Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
SA Tri-Series (1)
Ranji Trophy (4)
ENG-L in SL (1)
WI 4-Day (3)
SA v ENG (1)
IND v NZ (1)
One of the most enduring relationships between a franchise and a player in the IPL has ended. Five-time champions Mumbai Indians have released Kieron Pollard, their most senior player, to end a 13-year playing career that began in 2010, when they signed Pollard for an undisclosed sum via a tie-breaker that broke the deadlock between four teams. While Pollard said he would be calling time as a player in the IPL, his relationship with Mumbai is not ending: he has joined them as a batting coach and will play for MI Emirates, owned by the same group, in the ILT20 in the UAE.
Pollard is among a small set of players who have represented only one franchise over their entire IPL careers. The others in the list, with a cut-off of at least 100 matches, are Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore from 2008), Sunil Narine (Kolkata Knight Riders from 2011), Jasprit Bumrah (Mumbai from 2013) and Lasith Malinga (who had two stints at Mumbai).
It was Pollard's explosive hitting, athletic fielding, and smarts with the ball during the 2009 Champions League T20 that drew the collective attention of the IPL franchises. While he set his base price at USD 200,000 in the 2010 auction, four franchises - Mumbai, Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers and Knight Riders - placed the maximum bid of USD 750,000 for him. Pollard became the first of two players in the IPL [Shane Bond was the second] to be signed via the silent tie-breaker rule, where franchises were asked to list a price on a blank cheque with the highest bid getting the player's services.
It was a remarkable turn of fortunes for Pollard, the tall and well-built allrounder from Trinidad & Tobago, who had been left "disappointed" just a year earlier when he went unsold at the 2009 auction despite setting a base price of just USD 60,000.
In a chat with ESPNcricinfo in 2010, a day after Mumbai paid him a sum estimated to be in seven figures, Pollard said his biggest challenge would be to "sustain what I've started as there would be big expectations of me - but cricket is a funny game, it can go any way; I'm just going to go there and play my best."
Pollard lived those words, becoming a talismanic figure at Mumbai. Pollard and former Australia allrounder Shane Watson are the only players with 3000-plus runs and 50-plus wickets in IPL. Pollard hit 223 sixes, the fifth-highest in the tournament's history, won the Player-of-the-Match award on 14 occasions, including in the 2013 final, when Mumbai beat Super Kings to win the first of their five IPL crowns. Pollard entered Eden Gardens when Mumbai were 52 for 4 midway into their innings and scored an unbeaten 32-ball 60.
Before every auction, Pollard was an automatic retention for Mumbai, including in 2022, when he was the franchise's fourth retained player at INR 6 crore (USD 800,000 approx.). But if Pollard needed a reminder about the challenge of "sustaining" his form, it came in IPL 2022. In 11 matches, Pollard scored only 144 runs, and his average of 14.40 and strike rate of 107.46 were his lowest in any IPL season. Things have not improved since then as Pollard underwent a knee surgery during the English summer and then played in the CPL, where he led Trinbago Knight Riders, who failed to make the last four for the first time.
As far as Mumbai are concerned, their decision to release Pollard came with the motive of entering the 2023 auction with a bigger purse. Mumbai are known to form long-standing bonds with their players, and Pollard's transition to the coaching staff came as no surprise.