When a cricketer hangs up his boots, just how do you gauge his retirement? What do you make of his legacy?Can it be sufficiently gathered only by the stock of runs, wickets or catches taken? Or can that be assessed by taking into consideration something slightly more discerning and inclusive with regards to his own team?
If you take the latter route, then perhaps it makes sense to conclude that Kieron Pollard’s retirement can be truly judged by the team that he captained; a unit burgeoning with bright young talents that seem capable of authoring the next era of West Indies white-ball cricket.
The Evin Lewis’, the Nicholas Poorans, the Odean Smiths, Romario Shepherds, Hayden Walsh’s, Alzarri Josephs, the Rovman Powells and the Brandon Kings.
It remains a team that looked upto Pollard not only because he was a towering figure at 1.96 meters. But largely because of him being a figure of experience, a proven game-changer, if not necessarily a match winner on every occasion, and someone you could look up to during dire straits.
Not many would recollect that the team Kieron Pollard broke into, many moons ago in 2007, featured a 27-year-old Chris Gayle, a Brian Lara on the last legs of his career with the likes of Sarwan and Chanderpaul still around with a fair bit on offer.
Along with the likes of Ramdin, Bravo and Dwayne Smith, Pollard was to script a bold new chapter of Caribbean cricket, one whose recurring feature would be the ink called T20 cricket.
Fifteen years hence, having debuted in the 2007 ODI World Cup, as Pollard has left the building, he can be glad.
He can be relieved at not leaving behind stumbling blocks; rather concrete matter that can be the base of a monument that may come to resemble the colossus we called the West Indies cricket (back in the day).
And while there’s no certainty whether the existing West Indian talent can cover the lost ground and make up for the umpeteenth chances they couldn’t make the most of in returning to glory days, there’s clear evidence that they can undertake a bold new voyage for the Windies and do something spectacular.
The sight of Nicholas Pooran coming down the track is pleasing and uplifting. Odean Smith muscling sixes with carefreeness is indeed, very West Indian. Alzarri Jospeh’s disregard for showing emotion after uprooting the stumps is understated- but fiery. Shai Hope’s graceful batting may not have the signature imprint of Caribbean power, but points to a new generation unwilling to be typecast as brash; it rekindles the lost love for artistry that seemingly ended with Lara.
On his part, Pollard showed them a way by leading in his own inimitable style beginning his journey as captain with a marked triumph against Afghanistan (in India) in 2019.
The Trinidadian tackled white-ball cricket smartly, cunningly even.
Throughout the course of his captaincy, he was unafraid to position himself at short-leg whilst bringing on the faster bowlers into the attack. As a bowler- and he could go no faster than his dibbly-dobbly medium pace- he tossed it up and often used the slower bouncer to good effect.
As a fielder stationed in the outfield, you didn’t dare mess with his exceptionally safe pair of hands.
Perhaps one of the more prudent West Indian cricketers who used their all round potential to smart effect in an age where T20 became Cricket’s currency as also its universal language, Pollard took his unassuming, but bold brand of Cricket to geographies wide outside breezy Caribbean shores.
It won’t be wrong at all to say that cricketers from the salubrious islands responsible for popularising the power of West Indies cricket in the post-Lara, Chanderpaul and Sarwan age included Kieron Pollard.
He lent his unmistakably gigantic presence to a new age, very cult-like vehicle called the T20 cricket. The other boy-band figures being Gayle, Bravo, Sammy, Narine and Russell.
No other player up to this point has featured in over 500 T20 contests and perhaps no one will reach that landmark anytime soon. Pollard, who surprisingly, only featured in 2 ODI world cups, featuring only in the 2011 and the 2007 editions, finds himself topping an envy-inspiring list.
What became headlining material in a career that picked 224 international caps for the West Indies, were brute power and benign ease at clearing the ropes; Pollard powered 234 sixes whilst on national duty and sometimes, even plundered them.
We saw a magnificent display of that when he quite simply snubbed Sri Lanka’s Dananjaya by hitting six consecutive sixes in a victorious T20I for the Windies during March 2021.
Yet, that Pollard could hardly offer technical prowess against spin and could often become an easy victim to the googlies and the rippers bowled around middle and leg offers sufficient evidence he was no master of spin. His struggles against Ireland’s Andy McBrine in the 2022 ODIs coupled with the bizarre inability to score against newcomer Ravi Bishnoi of India, in the series that followed later, offer ample evidence that Pollard was no king against spin.
The six-hitting monstrosity kept aside, that a batsman who imbued fear into the opposition, crossed 500 plus runs just once in his ODI career doesn’t quite appear enchanting.
Ditto for the fact that even after representing West Indies for fifteen long years, wherein he got a chance to whack the ball on 112 occasions, Pollard couldn’t touch 3000 ODI runs.
What became a subject of worry in his last two white-ball seasons of playing ODI cricket was the dot-ball percentage; from being 54 % in 2021, it nearly soared to 58 in 2022. During this time, Pollard could only amass-not smash- 210 runs from 9 ODI appearances.
Was the sluggishness on the field coupled with the falling stocks in ODI batting responsible for the big decision that saw the man, who’s just turned 35, calling time rather prematurely?
Could he have gone on for two more years?
Regardless, Pollard presided over a career that thrilled and also left a lot to desire. For instance, for someone who called time on a career with a batting strike rate north of 94 (ODI’s), having played the sport for a decade and a half is something truly admirable.
Though, what isn’t is the fact that Pollard could only amasss 3 ODI tons in what has been a truly long journey, but none in the format you’d consider his true strength: T20I’s.
In some ways, the Pollard enigma rests in between all he did- remember, he’s been part of a magnificent 2012 T20 World cup winning squad- and all he couldn’t.
Yet, once again, if you were to draw actual sense of what Pollard gave his West Indies besides his back-breaking batting that could clear any fence is the very fact that he leaves behind the leadership of their cricket in the hands of the very man whose career he helped resuscitate and inspire.
Perhaps that is why whenever the name of Kireon Adrian Pollard- white ball smasher, T20 trump card, CPL hero- would be taken, a certain Nicholas Pooran will be found smiling with awe.