CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1966

Graeme Pollock

Among the fast-fading memories of the South African tour of 1965 none will longer into posterity than the prodigious performances of the two Pollocks, the brothers who left and indelible imprint on public perception wherever they played. If cricketers were commemorated by statues their effigies, illuminated like Nelson on his column, would look down from the city's heights on their home town of Port Elizabeth. By so much did they stand out as the predominating contributors to the South African successes. Yet to those familiar with their background - and Pollock was a name repeated in headlines in Australia and South Africa - the impact they made in England was not surprising

The younger brother ROBERT GRAEME POLLOCK was born in Durban on February 27, 1944. His father, a native of Scotland, had played in provincial cricket as a wicket-keeper for the Orange Free State. They are a sport-loving family. The two sons entered into all games with relish and skill and it soon became obvious that Graeme was destined to become a prodigy. He was only three when his mother tried in vain to prevent his taking stance as a left-hander. Heredity had asserted itself. Like his father, Graeme does everything except batting with his right hand predominant.

Peter was seven and Graeme four when they transferred from their own backyard tests to the concrete pitch of a neighbour and entered the contests with such zeal that they usually ended in fights and arguments. "I was a bad one for getting out," Graeme recalls, " I hated getting out and often I made such a fuss that it would end the play." Today he is known for his easy-going, phlegmatic nature, his boyish smile and apparent lack of tension on big occasions. Some relic of his childish avidity to monopolise play remains in his eagerness to retain the strike, often to the chagrin of his partners.

The first evidence of his precocious gifts for cricket came when he was nine and accompanied the Grey Junior School XI to play in the nearby town of Graaff Reinet. He scored his first century (117 not out) and took ten wickets for 25 runs. Until he was twelve he was a fast bowler like his brother, but was persuaded to change to leg-spin. At Grey High School he excelled in every sport in which he played. On leaving school he shot up from 5ft 10 ins to his present height of 6ft 2 ins.

All his career has been distinguished by the early age of his achievements. On his thirteenth birthday he played for the school XI and continued for an unprecedented four years - the last year as captain. He made a record number of runs and on being chosen for Eastern Province in the Nuffield Schools Week established the highest score of 152.

When he was 16 years and 335 days old he became the youngest cricketer to score a century in the Currie Cup tournament and at nineteen the youngest South African to hit a double century in a first-class match. At the same age of unsurpassed youthfulness he recorded the first of his four Test centuries - 122 against Australia in Sydney in 1963-64.

Both Pollocks owed much to their school coach George Cox, of Sussex. While on a visit to Britain with his parents in 1961 Graeme played is six games for the county second eleven. The genius of his cricket burst into full flower on his first tour - to Australia. In his second first-class match against a Combined XI, including five Test cricketers, at Perth he scored 127 not out. The reaching of his hundred in eighty-eight minutes prompted Sir Donald Bradman to remark to him, "If you ever score a century like that again I hope I'm there to see it." In the fourth Test at Adelaide he played an exhilarating innings of 175, including two sixes, two fours and two off an over from Bobby Simpson. With EJ Barlow he put on a record 341 for the third wicket. His tour aggregate was 1,018 with a third place average of 53.57, and he was fourth in the Test figures with 57.00.

In England last summer, the summit of his achievements was his chanceless 125, out of 269, scored in the second Test at Trent Bridge. He went into bat when two wickets had fallen for 16 and giving full rein to his elegant off-side strokes, studded with square and cover drives, hit twenty-one 4's and reached his hundred in two hours nine minutes. When he had scored 28 he became the youngest player to pass 1,000 runs in Test cricket. This was the piece de resistance of the season but he thrashed 203 not out against Kent in a devastating innings of five 6's and twenty-eight 4's and scored 122 - in one minutes under two hours - against Sussex.

Although his Test innings at Trent Bridge endured while five wickets fell foe 80 and paved the way for South Africa's only victory and the winning of the rubber, his greatest satisfaction was derived from his 137 and 77 not out in the fifth test against England in 1964-65 before his home crowd at Port Elizabeth.

He left England at the top of both the Test (48.50) and tour (57.35) averages. With only two wickets he was also head of the Test bowling.

At an age when many have not yet started their Test careers he is already regarded as one of the most accomplished batsmen in contemporary cricket. It is a comforting thought for his host of admirers that probably the best of Graeme Pollock is still to come. - LD.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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