The South African Graeme Pollock was also a top-class left-handed strokeplayer like Sobers, but that is where the comparison ended. In almost every other way Pollock was different. Tall, strongly built and seemingly laboured, he was not athletic, unlike Sobers, and it showed in his running between wickets, and fielding, where he was at best a safe catcher. Stooping low into his stance, with legs spread apart, the power in his shots came from timing, quite the anti-thesis of Sobers who had a big backlift and played his shots with a flourish.
Pollock was also considered primarily an off-side player, like another big man Wally Hammond, but could get the ball away on the on-side, particularly with his short-arm pull shots. His 3 lb bat, very heavy for those times, was like a club as he drove and cut in awesome fashion. Inzamam-ul-Haq was perhaps, in some ways, a mirror image of Graeme Pollock for their laidback style, but that was an illusion because they spotted the ball early and had plenty of time to play their strokes. That explained their unhurried movements. The Pakistani batsman though was more aesthetic, with footwork quite nimble for a burly physique, and apt to hit straighter.
Prodigiously talented, one of Pollock’s finest innings was at
in 1965. With the ball seaming around, were reduced to 80 for
five. He put on 98 with skipper Peter van der Merwe, whose contribution was 10.
Pollock slammed the English bowlers for 21 boundaries all over South Africa ,
clocking up 125 runs off 145 balls. Trent Bridge
His finest hour came at
in 1970. In the company of Barry Richards, he flayed the Australian attack.
Pollock went on record the highest Test score for Durban , a tremendous 274 that
demoralised the opposition. At 26 years he was at the height of his powers
when, soon after, South Africa were banished from Test cricket for
their policy of apartheid. It was a cruel blow, for Pollock had aggregated 2256
runs in only 23 Tests for an average of 60.97, the best-ever barring Bradman,
among those who have played at least 20 innings. South
Barry Richards suffered an even worse fate. That was the only Test series he got to play. In those four games he scored 508 runs, averaging 72.57, with two hundreds. His highest of 140 was in that scintillating stand with Graeme Pollock at
when they blasted
103 runs in an hour after lunch on the first day. Richards reached his century
in the first over after lunch off just 116 deliveries. Several observers have
rated him among the best batsmen ever. Brian Johnston watched him at close
quarters, not only in that 1969-70 home series against Australia, but for long
years in county cricket for Hampshire, where his opening partner was a West
Indian named Gordon Greenidge. Durban
In his very first season for Hampshire in 1968, Richards topped their run chart with 2395 runs. The next highest for the county was by Barry Reed with a tally of 990. He scored heavily each year in county cricket, though he had moderate success for the Rest of the World, who replaced the banned South African team, for the 1970 tour of
Richards went Down Under to play in the Sheffield Shield, and he was
sensational. In 1970-71, he hit up 356 for England South Australia
325 of which were scored on the first day of the match. In 1977 he signed up
for Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. Even though he was past his prime,
Richards performed exceedingly well, confronted as he was with quality
opposition once again. Western Australia
It is, therefore, not altogether a surprise that Bradman chose him to partner Arthur Morris in his All Time XI. For a man of Richards’ calibre it became increasingly difficult to motivate himself to continue playing the inferior trundlers at the first-class level. He walked away from it all, frustrated at being kept out of Test cricket.
Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards were part of a brilliant South African team that continued the process begun by the supremely talented West Indies teams led by Frank Worrell and Gary Sobers, and finally and emphatically did away with the supremacy of
England and for
the first time in the 90-year history of Test cricket. Under Peter van der
Merwe and Ali Bacher, Australia South Africa
defeated England 1-0 in 1965
in an away series, and then trounced twice at home, 3-1 in a
five-Test series in 1966-67, and a 4-0 whitewash in 1969-70. Coming off a
comfortable 3-1 triumph in Australia ,
Bill Lawry’s Australian side was handed a mauling of frightening proportions by
the South Africans. The margins of defeat were 170 runs, innings and 127 runs,
307 runs, and 323 runs. It was humiliating, to put in kindly, and a far cry
from the heady days of Bradman. India could now justifiably claim to being
the no. 1 Test team in the world, even as their apartheid regime resulted in
prevention of face-offs with the ‘coloured’ nations. South
The nucleus of the 1965-70 South African teams comprised the allrounders, former skipper Trevor Goddard and Eddie Barlow, arguably the greatest-ever cover fielder Colin Bland, wicketkeeper-batsman Dennis Lindsay, pace duo of Graeme’s elder brother Peter Pollock and the wrong-footed in-swinger Mike Procter, who was also a tremendous batsman, and two star rungetters Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards. It is such a pity that their Test careers had to be halted abruptly in their prime.
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email firstname.lastname@example.org).