'Ronin' Pollard finds his master
In some ways Kieron Pollard represents this West Indies team. He is the ronin of world cricket - the samurai with no master. Pollard plays Twenty20 cricket around the globe. He also plays for West Indies. And on days like today, when he does well, you see hope filtering through the cracks.
Some say that West Indies has been economically, politically and socially dislocated. That those bricks of anti-colonialism that once held the wall of solidarity among cricketing fraternity have fallen. In this age of rootless culture, the way forward for this team might be individual salvation. Fire in Babylon is passé. It's fire in the individual belly that counts. Pollard is flag bearer of this new generation. As Tony Cozier wrote once on a West Indies tour of Australia, "it could be individual self-interest that strengthens the team ethic on this tour and beyond."
Pollard says he doesn't find much of a difference playing in an IPL team or West Indies team. "It's not much different. When you go out to bat it's got nothing to do with the team. It's you alone with the bat against the opposition. I don't think it has got anything to with the atmosphere of the team. You have to find a right way to train and fit into the team."
Things rolled out very well today. For someone who plays so imperiously straight down the ground, he has perplexed with his heaves across the line, when playing quality spin. When the ball dips rapidly on him and he is not quite up to the pitch of the ball, he just heaves across. In a previous game, he was trapped lbw by one such attempt against Amit Mishra. Today, though, he changed that approach. When the ball wasn't in his arc, he defended. The bat came ahead of the pad, the bat-face was straight, and he rarely played across anything in desperation.
It didn't come without some early nerves though. Off his eighth delivery, he went hard at a leg break from Manoj Tiwary but it flew off the edge to safety. A ball later, he again went for a big swing but it spun away from the edge. There is a thin line between imperiousness and foolhardiness. He was living on that edge. He had described what runs through his mind in those states. "If it's the first ball or the last ball, it doesn't matter if the ball is in my arc."
Another Tiwary over saw him really settle. The first ball crash landed on the sightscreen, the second flew past a startled Tiwary, and Pollard was on his way. This was the moment of danger. Will the adrenalin surge through too much? It was also the moment that the captain Suresh Raina got into the act. He placed himself at mid-off with a long-off behind him. It was almost the field setting that MS Dhoni had set once to entrap Pollard in an IPL game. Tiwary floated the ball across and Pollard leaned forward to push it quietly to the off side. And he stayed quiet for the rest of the over, tapping it gently to the off. It was the moment you realised that it's a very determined Pollard who is out there today.
The next four came 25 deliveries after that four against Tiwary. Yet again, it was straight down the ground. The next four boundaries too came from careful shot selection. Each of those deliveries were either on the legs or so short that he could flick or swing them to the on side boundary. There were no hoicks or heaves. It wasn't a slugfest out there. By the time he fell, Pollard had pushed West Indies towards a competitive total. With little bit of help from the Indian batsmen, who displayed poor shot selection, and a strong hand from Anthony Martin, the home side would win the day.
Rewind to the day before the third ODI. Pollard is asked a direct question. How hungry are you to play for West Indies? "I am very very very very hungry to do well for West Indies. I try my very best to do well for West Indies or any side that I play for." The ronin did it for West Indies today.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo