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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Interview > Peter Pollock

'Donald has lost it'

February 25, 2003

Peter Maclean PollockPeter Maclean Pollock, Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1966, played 28 Tests for South Africa as a fast bowler, taking 116 wickets at an average of 24.18. Making his debut at 20 in the series against New Zealand in 1960-61, he would have played many more Tests for his country had South Africa not been exiled from the sport after the Australia series of 1970.

Even though he was often overshadowed by his majestical younger brother, the mighty Graeme, 'Pooch' held his own throughout their careers. He has been an especially influential voice in the game after South Africa returned to cricket. As chairman of the selectors, he drew up the blueprint for a competent and, often great, team, that is now captained by his son.

As his son Shaun's leadership comes under attack from members of the Hansie Cronje fan club in the South African side, Peter Pollock discussed the current state of South African cricket in an exclusive interview with Ashish Magotra.

You were part of a team that included Colin Bland, Eddie Barlow, Barry Richards, your brother Graeme and Mike Procter. What was it like being part of that team?

It is a side that over the years has acquired legendary status. In 1960, this was a side that was beaten by England and had never beaten Australia.

In 1963-64 with Trevor Goddard as captain South Africa were to embark on a tour of Australia. People said this tour will be a disaster. A lot of people were even against sending a team. But we performed well. We shared the series against Richie Benaud's Australians who had beaten the Indians and the West Indies. That was a start. When England visited us next, they won the first Test on a bad wicket; the other four were drawn.

From 1965-1970 it was one-way traffic. The Aussies came and they were thrashed. The legend gets exaggerated a little bit but we were the best side in the world at that moment. In five years we went from nowhere to being the best.

The 1970 team is a benchmark other teams in South Africa have been trying to live up to. Mike Procter opening the attack with me. Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock opening the batting, it was like having two Viv Richards in the team. It was a very special time indeed.

Colin Bland, the legendary fielder. So much has been said about him. How good was he really?

I do feel making comparisons is odious. Colin was brilliant in every position. Clive Lloyd, who came in a little later, was very good too. It is only now that fielding has become such a big issue, but at that point Colin had no equal. He was the best fielder in the world.

Do you feel the one day game is loaded too much in favour of batsmen?

I feel very strongly that the game has become a batsman's game. I was involved with South African cricket from 1991 to 1999 and was the chief protagonist to introduce maybe even two bouncers an over to help bowlers get their own back. It is very tough on the bowlers. The wickets are easy, the bowlers have to bowl in the batsman's arc, you can't bowl down the leg-side. It is very unfair on the bowlers. In the sub-continent, even 300 is passed easily. As a bowler I would not want to play the game. We need bowlers to have more of a say.

Allan DonaldThe only team that can actually survive the tough odds is Australia because they have four very, very good bowlers. They have changed the game in their own way.

In fact, when Hansie Cronje was captain, Bob Woolmer coach and I the chairman of selectors, we decided to bowl Allan Donald at number three to get wickets. We knew the only way to slow the run-rate in the middle overs was to get wickets. And Allan was the man for that. He had some difficulty controlling the swing of the white ball but the main reason was to get wickets.

Look at Shoaib Akhtar, he bowls at 100 mph, runs into the wicket at a good pace and gets hit for 70 runs off his 10 overs. Snicks and edges go for four because he is bowling that quick and in the slot. Even when Shoaib got that
43 against England, he was just swinging because he knew where the ball would be. It is embarrassing to be a bowler these days.

What was Graeme Pollock like as a batsman?

He was a great batsman. But I could never give you an accurate analysis. All my life I never played against him. We played for the same school, college, province and country. He was the smaller brother so when we used to play at
home, I would let him bat and we would have all the plants and trees as our fielders. When he would get out caught to a tree or the plant, he would start crying and say he wanted to bat and then a fight would ensue. That would bring our mother into the picture and she would say, "Let him bat." I would be in half-a-mind to give him a 'klap' at that point.

The Pollock legacy is now being continued by Shaun...

In a way he has taken it much further. We were restricted in the fact that we could play so few countries. In fact, we played most of our Tests against Australia. From 1961 to 1970, I played only 28 Tests for South Africa and 50% of those were against Australia. But now you have so many nations that you can play cricket against. That is where Shaun has a very big advantage over us.

You have this business of comparing teams from different eras.

There have been a lot of great teams over the years. We have had the Australians of 1948, Frank Worrell's West Indies, the West Indies with Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards, the South African team of 1970. I think they were all great teams. You could have 10 sides nominated as great sides, but to actually try and rate them doesn't really hold water with me. I mean it is nice to read and all, but that is just about it.

What kind of a bowler is Shaun? I want you to tell me that as a former cricketer, not as his father. What do you think are his strengths and weaknesses?

Shaun PollockShaun isn't like me. I was a fast bowler and Shaun is a medium-pacer. From a very young age, I wanted Shaun to model the way he bowls on someone like Curtly Ambrose or Glenn McGrath. Move in close to the stumps, hit the seam and let the ball do the rest. He has never been a tear-away bowler. He was a very good foil for Allan Donald when Donald was at his best. But now with Donald struggling, we can see the effects on the team.

Shaun will never be the spearhead of the South African attack. He is a very good bowler, but he is not the strike bowler. (Makhaya) Ntini is good, but he is no Donald.

Wasim Akram and Allan Donald are probably playing their last World Cup. How would you compare the two greats?

Wasim Akram: He bowls off a short run-up. He is always one who has relied on swing more than pace. He varies his pace and can bowl quick when he wants to. He is not your typical fast bowler.

Allan Donald: He has always been a fast bowler and his time is just about up. I think time has caught up with Allan. I mean you can see that it is just not the same. The stress shows on his face. A lot of people have told him so but he wanted to play in the World Cup. I think he has lost it. You can see the lack of rhythm in his bowling. Personally, I feel he should have retired a season ago.

Statistics indicate Shaun took to captaincy like a fish takes to water; his performance as a player has improved as well. But do you think the pressure is starting to tell?

The World Cup has shown that home teams have a bad record. There is too much pressure on the home team. Shaun enjoys pressure, he likes it and revels in it. But the wickets in this World Cup have been batting tracks and that does make a very big difference to the plans.

The making of Shaun as a cricketer: There always is a moment in every cricketer's life when he puts his hand up and takes responsibility. Any incident you remember?

The season he first played for South Africa. Not many people would have imagined him to be getting a game for the country that year. There was a match that Allan Donald had to withdraw from due to injury and Shaun got in. He was a star in his first match and got the man-of-the-match award. Thereafter, he played a few matches for the 'A' team and when Fanie de Villiers got injured, he was drafted in the Test side. He kept getting wickets and opened a slot for himself and kept himself in the team on the strength of his performances.

At the start of that season I asked him what his aim for the season was and he said 'To play in the World Cup.' At that point, the answer seemed a little cheeky to me, but he went ahead and did it.

He is a good cricketer and has shown his class in both forms of the game.

In recent times, there has been talk about Shaun and how good a captain he is compared to Hansie Cronje...

Hansie battled for years to fill the boots of Kepler Wessels. I think it always is difficult to replicate the success of a good captain. Everyone struggles with that, it is nothing knew. Hansie and Shaun's records are almost identical. It is just the media that brings these issues into focus.

The way I look at it is Hansie Cronje is dead. He was banned for life. There is no point talking about this. It is almost like asking, how good Australia would be if they had Don Bradman as captain? The issue is over and done with.


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Sub: Pollock's Interview.

I agree with Peter Pollock that ODI is absolutely a batsmen's games which is making it look a boring game. Bowlers are not allowed to ...

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