Imagine being one of the best, putting in countless hours of practice each day, all the failures, all the moments of frustration, giving your whole life to something, and then just when everything is about to culminate into something, just when you are that close to your dream, something pulls you back. This was his story. This man played a mere 23 international test matches, after which his career was cut short by South Africa’s boycott, despite which, he is considered by many as the greatest South African cricketer, and was described by none other than Bradman as the best left handed batsman he had ever seen play cricket.
His name was Graeme Pollock. (I wish I could refer to him by just using his surname, but whenever I do so, most relate it to Shaun Pollock, his nephew, which speaks volumes about this genius’ obscurity.)
Here are the facts:
- His international batting average of 60.97 is second only to Bradman.
- He scored 274 against a touring Australian side, which was the highest single innings score then, and remained so for nearly thirty years.
- Despite the few number of matches he played, he score seven centuries and 11 half centuries, accumulating a total of 2256 runs.
- In his domestic career, he scored an overwhelming 64 centuries and 99 fifties.
How can we be truly sure about his batting prowess if he only played 23 matches? Here is the answer- all but one of the matches he played were against England and Australia, two of the most reputed cricketing sides then. His timing, placing, wristwork, footwork and his powerful strokes were sublime, making even the best of bowlers look like school boys trying their luck.
In 1999, he was voted South Africa’s cricketer of the 20th century, one of Wisden’s cricketers of the year in 1966, was chosen as the Wisden leading cricketer in the world for 1967, then again in 1969, and has been inducted into the ICC cricket hall of fame.
However, the awards and accolades conferred upon him cannot condone the treatment he got, and overlook the hardships (financial and others, I am not going to get into details) he faced.
Here was a man who couldn’t reach great milestones, couldn’t realize his true potential, otherwise, you never know, Sir Bradman was human after all.