ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
Netherlands v West Indies, Group B, World Cup 2011, Delhi
Pollard the giant takes small steps
Kieron Pollard has still to convince that he is more than a Twenty20 slogger and he'll need to score runs against better attacks than Netherlands to sway opinion
Firdose Moonda in Delhi
February 28, 2011
Kieron Pollard is a giant in India. He was greeted, for the second match in succession at the Feroz Shah Kotla, with the loudest roar of the match. Truth be told, he'd be a giant anywhere in the world, but in India, where someone the size of Sachin Tendulkar is the real giant, things are judged on a different scale.
His giant badge was probably pinned on him after his 18-ball 54 for Trinidad and Tobago during the Champions League T20 2009 and stuck with him through his travels in 20-over cricket - from South Australia to Somerset.
What he isn't, is an international giant in any meaningful way beyond the physical. The promise and the potential of becoming one hovers somewhere above him, somewhere just out of his reach, large as that reach is, and he has never quite grabbed it. In his international career of 33 ODIs, he had, before today, scored a half-century once and boasted an underwhelming average of less than 20, statistics not befitting a man who is painted as one of the most fearsome hitters of the ball on the current circuit.
He can bludgeon a ball, make no mistake, smack it so cleanly that even the poor round object itself wants to stay nestled in whatever stand, tree or floor somewhere far outside the stadium, for fear of getting the treatment again. He can do that, but what's the use it if he can only do it once or twice in an innings of fifty overs?
That's the doubt that's going to continually creep up on Pollard and will only start to retreat if he plays many more innings like the one he played against Netherlands with equally good, if not even better, results.
It started in that same scary fashion, with the second ball he faced sailing for six even though he didn't seem to hit it all that hard. It was just a case of making the right contact at the right time and the ball was experiencing life as a shooting star.
What came next was almost the entire magazine of a gun, flipped to automatic, shooting bullets wildly. There was the violent flick past short leg, the prod that was really a powerful push over extra cover, the full toss that was given its rightful punishment and the six that seemed like a mighty oaf had plucked a grape out of the air and flung it into anther galaxy. It was typical Pollard, bruising and belligerent, with not a care in the world.
On another day, he would have exhausted that magazine then and there, lost interest with shooting the target and got out shortly afterwards, but having walked in with the West Indies on 196 for 3 and knowing that there was not that much at stake, something was different.
His next boundary, a four, actually had a hint of finesse, a sprinkling of delicacy and more than a few dashes of timing. He used his wrists the way a whirling dervish does, flowingly, and steered the ball past the man at short fine-leg, placing it perfectly so that it found the spot he wanted it to. It was one shot of pure elegance.
He soon deferred back to fierce mode and continued smashing and flashing. He was helped by the balls the Netherlands bowlers gave him; too short, too wide, too full and sometimes too inviting and he played the role that we've become so used to seeing him in. Then the bullets stopped firing, he mistimed one and, as he so often does, found a fielder in the deep.
It would be easy to read too much into this innings because Pollard was able to play with a freedom not often afforded him. That he used it to get to a reasonable score only to toss it away when he'd had enough summed up what has held back his career. However, that he used it to score 13 singles, showed progression. Small progression, but the kind that shows, like Chris Gayle did earlier, a genuine attempt at hanging around and building an innings.
In the end, the substance of Pollard's knock was not too different from the one he played against Australia just over a year ago, when, with the team on a hiding to nothing, he had scored 62. He took more singles then, with just six boundaries in his 54 balls, but it was against a much more threatening bowling attack that would not have given him as many opportunities to clear the rope. Then, just as he did tonight, he went down in a blaze of glory attempting one big hit too many.
If he can somehow save that one big hit too many for the very end of the innings, after he has already added something substantial as he did tonight and did once before, then he will find his international giant status will grow very quickly, not just India, but all around the cricketing world.
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