South Africa icon Shaun Pollock has been inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame, recognising one of the finest all-round careers cricket has seen. We reflect on the South African’s extraordinary achievements.
Among cricket’s most complete players of the modern age, Shaun Pollock came from a famous lineage but forged a distinct legacy of his own by consistently excelling in every facet of the game.
Representing his nation at the highest level for close to 13 years, Pollock played 411 international matches, scoring plenty of runs and taking a mountain of wickets.
With unerring accuracy, pace and guile, Pollock collected 421 Test, 393 ODI and 15 T20I wickets to go alongside more than 7000 runs in international cricket.
A HUMBLE MAN WITH NOT SO HUMBLE ROOTS
When a player whose father was a former captain of the team and uncle was one of the greatest batters ever produced by the country makes their international debut, whispers of favouritism normally follow. That was not the case for Shaun Pollock, the son of Peter and nephew of Graeme, who left selectors no choice but to pick him.
By the time he was called upon as a 22-year-old he already had 78 first-class wickets to his name at an average close to 21. The signs of what he was capable of with the bat had just started to come to fruition as well.
Selected to play against England in 1995, he took 16 wickets across five Tests at an average of 23.56 and scored 133 runs at 26.60. In his fifth Test, he claimed the first of 16-career five-wicket hauls, taking 5/32 in England’s second innings to set up a series-sealing 10-wicket win.
He made his ODI debut that same summer against England and made his presence felt immediately. First, making an unbeaten 66 from 66 batting at No.7, then taking 4/34 to bowl England out six runs short of victory.
POLLOCK’S GOLDEN YEARS WITH THE BALL
It was in 1998 that Pollock the superstar really arrived.
While there had been signs of how special a player he was, that potential manifested through the late ‘90s.
In 1998, he collected 69 Test wickets at an average of 20.44. Only compatriot Allan Donald (80 wickets at 19.63) took more wickets that year as the duo formed cricket’s most devastating fast-bowling pair of the time. The years that followed were Pollock’s best as a bowler.
Between 1998 and 2003, he took 274 wickets at 20.22 across 64 Test matches, with 14 of his 16 career five-wicket hauls coming in this time. Only Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (350) took more Test wickets in this period, with Australia’s Glenn McGrath (266 at 20.66) third.
It was the same story in ODIs, with Pollock (226 at 22.82) sandwiched between Muralitharan (236 at 19.08) and McGrath (195 at 19.59).
He finished his career with 421 Test wickets at 23.11 and 393 ODI wickets at 24.50.
He sits 12th for Test wickets taken, behind only Dale Steyn for South Africans, and sixth in ODIs.
POLLOCK THE BATTER ARRIVES
In the same period that Pollock enjoyed his best years with the ball, so too did he the bat.
There had been hints of what the South African was capable of through the ‘90s – he averaged in excess of 30 in three of his first five calendar years as a Test cricketer – and in 2001 he went to the next level, scoring 573 runs at an average of 52.09. That same year he took 55 Test wickets at 21.38.
An aggressive batter when the mood struck him, Pollock notched his first Test century in his second match that year, smashing 111 off 106 against Sri Lanka at Centurion. Three months later he notched his second and final Test century – a more patient 106* off 195 against West Indies at Bridgetown.
That year was no flash in the pan. In 2002 he made 231 runs at 77, finishing unbeaten on 99 against Sri Lanka at Centurion, and in 2003 he made 452 at 50.22. He averaged 26.2 and 20.97 with the ball in those respective years.
He would have to wait a few more years for his first and only ODI ton.
SUPREME IN ODI CRICKET
With his unerring lines and lengths, Pollock was a brilliant ODI bowler.
Across 303 matches, he collected 393 wickets at 24.5, while leaking just 3.67 runs per over. When he hung up the boots in 2008, he was the format’s fourth greatest ever wicket-taker, behind Waqar Younis (393 at 24.50), Muttiah Muralitharan (455 at 22.68) and Wasim Akram (502). He still sits sixth on that list.
An aggressive stoke maker, Pollock made 3519 runs at 26.5 in ODIs scoring at a brisk strike rate of 86.69.
Having notched an unbeaten 66 in his first ODI, Pollock hit another 10 half-centuries before making his first ODI ton 11 years after his debut. Batting at No.7, he blitzed 130 off 110 for an Africa XI against an Asia XI in 2007. It was the highest score by an ODI No.7 at the time, but he only held onto the record for four days as MS Dhoni made 139* two matches later in the same series.
The next year he bowed out of the game with a legacy that shines brighter than most the game has seen. In short: 7386 runs, three centuries, 30 fifties, 829 wickets and 21 five-wicket hauls.