Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Shaun Pollock is born - one of the finest all-rounders of all time
July 16, 1973 - It is hardly a surprise that Shaun Pollock, who had cricket running through his DNA, ended up becoming a cricketer to die for.
Polly became one of the finest all-rounders that South Africa have produced. To have achieved this status playing for the Proteas who have unearthed some of the all-time greats of the breed is indeed a privilege. Son of Peter Pollock and nephew of Graeme Pollock, Shaun had another handful of cricketers in his family.
Andrew Pollock, the father of Graeme and Peter, played as a wicket-keeper for Orange Free State, Andrew's brother-in-law Robert Howden played for Natal, Graeme's sons Andrew and Anthony both played for Transvaal and Graeme and Peter's cousins Ranevor and Christopher played for Natal as well.
Since the following lines will be filled with praise for Pollock, let's get two of his criticisms out of the way. One was his captaincy.
Pollock was appointed the South African captain at an extremely tough time with the match-fixing expose of Hansie Cronje in 2000. He got off to a decent start in his captaincy career but then lost 0-3 against Australia in 2001-02.
More importantly, he failed to lead a well-balanced South African side to the Super Sixes of the 2003 World Cup, which South Africa hosted, after miscalculating the Duckworth-Lewis score required by South Africa to beat West Indies in a WC match. The blunder turned out to be his final match as captain.
Another criticism, a much more flimsier one, was his failure to live up to the expectations as a batsman. Pollock averaged 32.31 with the bat in Test cricket and 26.45 in ODIs. The fact that he batted at No. 7 (plus minus one) through most of his career, stating that the numbers are not too bad would be an understatement.
Yes, there is little doubt that he could have easily added 5 runs per innings to his average. But, one mustn't forget that a Test bowling average of 23.11 and an ODI bowling average of 24.50 would have got him in any of the top teams as just a pure bowler. So his runs should be looked at as more of a bonus.
Pollock did hold a rare record for his batting ability for a brief period. Despite being injured, he was picked for the Afro-Asia Cup in 2007 to be played in India. The all-rounder announced that he would be playing as a specialist batsman due to his inability to bowl to which the selectors agreed.
In the first match of that series, Pollock came out to bat at number 7 and struck 130 off just 110 balls, thus breaking Mohammad Kaif's record of 111 not out - most runs in an ODI innings by a number 7 batsman. However, the record was broken just four days later by MS Dhoni who scored a 97-ball 139 at Chennai.
Shaun Pollock is the second highest wicket-taker for South Africa in Test cricket with 421 scalps from 108 matches just behind Dale Steyn's tally of 439. When he reached 400 Test wickets, he became the first South African to do so. His average, when he reached the landmark, was the lowest of the 41 men to have taken 200 Test wickets.
By the time the 2007 World Cup arrived, his fourth WC, Pollock was at the end of his powers. His pace had come down considerably which had reduced his ability to take wickets up top.
The all-rounder had already been relegated to a first change bowler in Test cricket with Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini sharing the new ball. After being dropped from the Test side in late 2007, Pollock returned against West Indies on his home ground in Durban.
This would turn out to be his last Test match as he announced his retirement midway through the match. The following one-day series was his last appearance in international cricket.
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