Pakistan v South Africa, 1st Test, Karachi September 30, 2007

Pollock saved for greener pastures



Shaun Pollock may no longer be required to flog his 34-year-old body on flat, unforgiving tracks © AFP

Administrators and selectors detest senior players who attempt to pick and choose their matches and tours and many careers have come to a messy end as a result of them attempting to do so. However, if it is the same selectors and administrators who make that decision, then all is well, it would appear.

So while Shaun Pollock may have been surprised and even upset by his omission from South Africa's first Test starting line-up, 24 hours of quiet reflection have probably helped him realise that he will no longer be required to flog his 34-year-old body on flat, unforgiving tracks like this one in Karachi. He is being saved for the juicy pitches on which his now modest pace can still be effective.

While South African captain Graeme Smith and coach Mickey Arthur have both been careful to speak with the respect that Pollock deserves, neither was mincing his words, either.

"He certainly isn't being rested. It is a tactical decision that we have taken and Shaun has been incredibly mature in responding to what we have asked him to do," Smith said on the eve of the first Test. "It is vital that we find time to blood one or two youngsters. We really don't want to find ourselves reaching the point where Shaun retires and we haven't given a couple of people the chance to play international cricket.

"We have a couple of young and very exciting fast bowlers coming through and a two-Test series seems to be the perfect chance to expose them to unfamiliar conditions while Shaun, with all his experience, is still on hand to guide them and advice them from the sidelines."

Of course, Pollock may yet play. Having endured the unfamiliar experience of being an international 12th man just once - for the World XI against Australia a couple of years ago - he might avoid the role again if Morne Morkel fails to recover from an ankle injury.

"He certainly isn't out of the running for the first Test now that Morne is injured and he most certainly will be considered for the second Test," Smith said. "When we get back to South Africa he comes right back into contention. We have a good nucleus of bowlers now and selection is about choosing who might be best suited for the conditions as well as about who is fit and in-form."

Arthur felt that the South Africans should be excited rather than disappointed that Pollock was no longer regarded as a must for every game.

"I felt it was slightly misreported although I can understand why the emphasis was on Shaun's omission," Arthur said. "We have lacked a bit of variety in the past and that's what we're looking to achieve now. Makhaya [Ntini] bowls well to left-handers, Morne bowls a good line and gets steep bounce, Dale Steyn bowls a fuller length with genuine pace and swings it away, Andre Nel is all thunder and in-your-face and then we have Jacques Kallis to complete the pace attack while Paul Harris is developing nicely as a spinner."

So where does that leave Pollock? "He is very much in the mix but we are trying to operate a horses-for-courses policy now," Arthur said. "There are some pitches and overhead conditions in which he'll still probably be our first choice. But in conditions that favour the batsmen, we can probably do without the second allrounder and play an extra strike bowler to try and take the 20 wickets needed to win."

Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency

Comments