VVS Laxman. Shiv Chanderpaul. Younis Khan. Rahul Dravid. Mahela Jayawardene. Steve Harmison. And, Shaun Pollock. Pick the odd one out? And here’s a clue. Only two among them haven’t captained their respective sides at some point.
But, guess what? That’s not the answer.
Want to know what is?
Probably, it’s that pair of eyes that call any of the men listed above as ungentle or unkind. Actually let’s state it sans any further elaboration. The one trying to find an ‘odd’ one out from what is a very fine league of gentlemen is the one who’s odd in the first place.
If there ever was such a thing as a list of gentlemen cricketers who made the sport much like their own selves- kind, courteous and simple, something it often ceases to become nowadays in an era of cruel, cunning, replete–with–shenanigans Cricket – then just who’d be better than men listed here?
And probably, the captain of this line-up, one to which fine men like Jason Holder too could belong someday, as should Younis and Chanderpaul (one hopes), would be none other than Shaun Pollock.
So when the revered and almighty International Cricket Council inducted Shaun Pollock into its rank of Hall of Famers, it did make November what it actually is.
Sweet November. Much like the famous Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves flick. A month with a very fine ending as you’d look back. Not only since the Shaun Pollock induction happened long after the gentle giant of Proteas cricket had retired, but also thanks to what we all saw at Kanpur’s Green Park.
The resistance from Rachin Ravindra. Then contests like Pakistan’s fascinating Test victory over Bangladesh.
All facets that someone like a Shaun Pollock would love to have commentated at. For in both contests, he would’ve seen, as he often has in the past, virtuous men of valour and kindness; men who like to quietly soldier on without any hang ups or tantrums.
Kane Williamson. Babar Azam.
Probably it’s only fair to say that if you were to imagine these gracious (and loving) cricketers who have remained as distant from controversy or petulant foul crying as is the Thar desert from Alaska, then you’d imagine Shaun Pollock in the midst of them.
Probably smiling, wearing that famous tie and crisp shirt, clicking a selfie for the finest lot who came to belong at cricket’s highest level in the post-Pollock era.
But anyways, that’s all down to figurative thinking. More imagination than actual happenstance- right?
For what matters most is today. And today, and for each day to come, not just Cricket South Africa but every cricket custodian who was treated to exceptional bowling and skilled batting would be thankful.
Because when the ICC decided to induct one of cricket’s nicest sons into the Hall of Fame, it inducted into the highest-possible annals of the sport, a long-lost belief that cricketers with poise had little standing in front of those with oomph.
Surely, the induction of Brian Lara before Sachin means that the ICC- was accepting of a man who called himself a ‘mortal’ in front of Tendulkar’s god-like aura. The man Ponting, McGrath may not be fans of; the man who horsewhipped England on way to his 400.
Then, by inducting Mahela in its ranks, the ICC proved again that it was just as receptive of gentle beings amid a climate that is too often flavoured by mindgames.
And now, by having Shaun Pollock sit beside a pantheon of the greats of the game, think Learie Constantine, Jack Kallis, Desmond Haynes, Zaheer Abbas, the ICC have made an often under-valued cricketer blossom with ephemeral fragrance.
It’s almost like returning back an ignored lotus in a mighty fine hall petalled with expensive lilies and roses to its actual deserving place – the flower vase.
Shaun Pollock did to Cricket what a caring and compassionate brother does, often in an undervalued sense to his family. Leads them by an example, earns the bread, ensures the light in the kitchen is never off, tends to the elderly by getting them meds and more. And ultimately, hugs a younger one to offer hope when the going gets tough.
That the man with a bowling action that can never perfectly be imitated did that with more cricketing elan was beautiful and a tenderly story.
His maiden Test, in which there was no cricket after a day and a half, saw Pollock dislodging Atherton, Hick and Thorpe. In a line-up featuring Donald and Schultz, Pollock emerged the top wicket taker. Fifteen summers later, he would end his career but not before 814 international wickets (including ODIs, Tests).
With the bat he was, never, a slouch. With 7,000 plus runs and 30 fifties, he was a figure of grace and uncompromising work ethics.
In all he did on the cricket field- which was always to give everything to the team’s cause- perhaps he embodied the South African value of ‘Y’ as evident in its beautiful national flag.
Y is for unity. South Africa’s most famous medium pacer in the nineties and 2000s was, is known for being a complete team man.
One who all stuck to, in a team that had much divergence: color, caste, creed but one who never used colourful language himself.
Even the moments where Pollock was surprised with an umpire’s on field call, he was never sullen, just remotely anxious.
So as the ICC tributes an icon of the game for whom it was about the ‘we’ never an ‘i,’ we fans tip our hat to cricket’s prestigious governing body and its latest inductee- a man who spreads a sense of calmness and poise wherever he goes, and must also be said, wisdom from behind the mic nowadays.