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…
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
And then Polly can walk happily away into the sunset…
…and still be over the moon…