Where to from here for Pollock?

2007-11-13 00:00

As a player out in the middle, I would have found it very difficult to call him on to the field with a drink or pair of gloves - it would have been a battle to meet his eye.

Things have not gone that much better for him on home soil and last week he was sent home before the start of the first Test against New Zealand. I find it tough to imagine him sitting in the team meeting knowing that there is a strong chance that his name will not be on the team sheet. For over a decade his name was surely the very first name to be written down.

So there he was, dropped from the team and on the plane to East London to play for the KZN Dolphins against the Eastern Cape Warriors. For any cricketer who has played at Pollock's level, this would have been a serious blow to his ego, but Shaun showed just what an uncomplaining professional sportsman he is.

But the question remains - where to from here for Shaun Pollock?

After South Africa's victorious tour of Pakistan, and after witnessing the demolition job performed by the SA bowlers at the Wanderers against New Zealand, it is clear that the selectors, coach and captain are opting for an aggressive pace attack.

We constantly hear about Shaun Pollock's lack of pace, but forget that he was never a seriously quick bowler. He bowled consistently in the mid-130s, with one of the most dangerous bounces in the world. He may have lost a little pace and zip off the track but he is still the player to turn to when things get tough.

Shaun's one-day record is phenomenal. Unfortunately, his so-called lack of pace could be used as a convenient excuse to drop him from one-day cricket as well. I wonder if the selectors will allow him to concentrate on this form of the game or if he will call it quits. Whatever the outcome, I'm sure Shaun will handle it like the true professional he is.

I just hope I don't have to watch him carrying the drinks again.

On the subject of fast bowling, South Africans have always built their teams around their pace attack and coaches and captains have generally requested fast, bouncy wickets. Chris Scott, the groundsman at the Wanderers, got that right in the first Test against New Zealand. There was pace, bounce and a little sideways movement, just what you would expect on the first day of a Test match.

It certainly was tough for top-order batsmen like Graeme Smith, but that is why it is called Test cricket. How boring it would be if all the pitches were the same. We might then play all our cricket on astroturf. The liveliness of the pitch at the start and its deterioration during the game adds an exciting dimension to Test cricket.

After South Africa's victory, Graeme Smith made headlines when he complained about the Test pitch and the state of wickets around South Africa in general. It was ironic, then, to hear the losing captain, New Zealander Daniel Vettori, praising the pitch and commenting that it was a real Test for batsmen and bowlers alike. He made the point that bowlers had to hit the deck hard to get results and the batsmen had to apply themselves - as Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla did.

South Africa have just thrashed the Kiwis on a pitch that suits their style of bowling and they are still complaining. I think they would do well to adopt Shaun Pollock's attitude, his positive approach and his professionalism.

•NEIL JOHNSON is a former Natal, Western Province and Zimbabwean all-rounder who recently settled back in Pietermaritzburg.

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