Graeme Pollock, who turned 72 on Saturday is South Africa’s most celebrated cricketer of the apartheid era. A batsman, who very well could have become the greatest Test cricketer ever, but lost the prime of his career to the cricketing community’s boycott of South Africa.We take a look at five facts about Graeme Pollock, celebrating one of the finest talents South Africa has every produced.
#1 It is in the blood
Pollock comes from one of those families where cricket runs the household.
His father, Andrew M. Pollock was a Scottish-born South African cricketer, who played first-class games for the Orange Free State cricket team. Graeme’s uncle, Robert Howden represented Natal in three first-class matches. So it was logical for Graeme to pick up the sport at an early age.
Graeme’s entry into the game was further spurred by the fact that his cousin, Peter played for the South African international team. And that isn’t where the family’s love affair with the game ended. The next generation of Pollocks included Graeme’s sons, Anthony and Andrew, and his nephew Shaun, who captained South Africa and went on to play 108 Tests.
#2 The Bradman connect
When asked to name the two greatest left-handers he ever played against, the great Sir Donald Bradman mentioned the names of Garfield Sobers and Graeme Pollock – such was the latter’s reputation.
Among players who had played 20 Tests and had scored 2000 runs or more, Bradman led the pack with a Test batting average of 99.94, while Pollock averaged 60.97. After the accolades that Pollock received from the great man, it was fair that his career batting average was second-best only to Bradman.
The question does remain that had Pollock got as many opportunities as Bradman did, who would be remembered as the greatest Test cricketer to play the game?
#3 Anti-apartheid stance
In 1971, alongside Barry Richards and Mike Procter, Pollock actively took part in a protest against the government’s apartheid policy.
During an exhibition match, the three cricketers along with other players from both sides, walked off only after a single ball being bowled. The match was to celebrate the 10th year of the formation of Republic of South Africa. Later on, the cricketers issued a statement saying: “We cricketers feel that the time has come for an expression of our views. We fully support the South African Cricket Association’s application to invite non-whites to tour Australia, if they are good enough, and further subscribe to merit being the only criterion on the cricket field.”
#4 Awards galore
Irrespective of the number of Tests he got to play, Pollock’s trophy cabinet has seldom been empty.
Some of the major awards he has won include: South Africa’s Cricketer of the 20th Century (1999), Wisden Cricketer of the Year (1966), Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World (1967, 1969).
He was also adjudged the South African Cricketer of the Year twice, once in 1961 and once in 1984. Pollock also received special tributes in the coveted South African cricket annuals – in the 1977 and 1987 edition.
#5 Tough times don\'t last, tough people do
The South African batsman was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2013. As a result of the expenses he had to incur on his treatment, his finances took a beating. He later revealed that he was unable to pay off the mortgages for his house.
In 2014, he was at the verge of bankruptcy and reached out to the Indian and the South African cricket boards, but to no avail. It eventually came down to a benefit dinner he organised, that saw greats like Mike Procter, Barry Richards, Clive Rice, Graeme Smith and Shaun Pollock in attendance.
For the greatest part of his life, what defined Pollock was his responses to adversities, whether on or off the field.