find another name for it,” said the legendary Jamaican.
“Pollard in my opinion is not a cricketer,” Holding added.
Holding has blamed cricket boards and the International Cricket Council (ICC) for not guiding the youngsters and allowing them to chase cash over quality cricket.
“I can’t say to a young man ‘don’t make a living’, but they need responsible guidance,” he said. “It is your parents who guide you and in cricket the parents are the boards and the ICC.
“They need to show some leadership and it saddens me that the West Indies captain is allowed to show up one day before a Test series because he is playing for the IPL,” he said, referring to Chris Gayle’s late turning up in England last year after completing his IPL commitments.
But Pollard’s gift is as natural as Holding’s serene whispering dash to deliver a hostile missile. Pollard’s may not be a technique carved from a Geoffrey Boycott coaching manual, yet cricket is as much about entertainment as a high elbow in a dogged defence.
The game has changed. While the purists hold Test or first-class cricket as the pinnacle others see t20 as a breath of fresh air and the shot in the arm the profit & loss accounts crave.
Pollard has admitted that cricket has provided the opportunity for him to escape being sucked into a life of crime. He was raised in the poor area of Tacariguain his home island of Trinidad and, as the eldest child, he felt the pressure of providing for his single mother and two sisters.
That desire to do his best for his family should be admired.
“I don’t think anyone who had those things coming towards them would not take it. With the situation I was in, with my family, it was a decision I had to make.
“People have said a lot of things: ‘T20 freelancer’, ‘it’s only about the money’. But my instinct is to provide and to play cricket. My two sisters are still at school, my mum is still at home, and I provide for every one of them. I told my mum that she doesn’t have to work now.”
Pollard has played only four of his 24 first-class matches in the period since April 2009. He has never played the longer form of the game outside of the Caribbean and with a first-class batting average of 38.14 and 7 wickets at 53.71 it is not a CV that would provoke too many Test selectors to ink his name onto a West Indies Test teamsheet.
But Pollard still harbours ambitions to play Test cricket. Perhaps now the family are secure it is a goal he will strive harder to score.
“Test cricket is always going to be the ultimate”, he said. “My ambition is to play in all three formats.
“I want to play Test cricket for West Indies”, he added. “Test cricket was huge as a child as it’s what you got up at 6 o’clock in the morning to watch.
“My ambitions are still the same – to pull on the whites for my nation.
“Yes, I’ve played a lot of one-day and T20 cricket, but the ambition to play in the Test team is there – I’m not an old guy just yet.
“I don’t know how close I am”, he admitted. “I might be a way off – I don’t know.
“I’m highly unlikely to play a full season of first-class cricket, so my only way of playing is by performing well in the ODIs.
“I could be wrong but that’s the way I think I can do it as the way the fixtures are made up make it hard. I played two games last season and the year before, I played one.
“I’m the first one to admit I’m inconsistent and I need that to change”, he ventured. “It’s like in business – there you have to be consistent and it’s the same in cricket.”
Whether his game is up to scratch, only the trials of a 5-day Test against the sternest of international attacks would prove. His critics would suggest he is a one-day bully where he can change a game in a matter of balls. A Test match is a more layered complex affair where the one-dimensional approach is unlikely to succeed. An ODI batting average of 24.92 and a T20I average of 22.76 do not further his Test claims.
As a back=to-back winner of the IPL with the Mumbai Indians, a World T20 winner with the West Indies and a star wherever he plies his trade he is a cricketer of huge repute.
Whatever legacy Pollard finally leaves behind, one thing he can never be accused of is being boring. Life as a cricket watcher is better for his prowess in our eye-line.
The stats don’t lie
As the editor of Cricket Badger he is intent on building the website to give quality coverage of the domestic game around the world.
James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
James is a published author and a writer/video contributor to many cricket publications.
He's unsurprisingly a complete cricket badger!