July 22, 2002

Vic Pollard back in the middle - but for politics not sport

Cricket and politics are unusual stablemates in New Zealand but former Test all-rounder Vic Pollard is undeterred and is among those on the hustings looking for a seat in Parliament after Saturday's general election.

Pollard is No 3 on the Christian Heritage Party list, sitting behind its leader Graham Capill and another high-profile candidate Merepeka Raukawa-Tait.

So unusual is the cricket/political mix in New Zealand that a search of cricket archives suggests the only first-class cricketer to have successfully made the leap so far is Francis Henry Dillon Bell whose first-class career consisted of two games for Wellington between 1873/74 and 1876/77.

He scored all of two runs in his three innings and finished with a career average of 0.66.

Bell had a long and distinguished parliamentary, and legal, career but his term of Prime Minister was almost as brief as his cricket career, serving 16 days officially in the role, although he had earlier filled in when William Massey's health was fading in the last years of Massey's life.

Bell accepted the position in a caretaker role until the Reform party could elect a new leader. He declined to stand for the job.

There's been no lack of interest in cricket from politicians with the Speaker of the House, Jonathan Hunt a regular attender at matches over many years while former Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon also frequently attended Test matches at Eden Park.

Both would have been in a position to appreciate the skills Pollard brought to the game and which he is now putting into service for his beliefs.

And anyone familiar with Pollard's approach both to his cricket, and his other sporting love soccer for which he also represented New Zealand, will not be surprised at the commitment he is putting into getting his message across.

"When I was approached I considered the position prayerfully. And I accept that if God wants me in then I'll be in," he said.

At the same time, he acknowledges that it is a mighty difficult path to get into Parliament but the party does have hopes that it can win the Wairarapa seat through Raupeka-Tait and that it has a good chance in Rakaia.

"I don't need it as a career and I'm definitely not in it for a better salary," Pollard said.

He's more concerned about getting his and his party's message across.

"We believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion but we believe the Government has gone beyond what a Government should.

"Our slogan is Family, Justice, Choice, and less Government control."

Pollard was especially keen to let the voting public know that the Christian Heritage Pary was not a narrow, bigoted party.

A deputy principal at a Christchurch school, Pollard has taken time away from his job in order to do his electioneering, although the fact a snap election was called has left him with not quite as much time to prepare as he had hoped for, and that had increased the workload.

That has been made all the more arduous due to the fact that he is having to get around on crutches at the moment, the legacy of hip operations. His left hip has just been operated on while his right hip had a revised procedure, 11 years after it was first operated on.

His cricket experiences especially have been a help in handling being thrust into the limelight.

As a 19-year-old playing Test cricket against legends like Colin Cowdrey, Ted Dexter and Fred Trueman that did tend to be a benefit.

But he's still uncomfortable with having to speak to large crowds although he is often surprised at how often people remember his cricket career.

And to those who recall his stance on playing on Sundays in his playing career it will be no surprise that his party wants greater support for families, freedom in education so that zoning is done away with and people have the choice of whether they want state, integrated, private or home schooling.

"We want to get the family into the centre of politician's minds and we would have a Ministry of Family Affairs rather than a Youth Ministry or a Women's Ministry."

There were also the requirements to have integrity in Parliament and people who were prepared to do more than just toe the party line.

"We believe Government should provide security and peace internally and security from external forces," he said.

Pollard said that his own stance on not playing sport on Sundays was one that had developed from his own choice.

"There was no mother or father standing over me saying I must do it. I just wanted to go to church on a Sunday," he said.

It did have a sporting cost for him, right from those early years when it meant he couldn't play soccer for Manawatu against a team from Australia which in the 1960s was a huge thing.

By the late-1960s the idea of sport on Sundays was gaining much more momentum and on the 1969 tour of England, India and Pakistan he was joined by Bryan Yuile and Bruce Murray in not playing on Sundays.

Pollard had one more tour of England in 1973, his finest tour, but at the end of it he retired.

It proved a painful decision from a sporting angle. He felt he was just peaking and still had plenty to offer. There was a chance he could have become New Zealand captain as he was vice-captain on that last tour.

It also meant he played no more soccer, and he had played in the first three years of the National League from 1970-72.

But he had made his commitment and he lived with it.

"I had a good run," he said.

It will be a long shot if the Christian Heritage Party find themselves with seats in Parliament, but if Pollard does get there, the determination, application and skill derived in his sporting interests can be expected to serve him well in getting his message across.