Two days ago, Kieron Pollard turned 35. He did not play in the Mumbai Indians’ match against Chennai Super Kings on the same day, which proved to be one of the rare victories for the MI team during this IPL season.
Before the match, the ESPNcricinfo website posted a discussion about Pollard’s recent lack of form and what it means for his future with the team he has richly served over the years. Although the discussion was confined to answering this question—Is Pollard a critical part of Mumbai Indians’ future?—given that he has just resigned from the captaincy of the male West Indies’ white-ball cricket teams, the broader issue hovered.
In that discussion, Ian Bishop, while conceding that Pollard was out of form, was convinced that there is much more ahead for his career, if he were to reinvent his game.
“People are saying he’s washed [up], I’m not going to go there,” said Bishop. “I think he’s a player who can reinvent himself.”
Referring to him as a ‘great’ player, he cited a stream of Pollard’s statistics in IPL history.
“We have to have long memories—when I say we, in the media; fans, some fans anyway, have short memories.”
Unfortunately, it is common practice to shorten our memories when an athlete has a bad patch. I agree with Bishop that Pollard is a great player. It had come to me when I was writing about Viv Richards recently and I was assembling the qualities that construct greatness; to me, anyway. Pollard jumped to my mind.
I filed it away as a subject I wanted to address—not as an aside to Viv, but because I believe Pollard deserves to be appreciated for what he has brought to cricket internationally.
From the time he debuted on the international circuit in an ODI in 2007 (he was part of the TT team in the 2006 inaugural Stanford Twenty20), he has drawn attention by his approach. Always focused, full of energy, strategic and sharp, there was no question about his passion or his commitment to cricket.
It has remained an integral part of his career over the years and we have loved him for it.
Remember in the early days of the CPL when there was a ruckus when he was made captain of the Barbados Tridents team? He was not Barbadian was the protest from citizens. But in his two years there (2014 and 2015), he won their hearts with his grit and determination.
He took over the captaincy of the TT Knight Riders team from his close and loyal friend, Dwayne Bravo—whose West Indian captaincy was crudely ended—and led the team superbly. In 2020, the team won the title for the fourth time, winning every single one of its 12 matches.
His career, spent in the realm of T20s and ODIs, has invoked superlatives, not just because of his powerful hitting or his superb, alert fielding and his strategic acuity but also because of the aura that accompanies him when he is on the field.
He has had that charismatic presence that greatness invokes. He has been an obvious mentor to the players around him. Many, and more, would not have been able to rise were it not for his coaching and guidance.
Pollard has never been a selfish player in that regard. He has shared willingly and generously, and one can only hope that those who benefited from this privileged exposure feel gratitude for it.
This is a man of courage and conviction, a man of integrity, the qualities that count as a great leader. They are important ones to salute and remember as he goes through this slump.
Former England captain, Mike Brearley (a psychoanalyst), in his book, On Form, wrote about the contributing effect of off-the-field pressure on a player’s loss of form. Perhaps we might consider how abrupt his resignation was and wonder what might have triggered it and whether that is a layer that is affecting his current performances.
Writing about his own struggles to cope with expectations, Brearley offers an analysis:
‘[…] Form is not a matter of a moment. It takes time to assess. Nor is it a matter of total ease. We have to struggle through hard times, not all of them down to our own shortcomings.
‘Form is sometimes a matter of solidity and imperviousness, like a great oak in a storm; at other times it is more aptly pictured as a capacity to bend and sway before the wind like the bamboo that survives the hurricane because of its flexibility.
‘Loss of form is equally evident. If decline is prolonged, we become anxious. Is this it? Is it terminal? We have no guarantee that it will return. Yet for us to change in a substantial way, we often have to suffer a crisis or a setback.
‘It is through failure, or even illness, or even breakdown, that we come to see how wrong things are, and how urgently we need serious self-examination, support or treatment…’
I believe that Kieron Pollard’s presence in our world of cricket and West Indianhood has elevated its stature in a time when it has suffered its own loss of form. I celebrate him for the heart he has kept fiercely pumping and the way he has represented us with decency and integrity. More must come.