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February 25, 2000


The Rediff Interview / Shaun Pollock

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'Cricket is not the be all and end all of life. There is more to life than just cricket'

Shaun Pollock Time was when the game was dominated by the all-rounders. Ian Botham. Kapil Dev. Richard Hadlee. Imran Khan. The superstars, in a star-studded game. Players capable of turning the game with bat and/or ball.

And then the assembly line dried up. Every player capable of bowling an over or three and batting out an over was hailed as the next Kapil, the next Botham, the next Imran. The player faded, the hype died, till another 'next Kapil/Imran/Botham' came along.

And then, just when the great all-rounder seemed set to join the dodo and the dinosaur and the unicorn in the list of extinct species, along came a carrot-topped Protean performer by the name of Shaun Pollock.

And suddenly, the excitement got back into the game.

The cognoscenti rate him as the equal of the four great all-rounders of the previous generation. The South African cricket establishment thinks so highly of him that already, he has superseded several senior players and been installed as the vice captain.

Pollock took time off from nets, team-meetings and the mandatory sight-seeing and shopping to chat with Faisal Sharif.

Shaun, has the fact that you are related to the Pollocks added to the pressure or has it worked to your advantage?

I think the presence of Graeme and Peter in my family tree worked in my favour because people took notice of the fact that I was a Pollock. That did put a little bit of pressure on me to play for my country but once I was actually in the team, it was not a problem at all.

How was it like early on, when you started? Was that -- the Pollock legacy -- the driving force?

It gave you a reason to do your best, it was something to strive for, because you know that your family members had played at the highest level, and my dad was out of the set up for quite some time. Graeme was still playing at that time and I think his son felt the pressure more than I did.

Your impressions of Graeme Pollock?

Actually, I don't see too much of him. He stays in another part of SA. Of course he was a genius and he has been selected as the cricketer of the century for SA. There are not too many people like that who come along. He was a great player to watch. He had loads of advice to give to me.

Were you always a fast bowler? Did you always want to bowl fast? Take us through your earliest memories of having played cricket.

I started playing in the back garden with my brother. Then in school days I used to do both, bat as well as bowl. It was part of the game. I used to bat at number three and open the bowling, so for me cricket involved both the disciplines. That's how I got started.

How has it been bowling alongside Allan Donald?

Shaun Pollock It's been superb. He is a fine bowler and one of the best South Africa has ever produced. He is really quick, so all the batters are looking to score runs off me at the other end and so I end up getting the wickets. I get more opportunities. I know that if I were playing against Allan Donald I would have loved to face my own bowling and slapped myself for some runs and seen him off (laughs).

You have been named deputy to Hansie Cronje, which seems to be a clear indication that you are the heir apparent. Are you enjoying this extra responsibility? Any impact on your game?

I don't think it is too much of an extra responsibility at the moment. I just contribute whatever I can and help the captain, at this stage. I think once you actually get the captaincy is when things become difficult. But then I don't see Hansie retiring for the next few years and so its still a long way off. There is no definite thing anyway, that I am going to be the captain. After two years, someone else might come along and he might be the vice-captain. But if I do become captain, then it will be a great honour and its something that when it happens, you try and do the best that you can.

What qualities have you learnt from Hansie as a captain and as leader of men?

He is a very good decision maker. He takes the points of view of all the players into account, sums the situation up and then makes a decision and leads from the front. What more could you ask for from your captain?

Shaun, I understand that you are a very religious man. Could you tell us something of your beliefs?

I have never smoked or drunk in my life. I am a reborn Christian. It does have a big impact, because it keeps the balance in your life and you realize at the end of the day that cricket is not the be all and end all of life. There is more to life than just cricket.

So, what else is there to your life besides cricket?

Your love for your lord, your God and saviour. And that he leads your life and you must try and be an example for Him. That's the most important thing.

How has your spirituality helped your game?

I don't think it helps the game. It helps the psyche. The fact that I am able to relax a touch more and I understand that in the context of life, not getting runs or not getting wickets in a game is not the end of the world, helps. You can wake up the next day and smile and be back in the thick of things, be more determined.

You have seen South Africa change radically as a nation, with respect to its stand on racism, the end of its isolation from world sports. How have you reacted to the changing scenario?

It's been great. We never thought that we would ever play international cricket and now we are doing just that. It's something very exciting. When we were growing up, there was nothing like cricket tours by international teams and there were no tours our own team was making. It was something that we were just not used to.
Shaun Pollock So we always knew that we were battling. All of a sudden, we were playing international cricket. It came at the perfect time for me. I finished my varsity and we were back in the international frame. So there was a chance of becoming an international cricketer. That was something that I always dreamed of. I always thought that I might have to play professional cricket somewhere else. But it all came through in the best possible way, and that's been great, to be able to play for one's country.

Have things really changed? Have the coloured people back in South Africa been accepted by the whites?

Yes, there has been a dramatic transformation. We have come a long way. It's been a very difficult journey and we have surprised others and ourselves at the way we have calmly come together.

To get back to this tour, what according to you is the key to success on sub-continental wickets?

Make the ball work for you when it is new. Once it gets older, then it's much easier to bat. Variation is the key. I think you got to have different things in your armoury for certain situations and different wickets. Also another important thing is to put the pressure on when the new batsmen come to the crease.

After watching the Board President's XI bat against the rising deliveries, you think that could be another game plan to get them?

I don't think they will be too worried about playing the short ball on their home turf. Also the fact that they have come off a tour from Australia should help, they must have gotten used to the bounce.

This might sound like a very rhetorical question, but who is the one batter that you really look forward to bowling to?

India has a nicely balanced team; of course Tendulkar is the star. Ganguly and Dravid play well, but I don't know much about the other players. But if I was to talk about one batter it would, without doubt, be Tendulkar.

Why is there such a dearth of spinners in South Africa?

The conditions in SA don't help the spinners too much. During the isolation period, we didn't come to the sub-continent, where spinners thrive. Since we weren't going to tour the sub-continent, there was no scope for spin in our cricket, and so spin just died a natural death. There was no motivation for youngsters to take to spin. Now we are back in international cricket and we are traveling quite often to the subcontinent where the ball turns square, so more and more people are taking an interest in the sport. And it won't be too long before we have some really good spinners. It is not that we don't have good spinners already -- Eksteen is a very fine spinner, so is Paul Adams, who unfortunately couldn't make the trip due to injury.

Fast bowlers are normally very aggressive and indulge in a lot of sledging. Where do you think does one draw the line?

Different people have different ways of doing it. I am a person who makes his bowling do the talking. Of course when I get frustrated I do say something. But in general I avoid it and don't do too much of it.

So what are your other interests besides cricket?

Nothing, I am a full time cricketer. I play a little bit of golf but that's about all I do.

Photographs: AllSPORT


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