Kieron Pollard: Mercenary and father

Next to a cluster of candy-colored beach huts along Antigua’s two-mile Long Bay promenade, Kieron Pollard reconstructs the six sixes he belted in a T20 International against Sri Lanka at Coolidge Oval d’Antigua in March.

First six: “I just tried my luck, I didn’t hit him properly, but he stole really well. Second six: “Right in the slot, it’s my game.” Third six: “Outside the stump, above the eye line. I support myself, every time on 100 balls. Fourth six: “Slog sweep, not my favorite shot, but in the middle. Fifth six: “Just pure power.” No timing, no feet, nothing at all. Just see the ball and use my strength. Sixth six: “Free swing, can’t be LBW (bowler plays around stumps). So I swung, the ball was on the side of the legs and the breeze helped it. “

It’s not the hits or the descriptions that spellbound Pollard’s trainer in Trinidad and Tobago, David Furlonge. But “the look in his eyes”.

“You see that, you understand his desire, his motivation and everything you want to know about him,” Furlonge told The Indian Express. He tells a story, as he did in Furlonge several years ago at Queen’s Park Oval Cricket Club.

A lean teenager, taller for his age, stood at the gates of Trinidad’s most prestigious cricket club. Someone – a local scout or acquaintance, Furlonge is scratching his memory – introduced him as a “talented boy from the suburbs.” He asked for his age. A stern voice answered: “14”. Furlonge said to him: “My mate, come back when you are 15 years old. “

At the time, the club weren’t too fond of junior cricket, and the line “come back next year” was an understatement to denote rejection. Many teens don’t come back often – in the Caribbean, he says, “kids move fast” – but Furlonge knew Pollard would be back next year. “That look in his eyes. The desire that I saw, I knew it would come back.

He came back a week after turning 15. Bigger and stronger, like the archetypal Caribbean pullout. The scout informed, “He’s turning heads.” But in net he picked up the bat first, not the ball. “Strong, powerful, good hand-eye coordination, needs a little polishing.” The coach asked him where he normally hits. He replied: “No. 10”.
“At that point, I wanted to tear up his schoolmaster,” Furlonge recalls.

That schoolmaster was Aslim Mandol, the agriculture teacher who was also a cricket coach at Success Laventille Composite School. Yet he had his own reasons. “If the school had allocated more budget to buying crickets, we would have opened up every time with Kieron, because he was hitting every ball in the swamp or the bushes,” he laughs. He lost count of the number of glasses he had broken too. But in inter-school games he was pushed in order without hesitation.

His early trainers couldn’t be faulted for seeing a melon in him – the Atlas-type shoulders, Hercules-type forearms, and the Prometheus-type fire in his eyes were irresistibly swift. At its peak, with a short swing, plus a walk, Pollard hit the end of 130 km / h. Maybe a Sober Trinidadian? Could legitimately claim the title “T20 Sobers” – 11,232 races, 300 wickets, 313 captures. And six six more too.

Pollard drew masses into the stadium, even for age group matches. Crowds were swelling to watch him – one day someone even brought a steel band. “They came in droves to watch him. It hit some of the longest six I’ve ever seen, ”says Furlonge. “It’s instinct, second nature to him.”

Often his mother Hazel came to watch him. She almost always had a question for coaches: “Is her son competent enough to have a future in the game?” She was raising Pollard and her two younger sisters on her own and couldn’t afford for her son to linger too long before he started earning a living and supporting the family. “She doubted but at the same time, she wanted her son to do what he really loved. So she would ask us if her son was good enough. We used to tell him he was very, very good, ”says Furlonge.

That fire in his eyes was his family, his inordinate ambition to succeed the desperation of putting food on his family’s table. Before you criticize him as a T20 mercenary, before condescending him as a Philistine freelance writer, you need to know who Pollard is and where he’s from.

***

Tacarigua, about twenty kilometers from Port of Spain, was one of Trinidad’s most notorious suburbs at the turn of the century. Drugs, ganja, gang outbreaks and murder were common. Put poverty in the mix, childhood was like walking on a carpet of coal.

It was tough, Pollard told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2010: “It was pretty tough, it wasn’t ideal to get up and your mom said, ‘We only have X amount of money. “. It was quite difficult growing up, and we had to sacrifice a lot to play cricket because cricket is an expensive game, all the equipment and the sponsors. It was a place where there was a lot of criminal activity, and stuff like that.

Pollard did not have his own cricket equipment – he had to use the school’s common kits. One day his mother managed a used piece of equipment for him, which he enthusiastically took to school. But his natural ability was such that Mandol knew he would overcome all these struggles. “Even then, he was very motivated and we knew he wasn’t the type to take drugs. Give him a bat or a ball, he would play cricket all day, ”he said.

The mother, however, was still anxious and wanted her son to do well in his studies so that they would be redeemed from poverty. “That was the way back then. Study well, find a good job. A future in sport is uncertain, ”he said.

It was also a difficult time for a cricketer in the Caribbean. The West Indies slide as cricket’s superpower was in full swing. Teammates in struggle, Russian roulette in the captaincy and administrative chaos and apathy had shaken his building.

The riches of T20 were also far away. All of this could have shaped Pollard’s priorities and choices, especially his club priority over the country. He was not the first freelance cricketer, but perhaps the youngest. He was barely 25, entering the peak of his career, when most freelancers were mountain veterans at the time. The flash point came in 2010, when he turned down the West Indies Cricket Board central contract so he could play T20 cricket for Somerset.
The backlash was stinging. Michael Holding said: “Kieron Pollard, in my opinion, is not a cricketer.” Pollard was, in his own words, “made to feel worse than the rebel cricketers (who toured South Africa)”.

Such convictions were not to block or stop him – he had been or still is on the payrolls of 18 franchises. He, like all humanity, monetized one of his gifts to earn a living. The gift of hitting six, the gold currency of T20 cricket. He hit 758 six, behind only Chris Gayle (1,042), almost with the same frequency (once every 9.7 balls versus 9.4 balls for Gayle).

He once said to Tim Wigmore and Freddie Wilde in the book Cricket 2.0: Inside the T20 Revolution: “You will never understand the situation until you are in the situation. Pollard was not a regular member of the West Indies squad, regardless of his format, his future was uncertain in Caribbean cricket, the T20 leagues were growing all over the world and beyond that he had to support himself. from his family. After being kicked out of the West Indies squad for the first time, no one bothered to call or console him.
“Yes, I wasn’t playing. But afterwards, no one called or said anything. If I had given myself up to 25 and had not succeeded, I would have gone back to school and I would have become a police officer, ”he once said.

At that time he was married and had also become a father. Responsibilities swelled. “My mom is getting old, so I want to give her the best retirement life possible. I also started my own family, so it’s all about trying to work hard enough to provide for my family so that they don’t have to go through what I went through when I was. young, ”he told Sydney. Morning messenger.

***

It’s like a carnival every time Pollard finds time to play for Trinidad. When he is there, the whole team is stunned. “He takes them to his room. They will play cards or video games. All fun, when he’s around. Everyone wants to be with him, just like he wants to be with them, ”says Furlonge.

While it started out as a bond between the coaches and then turned into a father-son relationship, Pollard and Furlonge are more like brothers now. “We drive, talk, have a drink every now and then, celebrate birthdays together. He is someone who values ​​friendships and has friends everywhere.

Many call him their best friend. He and Dwayne Bravo go a long way, the latter recommended him to the Indians of Mumbai, mentioned him in the song ‘Champion’ and called him his son’s ‘stepfather’. For the Pandya brothers, he is a brother in arms. For Nicholas Pooran, he is a father figure, who was next to his hospital bed when he suffered a life-threatening car accident. Since his relocation as captain of the West Indies, he has tirelessly supported talented but under-fired young guns like Shimron Hetmyer and Pooran.

“It’s an opportunity for us to be there for these kids (Pooran and Hetmyer) and hug them and protect them and then let them out. As a team, we are ready to work with these young people because we know what they can do.
At the Queen’s Park Club, young people await the arrival of Pollard. Charity games, fundraising games, donations for hurricane victims, Pollard is just a text away. “He will bring them kits, jerseys and of course a lot of love. For him, it’s a big family, ”says Furlonge.

In that sense, Pollard is a contradiction – the cricketer who sees each team as family is also the most promiscuous, having shot shirts from 18 different teams, from Bridgetown to Dhaka, from Multan to St. Lucia and Cape Town. He is not a freelance writer as the world of cricket had imagined: cold and callous, plastic and pretentious.

Maybe he’s more of a misunderstood cricketer. To understand his motivations, we must understand his situation, his education and his background. To appreciate his six-shot prowess, all you need to do is YouTube.


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