There are cricketers you’ll remember just for their centuries and the extensiveness with which they struck them everywhere. Sachin, with a ton of centuries, quite simply raised the pedestal of greatness.
There are batsmen you’ll never forget for their marathon knocks. You’d think of Hayden’s 380, Lara’s 400, which came off 582 deliveries, that 277 and his 375.
Then there are batsmen you’ll always respect, no matter what, for they continued to bat with integrity in Test cricket that we don’t seem to find today. This is when they spent a colossal time just batting. Think Rahul Dravid and the fact that he spent 31,258 deliveries (Tests) just batting. That’s actually 1302 hours spent at the crease.
But should the benchmark to judge a batsman’s caliber be just restricted to the runs scored or deliveries faced?
There are some whose equity could well be gauged by making sense of just how far the cricket ball travels when it is connected with the meat of their bat.
And must it be said, some batsmen should also be merited for sheer longevity, one measured not merely through number of appearances but by the magnitude of sustained fear they create in the minds of the bowlers.
You will never find Kieron Pollard raising his bat on say three consecutive occasions after scoring a century. There may perhaps never be a day where you’ll find Kieron Pollard acknowledging the crowd after breaking Rohit Sharma’s highest ODI score of 264.
But you’ll find Pollard giving a hard to bowlers as also off-field umpires who are often seen running to the ground fetching new white balls.
As of March 2020, he’d already hit 125 sixes in ODIs, which makes him among the top ten active batsmen to have hit most sixes in the 50-over format.
But it makes absolute sense to place Pollard in the latter category for very few international batsmen have managed to create a sustained pressure on bowlers despite lasting for well over thirteen years at the highest level.
When the stats examine Kieron Adrian Pollard- fearless big-hitter, ball-smasher, agile-fielder, West Indian, Mumbai Indian, T20 mega-star- they would never concern themselves with the magnitude of runs scored or wickets destroyed with the dibbly doubly medium pace.
They would be concerned with the strike rate and something no number on earth or any stat-book can perfectly gather: impact!
For that’s what real cricket is all about.
Let’s rewind our clocks back to 2011 when Pollard was just 35 ODIs old. Aged 24, he was facing a tough Indian side touring the Caribbean. In the days of Ravi Rampaul, Darren Sammy and Marlon Samuels, you wouldn’t automatically bank upon a neophyte trying to find his feat in international cricket.
So he wasn’t played in the first of the five ODIs. And he got a duck and went for 9 an over in the very next ODI. West Indies lost badly again. He was again dropped for the third game, the series already lost to India three-nil.
But in the fourth game, the first that his West Indies came to win against a Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar-powered attack, Pollard produced a 70 off 72. Coming into bat with half the side out for hundred, he powered the Windies to 249, eventually starring in a 103 run-massive win.
That was impact.
Though he wasn’t done yet.
In the very next and final ODI, one that’ll always be remembered for Samuels hitting the winning runs, Windies chasing down a 250-plus ask, it was Pollard who speeded up the run-chase after Sarwan and Bravo’s fifties, scoring an unbeaten 24 off 13.
While the cameras were quick to make Samuels the highlight, who ran immediately to close friend Gayle in attendance, most forgot that at the other end was a mid twenties kid who fired runs at a strike rate of 194.
A little over a year later, he’d show a broader glimpse of his power hitting, this time as the second-in-command to Gayle, the wrecker-in-chief in a must-win semi final game for Windies in the 2012 T20 World Cup.
Once again the big honors went to the Universe Boss for his 41-ball-75, an undoubtedly powerful knock but Kieron Pollard’s contribution was no less insignificant. 30 of his 38 runs that came off just 15 were struck either to or over the ropes.
That knock propelled Windies to 205, after which they’d easily make it to the finals.
But young Kieron Pollard, 25 then, was improving fast. His strike rate in two previous T20 world cup appearances had been 119 (2009) and 114 (2010) but in 2012, it mushroomed to 133.
How’s that for an impact.
A year later, his stocks would rise in the most-famous cash-rich T20 league, one that’s made the Trini as much a West Indian as a Mumbai Indian.
The record for representing Mumbai Indians in 150 games doesn’t rest with Rohit, Hardik or Malinga; it’s with Kieron Pollard, who achieved in 2020, with much of cricketing action suspended owing to the lockdown, a true mega-star in every sense of the word.
No Gayle, Bravo, Sammy, or even Afridi, De Villiers or Steyn have played 500 T20 games. The first man to do it was Kieron Pollard in 2020, the very year he also achieved what may go down as perhaps one of the more underrated feats of his career.
By leading the Trinbago Knight Riders to a campaign triumph, he ensured they won each of their 12 games, a feat never previously attained in the history of the slam-bam T20 franchise-based cup.
But in 2020 where the West Indies resumed international cricket by opting for the brave decision to travel to England, Pollard was scripting milestones elsewhere, in a format where his countrymen and islanders are recognised as icons.
Pollard, in 2020, scored faster in T20s than everyone- with a strike rate that was- would you believe it- 199.
He averaged 53 in a format where one struggles to hit a fifty. From 23 innings, he batted so beautifully and dutifully that he emerged unbeaten in 11 of them.
This was also a year where he captained the West Indies to their maiden T20 series triumph in Sri Lanka. Few months before, he’d led the side to a comprehensive ODI series win against Afghanistan, a dangerous bowling-heavy opponent. This was his maiden captaincy assignment.
Toward 2019-end, Pollard the batsman struck a whirlwind 68 of his team’s 173 in the 3rd T20 that Windies eventually lost whilst chasing a mountain of 241 against India. But he ensured that under his watch, there would be no whitewash, Windies chasing down the 171-run ask in the Second T20 (Thiruvananthapuram) with nine bowls to spare.
A few days later, during the ODI leg of the tour, the only contest where his West Indies came mighty close to taming India, Pollard was involved in 135-run fifth wicket stand with Pooran (89 off 64) as the right hander emerged unbeaten playing the captain’s knock of 74 off just 51.
Yet, in doing all of this it appears funny and a bit weird that several years back, Pollard was the youngster who failed in his maiden outing, debuting against the Proteas in the 2007 World Cup, scoring no more than 10.
And here we are a decade later, seeing a man-mountain adjacent to whom stands a mountain of T20 experience and not to forget, an iconic stat of 423 sixes (including 211 in the IPL).
Surely, you’ve got a Shai Hope for elegance and technical prudence. You’ve got in Evin Lewis the man who’ll propel the team to a fiery start and in Pooran and Hetmyer you’ve got inning-repairers who play spin as well as they counter pace.
But in Kieron Pollard, you have one of the key lynchpins of Windies cricket who’s successfully led the transformation of a team that may at one stage have succumbed to being only T20 wizards into now being a force that’s once again rising in white-ball cricket.
That his leadership is strong, mindful, and doesn’t only manifest in wham-bam hits is evident by the fact that Pollard, the man in his thirties, has shown desire to spend more time at the crease instead of blindly attempting to hoist the ball out of the park.
Think the partnership with Pooran in the second ODI vs Ireland, 2020, wherein, in pursuit of 238, the Windies were 76 for 4 before Pooran and Pollard dug in for a vital, and eventually match-winning 64-run stand, a game his team won by 1 wicket.
And yet amid all of this excitement of a career that’s traveled to different continents, rejoiced with multiple cultures and worn countless jerseys, it’s incredibly painful to think that Pollard didn’t feature in three prominent years in his white-ball journey.
He wasn’t around in the national side in 2015, nor was he present in 2017 and 2018.
Imagine what might have been his pain at having not been picked for the 2015 world cup. Imagine not being part of the line-up that thrashed England in 2016 World T20.
Imagine missing out on the 2019 squad that flew to England. What if Pollard was at the other end with Brathwaite in that unmistakably hair-raising game versus New Zealand?
Where might have the West Indies ended eventually?
At all these times where he wasn’t on the crease, the zesty Trinidadian whose brute batting can make any bowler seem inane, was ready to pump his muscles and free his arms wielding the bat.
Just the way he tore apart a very exciting CSK lineup during his bashful 87 at the Kotla in the 2021 IPL, making fielders in the ground appear like peas in a pond- harmless, just floating around aimlessly.
But whose gain was it that he was often overlooked- Kieron Pollard’s or his West Indies? Regardless, enjoy your 34th you crazy spark of West Indian cricket!