Graeme Pollock on Neil Harvey January 19, 2008

Small and special

ESPNcricinfo staff
First was Bradman, of course. Next came this pocket-sized colossus

© PA Photos

In the 1950s, England and Australia were the teams to look at. As a youngster I was a big supporter of Australian cricket. I liked the way they played. They were a positive cricket nation and they were my first preference.

My first hero was Neil Harvey. (Obviously, my very first hero was Don Bradman, but I never saw him play.) I heard about Harvey for the first time on the radio, and read about him in newspaper reports when Jack Cheetham led South Africa to Australia in 1952-53. I saw Harvey play and get a lot of runs against South Africa later.

In those days teams hardly had any left-handers, so he was quite special. He was a smallish guy but he used his feet very nicely. He went down the wicket, got on top of the ball and scored his runs quickly.

He batted at three or four, like me. He was always positive and scored at a pretty good rate. As a batsman it's always important to be positive: you've got to put the bowlers under pressure. Batsmen who stand out have always been those who've taken it to the bowlers - those are the guys who turn games in a couple of hours. When I rate a batsman, he needs to have those attributes, and Harvey certainly had them.

I got to see him live in 1961, when I went to the UK to visit my parents. I also played for the Sussex second side that year. My coach at school in Port Elizabeth, George Cox, was with the county, and as a 17-year-old, in my first year out of school, I took up the opportunity. Richie Benaud was Australia's skipper on that tour, but he didn't play in the one Test I went to, at Lord's. Harvey was the captain instead. He didn't get too many runs in that game but it was good to see the Aussies beat the English and Bill Lawry grafting a first-innings hundred on a seaming track.

I met Harvey for the first time on my first tour of Australia when he led the Australian Prime Minister's XI. I was 19 and felt awkward about telling him that he was my hero. I was just happy that he was around.

As told to Nagraj Gollapudi