What differentiates cricketers from us commoners is perhaps the fact the former do more than just dream about the sport; they remain awake at nights practising the sport and endure backbreaking mornings unless and until they make a mark in Cricket- a normal sport to much of the world, but an oxygen no less to those whose lives are based on it. Dependant on it every second.
You could be anyone- a talismanic bat like Sir Don, a struggler like John Campbell or Devon Smith, a superstar like Abraham Benjamin de Villiers or the Wall of Cricket Dravid, the debut game is what it’s all about at the start.
It’s what you do in the very first opportunity afforded to you that matters most. Much like a job interview. Quite like the first arranged meeting with the girl who could be a prospective bride.
It’s not for nothing that they say- the first impression is the last impression.
You can destroy your own career later on and no one will care much beyond a point but a glorious start and special heroics right at the beginning is what they’ll always remember.
Just that there’ve also been cricketers- powerful, multi-talented, widely-recognised- who just didn’t get much of a chance, often nothing at all to make a mark in their maiden shot at the game.
Today, when you think of muscular blows out of the park, the ones you famously describe as shots that land in the river, those manufactured by the slighted flex of the muscle- you think of Kieron Pollard.
But you won’t necessarily associate the 6’5 giant from Trinidad bursting to immediate action in his very first T20 outing that occurred June 20, 2008, truth be told.
What we recognise instantly, quicker than the wink of the eye is Kieron Pollard punishing bowlers with mighty ease. But, there was once a 21-year-old Kieron Pollard as well who neither got a chance to hold the bat nor wield the white ball in his maiden T20 international for the West Indies that took place thirteen years back in time.
In a rain-affected 11-over-a-side T20I that saw the quartet of Xavier Marshall, William Perkins, Dwayne Bravo, and Andre Fletcher make light work of Australia’s paltry ask of 98 with 11 deliveries to spare, there wasn’t much in the Barbados contest left for Kieron Pollard to do.
Except that the Australians discovered a giant moving about in the field, unafraid to throw his burly frame at everything around that made heads turn in amazement as to how come a burlesque cricketer was so effortlessly agile?
That Pollard, having played T20 cricket (as well as ODIs) for thirteen consecutive years, still gives his 110 per cent on the field without much ado, has emerged both as an inspiration as well as a competitor much feared by exponents of both spin and pace.
Moreover, that he’s amassed a wealth of success- nearly 1,300 T20I runs, smashed 212 sixes in white-ball cricket, including 85 in the briefest format alone, maintained a strike rate of 138 in T20Is- proves well the point that success doesn’t immediately fall into your lap.
You’ve got to work for it. With each passing day.
For someone who never got a chance to make an impression with the bat, never finding the opportunity to fire sizzling sixes in front of the very fans who today can’t imagine a Kieron Pollard inning without any, it must be said, the Trinidadian has been walked the quintessential long mile in the game.
That even the legendary Universe Boss Gayle hasn’t achieved what the Trini has- smoked six consecutive sixes in cricket’s most entertaining format, one where Pollard and his destructive team are recognised as giant killers, the right-hander, it ought to be said has become a synonym of power hitting.
Today, that lanky youngster who dispersed without leaving any considerable impression when he first arrived has gone on to become a hot pick for any T20-franchise league that desires picking the stalwart of white-ball game with the same fervent enthusiasm with which honey bees cling to the hive.
On top of it, it’s a testimony to Polly’s desire at improving and contributing constantly at the game that he’s today the captain in not merely the one-day arena but the very format in which he’s recognised as a doyen of big-hitting.
Don’t pitch it short. Avoid the length deliveries and there’s no way you can bowl a full toss to him. These aren’t random disclaimers captains instil in their bowlers’ head; but regular operating procedures whilst confronting a menacing force called Kieron Pollard who became the first batsman in T20s to carve 500 sixes.
And that he’s achieved all of this, made India a huge fan-base, found affection in Pakistan, clobbered massive blows everywhere, whether the Wankhede to the MCG, Queen’s Park Oval to Karachi, has endeared the all-rounder to tens of thousands for whom Cricket is mass entertainment as also a daily lifeline.
He’s done it all despite never appearing the most complete batsman. Of that make no mistake. You wouldn’t know how he would’ve fared had he been up against Warne.
You hardly got to see him play Herath for the master spinner wasn’t made to play ODIs or T20is as such.
There are no vivid recollections of Pollard sending a Steyn or Mitchell Johnson out of the ground. You won’t place your life on him on picking the googly.
Yet, we must tip our hats to the fearless striker of the ball for once again proving that there still exist West Indians who prevail with an instinct for domination.
At 34, he’s not getting any younger but is still making it count despite the game having found a plethora of head turning talents. Think Devon Conway. Think Nicholas Pooran. Think KL Rahul and Fakhar Zaman.
But the legend of Kieron Pollard continues to dazzle unsullied.