Kieron Pollard – the long distance runner for West Indies cricket
A little over thirteen years ago, with the West Indies facing South Africa in an important ODI World Cup contest, one particular Protean was in outstanding form. Opening for his side and facing 130 deliveries, he fired 146 of his team’s 356 on his own. AB was on fire!
Resultantly, the West Indies were never really in contention to challenge South Africa’s authority, despite having the class of men like Lara and Chanderpaul. And though, there was a young debutant, aged just 20, someone who could only score 10 with the bat, there was something of a strong presence about him.
Tall and agile, he refused to hold himself back from athletic dives, piloting different positions on the ground moving very much in the fashion of a man who seemed here to stay. He reminded very much about what it meant to have a giant in motion in a cricket field.
Fourteen years later, as Kieron Pollard turns 34, with no fewer than 116 one day internationals under his belt, he’s recognised as more than a handy all rounder in West Indies white-ball cricket.
Leader for club and country
The man who often engages in carnage with the bat, being a total menace to some of the strongest bowlers around, little would many have thought that the man who failed in his maiden appearance for West Indies would go on to smoke 212 sixes in limited overs cricket (outside of T20 internationals) and would become the only walking player on the planet to feature in 500 T20 internationals.
If you were a spectator distraught at seeing the Caribbean side lose the world cup, despite hosting it in 2007, would you even have thought that Pollard would go on to lead the very team one day?
Today, Kieron Pollard has emerged as an irreplaceable figure for the Mumbai Indians in the famous Indian Premier League. He’s a man, who in addition to his heroics with both bat and ball has also led the Trinbago Knight Riders to a unique feat- wherein they won 12 in 12 games (during CPL 2020). This is testimony to the fact that good things come not only to those who wait but also to those who persist.
Not the batsman you’d ideally see bat throughout an inning, neither a bowler whom you’d associate with wicket-crushing yorkers or dynamite bouncers, Kieron Pollard acts well the part for that’s where the glory lies.
Pollard makes the difference
Then whether it means playing second-in-command to the mighty Chris Gayle against the Aussies in a must-win T20 semi final – circa 2012- wherein he fired a 15-ball-38 or taking the Mumbai Indians home courtesy a fireball of an 87, Pollard’s the man on whom you depend today to win you matches.
Not just a proficient all-round cricketer who fires behemoth sixes and sends the white ball into a state of perpetual disappearance, he’s emerged as a fantastic mentor to up-and-coming cricketers in the Caribbean in whose hands rests the responsibility of making West Indies cricket great again.
Take Pooran for example, who considers Kieron Pollard, his compatriot, a mentor. The guidance the elegant leftie received whilst nursing a near-fatal car accident to the smooth road to recovery emphasises the fact that Pollard is quite masterful in translating his cricketing experience into reviving someone’s fledgling career.
Today, you cannot imagine a limited overs Caribbean side without both- the master and the apprentice- can you?
Moreover, with the 2021 T20 World Cup fast approaching, it’s not only the big lashes of Gayle or the slower ones of DJ Bravo or even the wham-bam starts given by Evin Lewis on which the West Indies would depend; they’d look up to Kieron Pollard to blast past attacks and put nearly a decade and a half of his experience into nurturing West Indian hopes.
How Pollard has evolved as a player
What’s changed about Pollard is perhaps the fact that he’s not the brisk starter of an inning as he was once. What hasn’t is that despite the added pressure of leading a side tasked with the responsibility of entertaining a globe-trotting cricketing audience, in addition to countless T20 leagues, Pollard’s still the hungry athlete who desires to get better.
A month and a half back, he became the only modern day West Indian to fire six consecutive sixes against Sri Lanka in a T20 his side eventually won. He was also leading then. Since November 2019, when he was tasked with white-ball captaincy, he’s taken the West Indians to experience some highs they had hitherto lacked.
For instance, not succumbing absolutely to the Indians during their 2019 tour. Under his leadership, the Windies didn’t recede to a whitewash, and moreover, fired 207 in their maiden T20, an effort in which the captain made 37 off just 19, a game after which he’d score 68 of his team’s 173 in the final Wankhede-bound T20I.
He began his leadership role of a newly resurgent West Indian side with a commanding 3-0 hammering served to the Afghans. He was also at the helm of the affairs when Windies finally found a way to beat the Sri Lankans in the T20s in Sri Lanka, 2020.
There’ve been series wins in ODIs against Sri Lanka hosted later in the Caribbean as well as the triumph against the touring Irish.
Pollard, alongside a Gayle, Bravo, Simmons, Hope, Lewis, Holder and Roach appears akin to one among the nuclear arsenal, which on the day of launch can rip into any line-up.
While his opponents will desire nothing more than a low key outing in the mother of all sporting battles up ahead (the T20 world cup), Pollard would be aiming for one thing alone- can he inspire a very able group of youngsters into giving their best?
At 34, he’s not getting younger, but neither is the threat of bowling into his slot or pitching it short becoming a worthwhile idea.