Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Good captains need to be fiery and pumped up on the field"

Do you believe in that?? Then perhaps you can't even picture the man I will talk about now as a remotely good one.

Look at

We remember Shaun Pollock the captain as the guy that allowed his team to get knocked out of the 2003 world cup by miscalculating the rain shortened target by 1 run....But he is the 3rd most successful captain after Ponting and Jardine in the history of Test cricket. And that record spans over not 3 or four but 10 series which he captained (unlike most of the other guys in the top 10 list).

I think whoever pushed him out of Test captaincy (or did not think to coerce him to continue in tests after he stepped down after 2003 WC) pushed SA team back by a few years and allowed SA cricket to pay a price costlier than that 1 run.

I still remember the 3 match ODI series in
April-May 2000. Steve's not-almighty-but-already-mighty Aussies landed in SA to play the series that was scheduled about 7 days after what turned out to be Cronje's ouster from cricket.

It was in such a scenario that Shaun Pollock took up the South African captaincy - and SA almost surreally won that series in spite of all that chaos leading up to the series. Fluke? I guess not. Aussies played well and still came out 2nd best. Later in September the same year we saw the Aussies taking SA on in the new 'covered' stadium in another
3 match ‘away’ series. Polly's Springboks lost the first match badly. However they came back and TIED the 2nd one before winning the last one.

He was perhaps the one international captain in the 2000’s who never got his due as a galvaniser of cricketers into a unit stronger than the sum of its parts. [I am not talking about Warnie / Gilly and such like that did not get the opportunity; that will be a whole new discussion and the topic of some future post of mine]. If you look back at the particular phase in last year's IPL when MI started to turn around (only to botch it up in the last 2 matches and miss the semis berth) you will notice that the fightback happened just as Polly replaced Bhajji, stand-in captain for the first few matches till the ban was 'slapped' on him. It happened even as their best player and captain Sachin Tendulkar was nursing injuries on the sidelines. One can almost say (at the risk of insulting Tendulkar’s leadership capabilities) that the finishing touches never happened because Sachin Tendulkar happened to be back after the injury and took back the leadership for those crucial last league matches!

The above stats and recollections, strrewn together, suggest that the taciturn man we saw on the field was as good a leader in ODI's and T20 as he used to be in Tests. He was not quite the commentators' / adman's delight like some skippers from the subcontinent during his time but he was no less effective than his boisterous counterparts, to say the least.

Pollock has opted out of travelling to India for the IPL and in all likelihood he will not be back in next year’s edition of the IPL. But if he decides to have a rethink, don't you think my home team Kolkata Knight Riders needs someone like him at the helm?

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