February 12, 2013

Time to check Pollard's red-ball value

Kieron Pollard showed composure, common sense and courage during his century against Australia in Sydney; if he can more regularly bat as he did in that game, a Test call-up cannot be far off

It is a question that still has to be adequately answered five years after Kieron Pollard entered international cricket in the 2007 World Cup, aged 19, a massive unit with a justifiable reputation as an awesome hitter.

Literally on the strength of his quick-fire demolition of bowling in the most abbreviated format, he has become a Twenty20 superstar, a multi-millionaire from his contracts in five such domestic leagues, along with his comparatively modest paydays from West Indies.

Yet Pollard has repeatedly stated that he won't be satisfied until he gets the chance to prove himself in Test cricket, with its unrestricted number of overs and field settings, and its changing conditions over five days that examine technique, character and stamina in a way that, for all its fast-moving excitement and popularity, 20 overs-cricket cannot.

The intermediate version, the 50-overs-an-innings one-day international, offers a more accurate guide for judging his ultimate desire. If he can more regularly bat as he did in the fourth ODI against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday, his promotion to a Test team presently without the injured Marlon Samuels, its major batsman of 2012, and with a dearth of other capable candidates, cannot be far off.

His athletic fielding (typified by his extraordinary, leaping, one-handed boundary catch in the Canberra match on Wednesday) and his handy medium-pace bowling add to his value. The two Tests against a modest Zimbabwe next month would be as good a chance as any to check his red-ball value.

The features of his unbeaten 109 were composure, common sense and courage. It could not prevent another West Indies defeat; it did restore some pride for a team increasingly short of it.

It was his third ODI hundred following those against India in Chennai in December 2011 and Australia in St Lucia last March. No other West Indies batsman has managed as many in the same time span (Samuels has two).

The problem is that, as so often is the case, his latest effort was counterbalanced by the method of his dismissals in the first two matches in Australia. In the first, his crocked bat was in no position to keep out Mitchell Starc's third ball; in the second, his approach was typically Twenty20: a failed attempt to hoist his third ball for six that ended in long-off's lap.

By Sydney, though, the Twenty20 cobwebs had been swept away.

Just when we thought things couldn't get any worse for West Indies, they did within the first 20 overs in Friday's game. Once more destroyed by the swing and hostility of a left-arm fast bowler by the name of Mitchell, this one Johnson rather than their earlier tormentor Starc -- who was given the match off -- the West Indies were 17 for 3 after eight overs.

Just to add to the confusing name game, Johnson sent Johnson Charles' off-stump somersaulting third ball. Kieron Powell, who had a rewarding introduction to Australia (92 retired hurt, 11, 83 and 47 in his previous matches), skewed a skier to cover from the back of the bat; Darren Bravo, his body a target for the Australians all series, fended a wicked bouncer to slip. Tentative, the elder Bravo was lbw in off-spinner Glenn Maxwell's first over. In his first match of the series, Ben Cutting, the latest in the string of strapping young fast bowlers Australia presently possess as the West Indies once did, quickly took care of Narsingh Deonarine and Devon Thomas to slip catches.

At 55 for 6, with an erratic order to follow, another humiliating total to match the 70 in the first match at the WACA loomed. At this point, Pollard took charge with a maturity not always evident.

He was prepared for the inevitable bodyline barrage but the chest guard was uncomfortable and he did away with it. A short leg was placed (they might have watched Guyana's similar tactic in the Caribbean Twenty20), Johnson twice had him diving for cover and Cutting landed a blow to the unprotected thumb on the left glove that required lengthy attention from physio CJ Clark.

Still Pollard soldiered on, undistracted from his goal of reviving the faltering innings, as he did with help from Darren Sammy, the free-hitting Andre Russell and Sunil Narine (who could rank higher than No. 10 with more attention to his left-handed batting).

Statistics reveal the measure of Pollard's necessary restraint -- 95 balls with four fours to 50, seven fours and two sixes in 59 off the next 41 balls. His contribution was 92 off the 165 added by the last four wickets.

Significantly, Pollard embarked on his previous two hundreds with the innings in shambles; 78 for 5 that his 119 pushed to 233 against India, 146 for 5 against Australia that became 294 for 7, mainly through his 104.

As much as the selectors should be heartened by such performances, they will be concerned over inconsistency (as with every other batsman save Shivnarine Chanderpaul) and whether his hunger for Test cricket overrides the riches on offer in the Twenty20 leagues.

These are the questions they need to settle prior to the Zimbabwe series.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 years

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 13, 2013, 19:37 GMT

    Pollard has performed often when he had the time at hand.. He has good enough technique to do well in tests.. It's already late and I think he should debut immediately. He will get some wickets with his fielding too..

  • giovaughn on February 13, 2013, 18:05 GMT

    Holding did say Pollard was not a cricketer & with the type of shots he got out to @ times 1 could not blame him too much. However it seems like he has matured from getting a bit more experience under his belt & has begun to score a few centuries in the ODI here & there. However at the moment he could only take a spot as an all-rounder since his bowling is not very good and his credibility as a batsman at the International level is still not solidly proven. The West Indies Test team does not have an allrounder We either have 3.3 bowlers, a wicketkeeper, 6 batsmen & .7 of a captain or 4 bowlers, a wicketkeeper , 5 batsmen & a captain - so there is no all rounder space for him to fit into

  • Ali on February 13, 2013, 15:41 GMT

    so what is cozier's take on Devon Thomas ? Why is a specialist keeper, who cannot bat better than Narine, Rampaul or Best getting consistently picked in ODI's and 20/20's ...

    When 10 runs determines the winner , and your keeper cannot cross 10 runs in any game (go back to the ODI World Cup where Thomas's performances could have been blamed for narrow losses) ; what is the logic ?

    Thomas is the 5th best Keeper in ODI's and 20/20 in the region behind Baugh, Rhamdin, Dowrich & Walton

    in Test/ 4 Day cricket, Walton and Thomas leapfrog Dowrich and are 3rd/4th by the same margin that separates Rhamdin/Baugh for 1st/2nd ..

    in 4day. Miller REMAINS the #1 spinner in the region 6 years consecutively ... (ok Narine is #1 in 20/20 and ODI AND Bishoo and Badree where #1/#2 before Narine) ...

    Team selection is not rocket science ! WICB selectors are the WORST .... they did a decent job in 20/20 WC .... Why can't they continue ? Success enshrines nepotism .

  • Earl on February 13, 2013, 14:29 GMT

    The selectors should look to start grooming young players that have performed well recently.I have a team which include Barath/Dev Smith and Powell and Gayle to fill the top 3 batting positions.Samuel,Chanderpaul DM Bravo and Pollard the middle order.Roach,Best,Gabriel Beaton and Sammy for our quick bowlers and Narine along with Samuel and Gayle to do our slow bowling.PICK the best of these and we can compete with most teams.Our batsmen will have to play with their head on and we will be okay.Hit the ball on the ground should be the first idea when playing any stroke.

  • Earl on February 13, 2013, 14:21 GMT

    I do not understand how our selectors operate.Pollard for many years had more centuries in the 4 day game than many picked to play for W.I.he started with a century against a good Barbados team that included Collins,Collymore Hinds and Best.He scored 126 out of a total of 273.I was not thinking much of him playing this quickly,but the thought is within reason.I am a fan of Barath and Devon Smith I was waiting to see how Barath would do in the 4 day series been played.Smith has gone out and scored century in both inning of his first game.His seclection would depend on how many spinners would Zimbabwe play.Smith plays quick bowling a s good as any batsman in the W.I.Give Polly a chance...he might be a good candidate for captaincy when the present captain retires.

  • Satish Chandar on February 13, 2013, 6:29 GMT

    One big advantage WI has is, their no.6 slot is still vacant. Powell and Gayle will open followed by Darren Bravo, Samuels, Chanders. This is a settled top 5 as of now. No.6 is still vacant and is temporarily filled by Deonarine who provides spin bowling option too. Pollard can be used if WI doesn't require the second spin option. Marlon can't be a option in longer formats. He just fires it in. I wouldn't say it as pure gamble to include Pollard. It might give him a chance to pace a innings by playing the ball on merit without bashing it which will help in other formats too. While i have no objection to him being in the 11, why not Russel in test team? Far better seamer than Pollard. Good bat. Can allow Ramdin to be at 6 and Russel at 7. I think WI are under utilising Russel. He is a very good potential and can beat Pollard in terms of batting and bowling. Though less in terms of fielding. One more big man pending. Is Dwayne Bravo fit enough for longer formats?

  • bharath74 on February 13, 2013, 3:52 GMT

    Still Micheal Holding thinks KP is not a cricketer???

  • Dummy4 on February 13, 2013, 2:05 GMT

    Even though it was said by a lengend in WI cricket that Pollard is no cricketer, maybe he should be given a chance to prove otherwise. After all, Mr Pollard cannot perform any worse than many who are playing in that format today.Then again, the question beg to be asked, would Sammy still be the captain?How many all rounders will be included in the team at the expence of a specialist batsman/bowler. This is the time to make a whole hearted change of the captaincy. How much longer can the WI team continue with a captain by default?

  • Dummy4 on February 12, 2013, 22:34 GMT

    I'm sure that we can find more talented player in West Indies than pollard, he need to be more consistent in ODI . We can't take any team for granted, look what happen in Bangladesh ODI we lost it. The WICB need to restructure their T20, ODI, Test team because they are few player are over work