SA Player of the Century Award January 3, 2000

Pollock named South Africa's Player of the Century

When you first caught sight of Graeme Pollock in the early 1960s, you noticed all too quickly his upright stance and his footwork: so balanced and so correct.

The first was that of the classic left-hander, tall and dismissive of the bowlers; the second was his footwork: technically sound and graceful, yet aware of all the dangers of treacherous underfoot conditions. He was arguably one of South Africa's finest, which is why he was named South Africa cricketer of the century at Newlands yesterday.

Pollock was naturally "thrilled to be selected" but he would not have been unduly disappointed had he not received the award, voted on by a panel appointed by the United Cricket Board.

"When you consider who did not make the final ten and the stature of the other players who did make it, well it was a special thrill" he said. "I was quite relaxed and happy to be included in the final ten."

The award was not entirely expected as he was one of three favourites, others being Basil D'Oliveira and Barry Richards. While he paid a tribute to his early coaches, among whom Tom Dean, a former county batsman, for their hours of work, he also praised them for the way they allowed his natural flair and talent to grow. They were not indoctrinated by the MCC coaching manual theory and allowed him to develop his own style. "I think they knew quite a bit about what was good and what was not and they encouraged me to play naturally," he said.

He was the sort of schoolboy prodigy who was unfazed by his talent, yet kept some of his more royal command performances for the Test arena where he established his reputation.

It was on his first tour, to Australia and New Zealand with Trevor Goddard side, where he first developed his name with a century of such rare quality and it was in Sydney, in the first Test of that tour where he scored 122. It was the sort of innings which had Sir Donald Bradman suggesting "next time you decide to play like that send me a telegram".

In a Test career which lasted only seven summers and in which he played 23 Tests, Pollock scored 2256 runs at an impressive 60.97, but his first-class record is far more impressive and statistics do not really do justice to his style and run-making.

Pollock turned down three counties in the late 1960s and the early 1970s because he felt it was not "my type of game". In isolation he played for a couple of World XIs before the politics and the system banned him from all but playing in South Africa.