Shaun Maclean Pollock
July 16, 1973, Port Elizabeth, Cape Province
Right hand bat
Right arm fast medium
Considering the type of stuff floating around in his gene pool, it would have been surprising if Shaun Pollock had not been an international cricketer - and a very good one at that. Dad Peter led the South African attack through the 1960s; uncle Graeme was one of the finest, if not the finest, left-hander to play the game. Shaun has bits of both in his makeup, but it is as an immaculate, Hadlee-esque, line and length seamer that he has established himself. At the start of his first-class career, though, he was both slippery and aggressive and his Natal team-mates delighted in totting up the number of batsmen he pinned match after match. He was brought into the South African Test side against Michael Atherton's England tourists in 1995/96 and although his father was the convener of selectors, there was never a hint of nepotism and the younger Pollock took quickly to the higher level.
In 1996 he had a spell with Warwickshire cut short because of an ankle injury and missed the tour to India at the end of that year. But he soon returned to resume his new-ball partnership with Allan Donald and this pairing was the springboard of much of South Africa's success during the latter half of the 1990s. Indeed, it is possible to argue that the emergence of Pollock inspired Donald to greater heights as the latter found himself with a partner who both complemented and challenged him. Perhaps the straightest bowler in world cricket, Pollock is able to move the ball both ways at a lively pace. He also possesses stamina and courage in abundance as in proved in Adelaide in 1998 when he toiled on hour after hour in blazing heat to take 7 for 87 in 41 overs on a perfect batting pitch.
If there is a criticism of Pollock, it is that he has underperformed with the bat, but most Test teams would be perfectly happy to have him in their side if he never scored a run. Pollock was thrust into the captaincy in April 2000 when Hansie Cronje was drummed out of the game, and he faced the biggest challenge of his career - to lift a shocked and demoralised South African side. However, after a solid start to his captaincy, he lost some credibility after a 3-0 drubbing in Australia in 2001-02, and was later blamed for South Africa's disastrous World Cup in which they failed to qualify for the Super Sixes. As a result, Pollock immediately lost the captaincy and was replaced by Graeme Smith. Though his nagging brilliance around offstump remains, his pace and ability to take wickets at the top of the order has dipped.
Pollock missed the first Test against Australia at home in early 2006 with a back injury and was relegated from opener to first-change by the third. Four wickets in two Tests, with a new run-up and on pitches tailormade for his style, showed that he has slowed. But with 100 Tests under his belt, Pollock remains an integral part of the side. He missed the first Test against Sri Lanka due to the birth of his second daughter, returned for the second and was a pale shade of his former self. He managed just one wicket, and it was a telling sign of what appeared to be Pollock's decline to see him resort to offspin after being tonked over his head for six by Sanath Jayasuriya. All that was reversed in the Champions Trophy in India, where he showed great form, and against India and Pakistan at home at the end of 2006 and in the new year. Man of the Series in both the ODIs and Tests against India, Pollock was highly impressive with the new ball and chipped in with useful scores down the order. It was fitting that he became the first South African to take 400 Test wickets. Pollock continued his fine form against the touring Pakistanis next, despite being surprisingly rested for the final Test. Thrifty with the ball and useful with bat he offered precious control and breathing space for his captain. In the ODI series, he was the highest wicket-taker on either side and his 5 for 23 in the final game crushed a weary Pakistan. For the second consecutive one-day series in a row, Pollock was adjudged Man of the Series. It was decent form to carry into his fourth World Cup, but his lack of pace was exposed on the small Caribbean grounds, especially by Matthew Hayden, although his miserly spell against England was key in South Africa securing a semi-final berth. He lost his place in the Test line-up late in 2007 but returned against West Indies, on his home ground in Durban, for what turned out to be his final Test. He announced his retirement midway through the match, the following one-day series being his last international commitments.
Peter Robinson/Jamie Alter January 2008
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