Fear. A single four-letter word that drives emotions and can make or break people. That’s what you felt facing up to Jeff Thomson. That’s what Shoaib and Lee gave you. That’s precisely what the great West Indies team of the seventies and eighties instilled in the minds of their opposition; pure fear, as they ruled exerting their great powers.
But that’s also the emotion that dissipated into thin air as the downfall struck in the late nineties lasting throughout the 2000s. No more did you, in the absence of the trinity of Lara, Ambrose and Walsh, feel afraid to take on the West Indies.
How about now?
If you ever thought about it, you’d find Cricket borrows a lot from geometry and reads like philosophy. It’s a circle, at the end of the day. Works in cyclical function. The bad bits may last or go around, but with changing vagaries of time come full circle. The sun rises again. And before we know it, the good replaces the bad.
Couldn’t be truer for the West Indies. The current team are no longer the punching bags you would’ve thought were back in the 2010s or until the 2015.
Today, you’d take a team consisting of Hope, Hetmyer, Pooran, Thomas, Lewis, Gabriel, Roach, Chase lightly at your own peril.
And it appears that big emotion that formed the tenet of the team has returned again, as if to cast a big shadow on those who doubt a visibly reformed unit.
There’s fear in the eyes of the bowlers when they run into a Rovman Powell or Andre Russell. Like there is in the minds of the matador when he takes on the bull that’s uncaged.
You pitch it in the zone of Evin Lewis and Hetmyer and only the spectators in the stands can help you retrieve the ball. Your fielders won’t count.
But more importantly, there’s been a persistent fear about an individual who’s consistently flexed his muscle in the sport for over a decade. Would you take Kieron Pollard lightly in the game?
What’s the point of losing mental balance?
Sri Lanka learned the lesson the hard way when in the First T20, held in the pre-lockdown season, at Pallekele, pitched it up and bowled fuller in the big man’s zone.
What followed was a 15-ball-34, including 5 hits to the fence. The strike rate of 226 indicated Pollard-power had cut loose. Together with a near identical score by Andre Russell, Pollard-led the team to a win, and later, to the series win.
It’s rare for the West Indies to whitewash an opponent. But Kieron Pollard is a shrewd customer. His ascendancy to white-ball captaincy has brought about a change in fortunes, almost as drastic as what the Lankans experienced, having cleaned up his team in the ODIs earlier.
There are cricketers that thrive on the magic of the image they cultivate. Gayle, an unquestionable great, doesn’t mind rubbing his universe boss image on the face of the other.
AB’s long gone, but images on social media exploring his 360 range continue unabashedly.
Pollard is a different creature. He likes to participate in the destruction of the opposition, not a sedate leader who’s content in buck passing or just passing orders.
A quarter of a year back, he led his team to India for a 3 Match ODI and T20 series. In the final T20 at Wankhede, where West Indies capitulated, scoring only 173 in reply to India’s 240, one man took the fight single-handedly to Shami, Kuldeep, Dube, Yadav, and Sundar.
He contributed a lion’s share of runs to a dainty total, scoring 68 of just 39 balls, picking his spots to fire 6 sixes that breezy evening.
At one stage, Kohli was animated. On the Hitman’s home ground, one man was executing the hits. On March 23, 2012, Pollard quite possibly played the most under-appreciated of his ODI innings, scoring 102 of West Indies’ 294 runs, in the process of which he took the likes of Lee, Clint Mackay, Hilfenhaus and Watson to the cleaners.
It didn’t matter to him that there was no Gayle in the team. There was no Chanderpaul either. But Pollard barbecued the Aussies by firing 8 sixes, the managed by Australia as a whole.
For someone who arrived in 2008 and has just turned 33, it appears, the Kieron Pollard we have amid us matters way more a decade later than when he began.
At that stage in their careers where many can slow down, as did Shane Watson and George Bailey, Kieron Pollard, already a giant, finds a rise in his stature in the current mix.
No longer is this some random big-hitting machine who’s here to make merry down the order, overpowering attacks in the death overs. This is West Indies’ new white-ball captain. And he’s delivered the results already.
Let it not be forgotten that had the West Indies bowling worked in their favor on a dismal outing with the ball, at Cuttack, Third ODI, they might have conquered India, and with that, a series win.
Pollard arrived into the middle in the 30th over and batted for the rest of the inning, notching up a 74 from 51. That’s all it took the big man to impose his herculean frame and with it, sizeable fear: just 8.3 overs.
In reply, India fired 3 sixes in their inning. Kieron Pollard, alone, accounted for 7 of his team’s 3. What’s he’s also delivered are ODI series wins against Afghanistan, a familiar bully of his team (remember the loss in T20 world cup 2016 game) and Ireland.
But make no mistake.
Why Kieron Pollard matters isn’t just for creating deafening sound from the stands anywhere he bats, be it Melbourne, Chittagong, Cuttack, Jamaica, or Karachi, where he lifts the duke or the Kookaburra as if it was no bigger than the ping-pong ball.
He’s a skilled partnership-maker, inning-repair, an agile fielder, and a quiet fox. Someone who doesn’t mind giving his body the blows, stationing himself deep in the outfield, patrolling vacant areas with the eye of a pouncing puma.
During the 2013 ODI series in Australia, Glenn Maxwell, then on just 4 off 2, got a flighted one from Narine. He muscled it powerfully toward deep-mid wicket. An easy six was quite certain. Instead, a fielder launched himself at least 2 feet into thin air, suspending the laws of physics, defying gravity in the process as he plucked out a blinder out of thin air.
Kieron Pollard made the “Big Show”, Maxwell didn’t.
Today when you see a Pooran and Pollard batting together, it’s not just a normal partnership; it’s the alliance between the master and his pupil. In that sense, Pollard with a whirlwind experience of having played 500 T20s- let that thought settle in- has a huge responsibility.
Of nurturing the next assembly line of promising West Indian talents, of making a case the West Indies strong again. And in doing so, Pollard proves that it’s not the runs always that matter. Rather the way in which you get them; and he’s got 4,500 plus, 14 fifties, and 88 wickets from both formats (including T20s).
He shows us that in the modern game, the strike-rates matter just as much as the ability to put the opposition to the sword. That he’s been doing that consistently well enough to have become one of the superstars of the game’s preferred format speaks for his success.
And now that he’s a pillar for a side boasting of a Hetmyer, Hope, Lewis, Pooran, with Russell and Brathwaite already well-settled- makes the case for West Indies becoming a dominant force a superbly interesting story.
Reads like a thriller; promises goosebumps!