"Is that number ten? That's good."
A few hours before we chat, Kieron Pollard has just been signed by Karachi Kings. It will be (including Stanford Superstars) the tenth non-international T20 side that he has represented. While that falls short of Chris Gayle's 16, the number of teams Pollard has played for is testament to his appeal to T20 franchises around the world. Yet, though he is only 29, there is a possibility that Pollard will never represent West Indies again.
Your tenth T20 team - is it quite tough playing for so many different teams and just kind of popping up for a month and then playing for a different team?
I find it very interesting. You go, you get a job done, you impart your knowledge and then you move on. I think it's about being professional in everything that you do. Since I've been going around different teams for a while, I tend to be comfortable wherever.
Is it a challenge, in between playing, to maintain your fitness when you've got no one to tell you to do it, because you don't have a full-time contract anywhere?
No, it's not. If you pride yourself on professional work, you don't need anyone to tell you that you need to stay fit. I think that comes naturally, and if you neglect fitness that's when your performances will drop. I've seen it. Over the last two years, I've just seen a little dip in performance because I wasn't able to train hard. But now, coming out of that, and being able to train a lot harder and have that fitness regime, you see the results as well.
How much do the teams you play for differ in their approach, like strategy and things like that?
They differ a lot. Obviously, different cultures, different ways of playing cricket, but what remains is that it is the same sort of targets and the way you go about it. The cricket itself doesn't change, but the approach changes. Whereas in some leagues they just preach aggressive, aggressive, aggressive, in others there's a more conservative approach: go hard at the top, consolidate in the middle, go hard again at the end.
"Sammy spoke against the board. Sammy was sacked. Phil Simmons spoke out, got himself sacked. Dwayne Bravo has been in trouble with the board. So if the younger players have seen that trend, they'd rather just stay quiet"
What would be an extreme?
A couple of the years that I played in the English T20 league. We'd go hard and try to consolidate and then go hard again.
How much does your personal role change?
The more you have played and the more experience you get, obviously your role changes. When you're a young player you go out there, you dominate attacks, you just go, go, go. You get more senior, there's more responsibility on your shoulders. Sometimes the risk-taking is not as much, whereas in some other situations you have no choice but to go out and take risks.
So, you know, it changes for me, and the roles in different teams. If I'm batting high up the order there's a certain responsibility. If I'm batting six and seven, there's a certain responsibility to be there at the end to finish off games.
Where's your favourite place to bat?
Now in T20 cricket, I don't mind batting No. 4 or No. 5. I think it gives you flexibility. You lose two quick wickets or three quick wickets, or you come in when the team just needs you to accelerate it in the middle or accelerate at the end. I think that's now my ideal position.
In T20 leagues, should there be more drug-testing?
I think there's a sufficient amount of drug-testing. I've had numerous, numerous drug tests all over the world. I don't think you find many cricketers taking drugs and stuff like that. If the people in authority think that they need to have more drug-testing, then so be it. But I haven't seen many cricketers getting banned for drugs. There's a few, but in everything that you do, there's always a few bad apples.
In the T20 teams you play for, can you talk about the use of data?
Stats and data - it's there, but I think it's there for more of a baseline. I think if you try to go into too much thinking about stats and the average score on a ground, you sometimes tend to miss a trick. Cricketers should actually play and the stats are just a baseline to see where people are progressing, where you can take advantage of a team, their weaknesses and stuff like that. But if you use too many stats in T20 cricket and start to complicate it, that's when you're in trouble. Stats are good, data is good, but you need to use it sparingly.
It's there, but I don't "much it up", as we will say in the Caribbean. Some people will think a stat is this and a guy's not good at this particular time or whatever. Give him the opportunity. Let's see.
Can you talk about your boundary catching?
It comes naturally. It's just about what you can do, concentration, getting your hand in the right position, and getting some to stick. You can say luck is on your side as well, but if you do it time and time again, it can't be luck.
For me, it's all about pride. When I started out, I think I was known as one of the best fielders, but then you always have competition and that's how you get better. As Jonty Rhodes said, if you don't go, you never know. So if I don't jump and attempt to take that catch, I never know if I'll be able to.
What I try to do is give myself the opportunity to take that catch. And it has worked out in me getting some different catches and people all around the world talking about it. So that's good.
How do you feel about being dropped from the ODI team?
I'm not surprised that it actually happened. I knew from the time I had a couple bad games or bad series that's what's going to happen and that is what they're going to use against me, because of all that happened between 2014 till now. I had one good series coming back - a very good series as well - and then next time a bad one and then you're out.
I just accept it and move on. I have the opportunity still to play around the world. If they feel justified in what they did and that's want they want to do, I'm fine with that as well.
Do you think there's a chance you might never play for West Indies again?
That's a question the selection panel will have to answer. I'll be playing cricket around the world and still trying to do the best I can. Will I play for West Indies again? I don't know. You want to use your knowledge and the experience of these guys in order to better West Indies cricket, but I guess the "upper heads", as they call it, and the management at the top have different ideas.
Would you want a white-ball contract from the West Indies Cricket Board?
That's one of the things we have been advocating for a long time. So hopefully. But saying you want it or you need it is two different things. Even now, only Test players get retainer contracts.
"West Indies have a rich culture, a rich legacy, so I don't think it's going to collapse"
But when you look at it in reality, guys who have served West Indies cricket for a long time, or more senior guys, are getting the same remunerations as guys who have just played one Test match. So I'm not sure if the process in which they go about it is right. I don't know if they will think about white-ball contracts. At the moment they alone know what they want to achieve, and we can just hope that good sense prevails in the end. I can't say if I want one. I want a lot of things in life.
How hard is it to just rock up and play for West Indies, like in the last ODI series, when you've been playing other forms before?
It's the least of the problems. I think the most important thing is being paid properly for your services. I can rock up and play, but I think there's more to rocking up and playing for West Indies than that. It's about pride, it's about passion, it's about representing. At the end of it all, it's your job. If you're lucky enough to play ten, 15, 20 years at the top, then you would have a substantial career. At the end of the day you've got to live, you'll have kids, get married, and there's a lot more to it than just rocking up and playing.
Are some West Indies players - the younger guys - afraid to speak out against the WICB?
They won't say it, but they are. Because what you have seen, there's a trend, right? Darren Sammy was regarded as one of the best leaders we have in the Caribbean. Sammy, for the first time, came out and spoke against the board. Sammy was sacked. Phil Simmons wanted different mechanisms to get his job done better. He spoke out against the board, got himself sacked. Dwayne Bravo has been in trouble with the board. Pollard has been in trouble with the board. Chris Gayle has been in trouble with the board for speaking out. So if the younger players have seen that trend, they'd rather just stay quiet. They are learning what not to say because of what the outcome is going to be.
How would you fix cricket in the West Indies?
We have to fix it from the top. We have to change the whole system, we have to change the whole culture, we have to change the whole structure. And if you start somewhere, you start at the top, then it filters down.
We tried different models. I've seen all sorts of different reports and stuff like that. We look at the Australian structure or the English structure and take out two pages that suit us and say, okay, we're going put this in place, and that's it. No. It's a whole structure. That's why a book starts from the front and it ends in the back.
We are just trying for shortcuts all the time. So, for me, everything from the top needs to change first before it gets down to the bottom. But unfortunately what all the fans sadly see is the finished product, which is the players out there, and we get judged. You get judged and you get the majority of the blame, but things are not really in place for you to perform at your optimal.
I wouldn't just change the president for argument's sake. No. I would say the whole structure needs to change - everything. The infrastructure, the stadiums and the things that are sub-standard to produce international cricket. Now, international cricketers come on the scene after one good year of domestic cricket and sometimes we can see the results on the field. Then we blame the players. So there are a lot of things, not just the president.
Why are West Indies ninth in ODIs when they are so good at T20?
T20 cricket comes naturally. There are just 20 overs, you go out there and play your natural game for an hour and a half and that's it. It's about concentration, it's about mentality. It's about the wickets you have played on in the West Indies, and then having to go, for instance, to Australia, and try to dominate. When you go overseas, it's difficult to adjust.
But us as cricketers are not blaming anybody, because at some point we need to take responsibility for that.
So the players do have to take some of the blame for how West Indies cricket is?
Yeah, of course. But look at what happened in 2014 on the India tour. They did an investigation and said the board, the players' association, and the players are culpable for what happened. But what happened after that? The players were the ones sanctioned alone, right? And okay, if you're responsible, you take responsibility for it. You accept it and you try to move forward. But again, we are responsible for everything in West Indies cricket now. That's the way. What are the changes you have seen in the top hierarchy of the WICB? None. But you see the players changing day in, day out.
A holistic sort of redevelopment has to take place in order for West Indies to go forward, and those are just some of the reasons why we are No. 9 in the world in ODIs.
Now you have fired one coach who said he wasn't getting along with the players. And then we brought another coach who was getting along with the players, the results started to look okay - World T20 win, we got to the final of the tri-series, won a Test match, and you have seen that the players are comfortable. Again, the coach goes. So we go right back to square one.
They get rid of most of the senior players to go young. The end result of it? Most of the senior players are back. So you're just going around and around and around and not actually finding the root of the problem. That's the reason why we're No. 9. We'll get to No. 8, we'll get to No. 7, okay. Then where do we go from there?
"Stats and data - it's there for more of a baseline. I think if you try to go into too much thinking about stats and the average score on a ground, you sometimes tend to miss a trick"
Are you sad that you've never played a Test match?
At the start, I was. Now I can cope with disappointment. Because of how West Indies cricket is and has been run, sometimes you just get labelled. And when you don't get an opportunity then people will say you can't do it. How would you know if someone can't do something if you don't get an opportunity? I've never got the opportunity to play, but the consensus is that I can't play [Test cricket].
I'm not sorry for myself. I have accepted what it is and I have moved on from harping about playing Test cricket. It is what it is. If I wasn't destined to play a Test match, then I wasn't destined to. If I was destined to play 50 Test matches, I will. So just let's see. But I'm not disappointed. Sometimes dreams don't come true.
Will young players follow your path and specialise in T20 cricket while West Indies Test cricket actually gets worse and worse?
I can see players just wanting to play the short format of the game. But what I will always say, as we were taught growing up, is that Test cricket is the pinnacle. Yes, you want to play the shorter format, but sometimes you still want to test yourself in a longer format. I started playing cricket because I wanted to play West Indies Test matches and 50-over cricket. It just happened that T20 came around and that's what took precedence. When I scored runs in the first-class arena, I was still branded a one-day cricketer, because I was hitting sixes in first-class games. Now, in Test matches you're seeing a lot of sixes as well. So I see it happening, but I still urge them to test themselves in the longer format of the game.
Are you worried that in the future West Indies might collapse completely?
Honestly, I can't see it happening. West Indies have a rich culture, a rich legacy, and I don't think we will let it happen. We have been going through a bad time for the last 20 years or so, but there's always some light at the end of the tunnel. So I don't think it's going to collapse and you're going to see regions go on their own. We just need to get our acts together so West Indies cricket can recover, because we all pride ourselves on that. You can be from Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana, or wherever - you'll be considered a West Indian.
What's the secret of West Indians in T20?
I think it comes naturally to us. We're strong, we're able to hit the balls out of the ground. Where teams run between the wickets and get twos, we get fours and sixes. It works to our advantage. We stick to our strength. Around the world, West Indies go out and try and dominate in the leagues as well. It shows how strong we are. And it was very disappointing to see that we lost 3-0 to Pakistan, because we were so good at it.
Do you think this West Indies team can dominate T20s in the same way as in the 1980s they dominated Test cricket?
When you say "this West Indies team", you have to be specific about which players we are talking about. If we are talking about that World Cup team and a couple of other young players, I definitely think so.
But if not, and you're just going to change your whole structure and get rid of all the seniors, then I don't know how long our domination is going to be for.