Graeme Pollock – South Africa Cricketer of 20th Century
Graeme Pollock is born on 27 February 1944 in a Scottish family in Durban Natal. Graeme Pollock was the hero of many cricketers in the 1960s and 1970s. He never let down South Africa. In 1965, the first Test match between England against South Africa at Trent Bridge. Pollock, a left-hander batsman made a brilliant hundred in this innings that has gone down in the annals for its quality.
Colin Cowdrey also made a hundred in that game, but Pollock certainly made a bigger impression. He scored 125 runs out of 160 added while he was at the crease, out of a team total of 269. Which is a measure of how much better than the rest he was?
Graeme Pollock was a distinct contrast in style with Barry Richards. Whereas Richards had a little gentle movement of the feet and was always nicely balanced and elegant. Graeme Pollock by then had adopted a very wide stance that didn’t require much movement, just a transfer of weight.
If the ball was pitched up, he would just lean into the drive with his big forearms. He was a tall man and had a very strong high grip on the bat. Normally, he preferred to play off the front foot but if it was pitched short, he would just sway back and smack it into the stands.
Even at the age of 60 he would go into the nets and prepare simply because he always wanted to give himself the best chance to play well. It was, of course, a personal tragedy for Graeme, as it was for the likes of Barry Richards and Mike Procter. That they should be denied the opportunity to play a full Test match career.
At least in his case, he played for long enough to demonstrate beyond argument just how great a batsman he was. In 23 Tests spanning six series, he scored 2,256 runs at an average of 60.97 – that has only been beaten by Don Bradman. He had clearly got a taste for the big time before he was cut off at the age of 26.
Those figures do not lie. He was up against some high-quality bowlers in that period. He scored a Currie Cup century at 16 but to a wide audience, the first flowering of his genius came on South Africa’s tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1963–64.
When at the age of 19 he scored more than 1,000 runs in all matches, including five hundred, and struck 122 and 175 in the third and fourth Tests. With his powerful stroke-play, he immediately became the player everyone wanted to watch.
Perhaps only Sachin Tendulkar, who scored two Test centuries when he toured there in 1991–92 at the age of 18, has ever created such a big impression on his first visit to Australia as a young man. Many brilliant performances followed.
A few months before spectators saw him at Trent Bridge when he made the third Test century before turning 21 in his home city of Port Elizabeth against England. Therefore, he might have added a fourth in the second innings of the same game, but his captain declared with him on 77 not out).
But it was Australia’s bowling to which he took a special liking. South African cricket touched rare heights during Australia’s tours of 1966–67 and 1969–70. They romped away a 3–1 winner in the first, followed by a 4–0 whitewash in the second series.
However, Graeme Pollock was the absolute star (his fast-bowling brother Peter, father of Shaun, was another key member of the side). He scored a sublime double century in each series, 209 (out of a total of 353) in Cape Town over New Year in 1967 and 274 at Durban in February 1970 in what was then the highest innings ever played for South Africa.
But by the following month he had, it transpired, played his last Test match. Of course, it was not immediately apparent that the ban on sporting contact with South Africa would prove so permanent. Graeme Pollock played for the Rest of the World teams that initially filled in when tours of England and Australia were canceled, scoring hundreds both times.
But as the reality of the situation sank in, his form with the bat did fall away. He soon rallied, though, finding motivation in dominating the Currie Cup with Eastern Province and, later, Transvaal. Somewhat surprisingly he declined offers to play county cricket but perhaps this at least meant that he never lost his appetite.
He became the first batsman ever to score 200 in a limited-overs match and for eight seasons in a row between 1974 and 1982 he averaged more than 60 he kept playing successfully until he finally retired at the age of 43, signing off with an unbeaten 63 in his last innings in a Currie Cup final.
Just how motivated he remained was evident from his performances against the various rebel touring sides that went to South Africa during the 1980s. He may have been in his 40s but he not only wanted to play but to dominate. That is what he did.
He missed out against the English side that went in 1981–82 but he scored at least one hundred against every subsequent visiting team, and these contained some decent bowlers such as Sylvester Clarke, Franklyn Stephenson, Rodney Hogg, and Terry Alderman.
Graeme Pollock was playing a one-day game for an International XI at Jesmond during the early 1980s, while he must have been around 40 years of age. He got another hundred and much to the crowd’s delight. Hence after that some years later he played in some charity matches and helped organize in Zimbabwe for a wildlife charity, SAVE, and again he got runs every time.
Sir Donald Bradman also thought one of the finest left-hand batsmen he saw along with Garry Sobers. His records are awesome in Tests, First-Class, and List-A matches. More than sixty plus average clearly shows his class with 7 hundred and 11 fifties in just 23 matches.
Overall, he played 262 first-class matches and scored 20,940 at an average of 54.67 with 64 hundred, 99 fifties, 248 catches, and 43 wickets. In 118 List-A matches, he scored 4,656 at 50.06 with 12 hundred, 25 fifties, and 45 catches.
Robert Graeme Pollock is famous for his cricketing family and is regarded as the best batsman in South Africa’s cricket history. In 1999, he was declared South Africa Cricket of the Century. Therefore, in 1966, he earned the accolade of Wisden’s Cricket of the Year. In 2009, he was included in the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. His nephew Shaun Pollock also played 108 test matches for South Africa.