January 22, 2014

'My only way of playing Tests is by performing in ODIs'

People may typecast him as a T20 specialist, but Kieron Pollard's ambition is to play five-day cricket. He talks about his plans, his early struggles, and his success in the IPL

Tell us about your early days in cricket. At first, it was pretty tough, wasn't it?
It really was. I grew up in a single-parent home with just my mum. It was always going to be hard. We weren't wealthy, and cricket was an expensive sport. We had to make a lot of sacrifices in order for me to play cricket.

Did you miss out on facilities and luxuries that others had?
Equipment-wise, yes. It was pretty difficult for us as a family. I didn't have full kit until I was 15 or 16. My mum bought me a second-hat bat when I was 13 and I had to use all the school's gear when I was there. I wasn't as fortunate as others.

What was it like growing up playing cricket in Trinidad?
Despite a lot of things being against me, it was exciting. What we all had as youngsters was Brian Lara to look up to. At that point, playing cricket, watching cricket and watching him was motivating enough. The West Indies had a great team. Carl Hooper, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh were all big heroes.

You came over to Haxey in Lincolnshire in 2006. What was it like as a 19-year-old being so far away from home?
I had been on tour with the West Indies Under-19s, but this was my first real experience of leaving home for a long period of time. It was a challenge and I was living by myself for the first week. I didn't like it and I told the club that it was pretty difficult for me. I moved in with the club captain and it was much better. I was supposed to be there five months but ended up leaving after five games to play in the Stanford 20/20.

It must have been a big lifestyle change in England and a big change in cricketing conditions too.
The cold, mainly. It was something new to me. I was wearing a lot of sweaters! I learned a lot in a small space of time there, about myself and about my cricket.

When you went back you made 83 off 38 balls to put Trinidad in the Stanford 20/20 final. Do you consider that your big break?
It was a huge day for me, certainly. I was lucky I got the opportunity I did. Some of the other guys were away on a West Indies A tour in England, which meant I got my chance, and I took it.

It led to international honours and making your West Indies debut in the 2007 World Cup under Brian Lara. At the time questions were being raised about Lara's captaincy. What are your experiences of him?
I was just coming out of first-class cricket, so getting an opportunity in a World Cup on television was just incredible. I didn't have the greatest debut against South Africa, making just 10, and we lost. But Brian Lara was a great figure, and we still see each other and have conversations now.

And his captaincy?
I think it would be unfair for me to judge. I was more in awe of him than anything else.

Thinking back to the $20million winner-takes-all match against England - the boy who had nothing growing up suddenly had everything. What are your recollections of that?
Elation, pure elation. It was absolutely amazing, brilliant. It didn't just happen, though. As a group we worked so hard before that game. We had an intense training camp and everyone put in such a big effort. There was a lot of hard graft and England were a very, very strong team then. Beating a side with Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff is never easy.

What did you spend the money on?
My family. I have a lovely wife and two children, a boy and a girl.

So could we have another Pollard to watch out for?
I don't know. He's picked up a bat and is already swinging to leg!

In 2009, no one wanted you at the IPL auction. A year on, you were the most sought-after player and ended up going for $750,000. Did you watch the bids come in?
I was practising with South Australia in the Big Bash at the time, but it turned out well. Cricket in India and the IPL have personally been massive for me. I've had some great days with Mumbai.

Were there any greater than last year's Man-of-the-Match performance in the final?
It hurt when we lost in 2010, so to put that right last year was special.

"I want to help take talented young Trinidadian cricketers to the next level. The game of cricket has already given me so much. I feel it only right that I give something back"

And you are back with Mumbai this year too.
That also was very special. It shows I'm doing something good for them. I know I need to be more consistent but I'm working on that.

It is hard enough winning the IPL but is it even harder to retain it?
It's another big challenge but I'm looking forward it. There's a buzz around any tournament, especially when you're going back into it as champions. I don't know what sort of team we're going to have and it'll be exciting to see how that pans out. My focus is on retaining the title.

But you will have to do it without Sachin, won't you?
He won't be playing and it's a big disadvantage for us. When Sachin is there, we know everywhere we go we will have support. He will be a big miss for us - a massive miss. But at the end of the day, Sachin is a Mumbai boy. He was born there and has Mumbai blood running through him. He loves cricket and will be somewhere around our camp, I'm sure.

There is huge money in the IPL and there was huge money in the Stanford game. How do you deal with that?
It's not something I'm used to, but I'm still the same individual that started playing cricket so many years back. I keep my feet on the ground and haven't changed. I want to give my children what I didn't have growing up.

Talk us through the World Twenty20 win.
The people of West Indies needed that and we as players needed that. Things hadn't been going the way we wanted. T20 cricket, with the power-hitting and athletic fielding, was built for us. We had players who had played in the IPL with a lot of experience, and it all came together at the right time. It was not down to one individual, it was down to us as a team. People can say it was Marlon Samuels' knock in the final that won it, but we still had to hold Sri Lanka to less than 137. Each and every game someone different put their hand up.

Do you see yourself as a T20 specialist?
Of course not. Everybody says I'm big and strong and suited to it, but when you look at cricket, the game is changing so much. A few years ago they said David Warner was a T20 specialist but look what he has achieved in Test cricket. Think back to why I was called up in the first place to the West Indies side too. It was because I made centuries in four-day cricket. I'm not a specialist.

You are 26 and have years ahead of you. What goals do you have?
I don't want to let everyone know what I want to achieve. I like to tick the boxes quietly and keep myself to myself. But I'll give you one - to play Test cricket for West Indies.

Was that always the dream growing up?
Mine was to play international cricket, but Test cricket was huge as a child. 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.

Do you think you are close to a Test call-up?
I don't know how close I am. 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. The way the fixtures are made up make it hard. I played two games last season and the year before, I played one.

How do you need to adapt your game?
I'm the first one to admit I'm inconsistent and I need that to change. It's like in business. There you have to be consistent and it's the same in cricket.

What would you rather do: get West Indies to No. 1 in the Test rankings or win another World Twenty20?
(Laughs) Both. At the moment I'm not playing Test cricket, but I can help us win the World T20.

Tell us a bit about the Atlantic Pollard Scholarship, which you have helped set up back home.
I want to help take talented young Trinidadian cricketers to the next level. The game of cricket has already given me so much. I feel it only right that I give something back. It gives some of the best young guys a chance to come over to play club cricket in England and learn more about themselves and their game. They get opportunities that they might not have had before.

And there is a Lara involved, too?
Yes, we've had Akeal Hosein and Savion Lara - Brian's cousin - playing at Barnes and Purley respectively last season. They get opportunities that they might not have had before. We will shortly announce our two new scholars to play at Purley CC and Barnes CC in 2014.

You are over in England recovering from your knee injury. How is it going?
It's getting there. I'm doing a lot of work in London to sort it but I don't want to rush back. It's six hours a day at the moment. I'm a sportsman and I want to be playing, I want to be on the park.

Allrounders have a big strain on their bodies, but you have been lucky with injuries, haven't you?
I have, thank god. This is my first major injury in cricket, and I wasn't even playing at the time. It happened in a charity football match and I made a bad turn while I was dribbling. Playing football is what we do and everything happens for a reason. I love my football. I'm a big Manchester United fan and went to watch them play Chelsea on Sunday. Unfortunately we lost, but it was a great experience going to the game.