CAPE TOWN - In his pomp Shaun Pollock operated in the fast lane. Visitors to Kingsmead during the early 1990s fondly recall the flame-haired Pollock striking opposition batsmen on the head with 150km/* bouncers. The beauty of the young KwaZulu-Natalian was that he could turn around and deliver the very next ball on a perfect length at roughly the same pace.
It was speed and control. These were assets that enabled Pollock to enjoy an illustrious 108-match Test career, which ended with him as South Africa’s leading wicket-taker with 421 scalps.
Last Friday, though, in his role as Nissan’s Ambassador at Kyalami’s Festival of Motorsport, it was Pollock’s chance to appreciate real speed and control when he was whizzed around the chicanes of the famous Formula One track at in excess of 230km/* .
“Wow! Those guys really know what they're doing. I am not really a 'need for speed' freak when it comes to cars, but you can appreciate what these drivers can push to these supercars to,” Pollock told Independent Media.
“The amount of control they have at such high speeds is amazing. The drivers shrug it off as something they do every day. It becomes even more challenging when they are involved in a race and having to manoeuvre through the traffic and pass other cars. It’s quite impressive.”
Staying with high-tempo action, Pollock was a notable absentee at the recent Global T20 player draft in Cape Town, particularly with a host of his former Proteas teammates like Graeme Smith (Benoni Zalmi), Jacques Kallis (Cape Town Knight Riders), Mark Boucher (Nelson Mandela Bay Stars) and Lance Klusener (Pretoria Mavericks) involved in various coaching capacities at the newly-formed franchises around the country.
“I had a few approaches, but (I'm not involved) right now,” said Pollock, who is one of pay-channel SuperSport’s premier commentators. “I am interested to see how it goes. The best thing is that all the South African players are going to be there.
“I am also sure it's going to be competitive (among the coaches). There has already been lots of banter going around and I’m sure a few ‘strategy sessions’ will be held on the golf course. They are all helluva competitive guys and will be wanting to make sure their team wins.”
One coach who Pollock will be watching closely though, is the new man in charge of the Proteas, Ottis Gibson. The former West Indies fast bowler takes over from Russell Domingo. Gibson’s first assignment with the Proteas is the Bangladesh incoming tour, before visits from India and Australia.
“Obviously Russell did a great job, but now you have Ottis, who has had two stints with the England side. He was the West Indies coach as well, so he got a good feeling working with different teams,” Pollock said.
“He’s not coming in cold and has a nice series to start. Bangladesh might be looked upon as the ideal team and then after that he's got the two big tours of India and Australia. He’ll have to work quickly, settle things down and try to assert his way of doing things in conjunction with (captain) Faf (du Plessis). ”
Gibson will start on the front foot due to former Proteas captain AB de Villiers availing himself across all formats after the Bangladesh series. De Villiers has not played Test cricket since January last year, missing five series.
Although the Test side initially fared well despite De Villiers’ absence, JP Duminy’s poor run of form has deprived the Proteas of much-needed experience in the middle-order.
De Villiers’ return will fill that void, while his overall commitment to the Proteas will no doubt be crucial to Gibson’s ultimate challenge of bringing the ICC World Cup back to South Africa in 2019.
“Ottis’s big focus will obviously be the World Cup. That’s not too long away,” Pollock stressed. “He would’ve also listened to the England team talks... where they felt the South African team were good or lacking. So he should have an idea on how to improve those weaknesses and even those strengths. But having AB back it strengthens his batting line-up significantly. I’m sure Ottis will be happy about that.”