Best: Niggling doubts about Pollard’s future as captain; is he considering calling it a day?

It’s beginning to look a lot like, not Christmas, but ciao for West Indies white ball captain Kieron Pollard.

I have a niggling suspicion that the 34-year-old globetrotting allrounder has had it with the sniping and the pot-shot-taking that never ends in the Caribbean. And with having to repeat, you know, the same increasingly meaningless stuff, you know, about working tirelessly, you know, to improve the approach, you know, to batting…

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard dishes out orders to his troops during a West Indies white ball game.
(Copyright Randy Brooks/ AFP/ Getty)

Pollard is perhaps thinking of calling it a day.

And his worsening win/loss record  is not making it any easier for him to fight the good fight and stay in the firing line for another year or so until the next World Cup in October/November in Australia. Nor is his hard-to-explain loss of form.

Three snapshots. The first is from March 2021.

KFC Munch Pack

Polly has just smashed a sixth successive six into the stands in the same over from Sri Lanka’s Akila Dananjaya. Watched by a beaming Jason Holder, he acknowledges the plaudits of the crown with a theatrical bow.

He is over the moon…

Basking in the afterglow, the West Indies white ball captain announces to the world that ‘winning is everything’.

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard takes a bow after smashing his way into international cricket’s record books with six sixes off Sri Lanka spinner Akila Dananjaya at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua on 3 March 2021.
(Copyright CWI Media)

Snapshot number two is from January 2022.

It is the last over of Game Five in the five-match Betway T20 Series against England. Everything is on the line.

Holder, called up by Pollard to defend 20 runs, has just bowled a no-ball for starters.

You only have to see Pollard’s long face to know that, like the Titanic, his heart has just sunk to the bottom of the ocean. The completely unexpected dot ball that follows rights the skipper’s ship.

And when it is all over and Holder completes a beaver-trick to give the Maroon Men game, match and series, he revels in the moment. He bends over and croons into the microphone.

Photo: ‘Polly’ celebrates a cracking win!
West Indies captain Kieron Pollard had the last laugh at Kensington Oval at the end of January as West Indies defeated England by 17 runs to win the Betway Series 3-2.
(via CWI Media)

He is over the moon…

The third snapshot is from February 2022. This one is not on television; it is in my mind’s eye.

A satisfied smile is playing around the corners of Pollard’s mouth. His face is aglow. He looks like a man off whose shoulders a huge weight has just been lifted.

Three days earlier, India had won the first ODI of the three-match series by a convincing 6-wkt margin. And Pollard’s contribution had been a first-ball duck.

Now, with the Indians on the far side of the Narendra Modi Stadium field in Ahmedabad, the Maroon Men go through their warm-up routines. Pollard looks towards the Indians and sees four IPL captains, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma.

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard is not amused as things seem not to be going his team’s way during a West Indies white ball match. .
(Copyright AP)

Suddenly, a tantalising thought crosses his mind.

“In three days’ time,” it starts, “the IPL auction begins. What better time to address the franchise bosses than today and Friday?”

He looks sideways at 25-year-old Odean Smith, going energetically through his paces.

“I,” he hears himself thinking, “am the West Indies’ yesterday; he is the West Indies’ tomorrow.”

“Nicholas.” He summons the T20 vice-captain. “I have a niggle…”

He is over the moon…

Photo: West Indies allrounder Kieron Pollard (right) prepares to take the attack to the India bowlers as wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant looks on during T20I action in Providence, Guyana on 6 August 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/ Arnulfo Franco)

The now 34-year-old allrounder did not accumulate a record 500-plus T20 games by accident. Before he replaced Holder as ODI captain in late 2019, he was one of the hottest white ball properties around, in the viewfinder of every team with its eyes on a T20 championship in Asia, Australia, Britain or the Caribbean.

These days, the player who, in 2011, said thanks but no thanks to the offer of a West Indies retainer contract remains a globetrotter. But some of the lustre has been knocked off his truly impressive record as a match-winner.

Let us take a look at his batting record since he assumed the white ball mantle, shall we?

In the first 14 of his 28 T20 innings as captain, he had two half-centuries and four scores under ten. In the second 14, he has had one half-century and five single-digit scores. Not much of a muchness, right?

The aggregate of the first 14 innings is 376, with two not outs, making the average 31.3.

Photo: West Indies short format captain Kieron Pollard takes evasive action, swaying out of the way of a short-pitched delivery.
(via CWI Media)

The aggregate of the second 14 is 258, with six not outs, making the average 32.2.

How does the ODI picture look?

There are 18 innings with four half-centuries and an aggregate of 417 with three not outs for an average of just under 28.

Not statistics to set the cricketing world on fire. But there have been few short format players, if any, whose name has been closer to the top of the list of coveted players.

Why? There have been few short format players who could be relied on to win a game irrespective of how dire the team’s situation is.

And that is what the statistics quoted above do not tell us. They are shorn of context.

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard (right) and his teammates acknowledge the plaudits of the crowd after their thrilling win over England in the fifth and final T20I of the Betway Series at Kensington Oval, Barbados on 30 January 2022.
(Copyright Randy Brooks/ AFP/ Getty Images)

But Pollard knows. That match-winning magic is a thing of the past. Or seems to be. With the bat.

But allrounders have two strings to their bow—three if you listen to the British commentators sympathetic to England white ball captain Eoin Morgan. They have argued, presumably with a straight face, that Morgan continues to be deserving of a place on the white-ball teams because, although he has been contributing little or nothing with the bat for a long time now, his captaincy is an invaluable contribution.

In the Caribbean, that argument holds no water. Pollard knows. It may have worked for Daren Sammy but, down here, no one captains a team on which he cannot on merit earn a place.

Notice how much the skipper has been bowling recently? This is a man who, as recently as 2021, used to bowl an occasional over—often #11—between #10 and #15. In none of the T20 World Cup games did he bowl four overs.

Photo: Red Force captain Kieron Pollard bowls during the 2021 regional limited overs competition.
(via CWI Media)

He bowled none at all against Bangladesh and Australia, one against Sri Lanka and South Africa and two balls against England.

In last month’s five matches against England, however, he bowled his full quota of four in the three middle games and two overs in each of the first and the last.

If he can contribute meaningfully with the ball, I think, and help the team to win, he will stay on.

If he can’t, well, here’s hoping Odean’s showing with bat and ball in Wednesday’s and Friday’s auditions impressed someone enough to get him picked up in the auction.

One season in the IPL can make a good allrounder into an excellent allrounder.

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard (right) encourages allrounder Odean Smith during the Betway T20I Series against England at Kensington Oval, Barbados on 30 January 2022.
(Copyright Randy Brooks/ AFP/ Getty Images)

And then Polly can walk happily away into the sunset…

…and still be over the moon…

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About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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One comment

  1. I look at his body language on the field and at the post-match press conferences and he is not the buoyant/confident cricketer that we’ve come to know (losing/failure can do that to you).
    His game has fallen away a lot as well. Maybe it’s time for him to throw in the towel. West Indies cricket needs a reset and it is now or never. Phil and his team need to consider taking similar steps.

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