When Graeme Pollock talks about batting, he makes it sound so easy. Those who saw him play in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s felt the same when he scored runs at every opportunity in South Africa and elsewhere.
Sachin Tendulkar’s three bowled dismissals (for 19, 17 and 27) in the two-Test series against New Zealand have led to usual punditry on factors such as age, footwork and even retirement.
Pollock, who like Tendulkar, knows what it takes to be the best batsman in the game, found nothing wrong in his bowled dismissals. In fact, he believes Tendulkar must continue if he is still enjoying and contributing.
South Africa’s cricket exile restricted Pollock’s international career to 23 Tests, but he played several games for the Rest of the World and was no flop against the rebel teams that toured South Africa in the 1980s. He famously hit a hundred against the rebel Australian team at Port Elizabeth in 1987 at the age of 43.
MiD DAY spoke to Johannesburg-based Pollock (68) on what it takes to perform when age is not on your side.
Not a worry
I don’t think getting bowled too often should be a worry. Normally, if your technique is okay, you will be dismissed leg before — you’ve got to have your bat and pad close together. If you are getting bowled between bat and pad, then there is something wrong with your technique and one has to start tightening up. You get out leg before wicket if the ball comes back, but at least you have protection of the bat and the pad close together so that the ball doesn’t go between them.
You can have a phase where the ball is doing a bit and you end up getting bowled and that’s not a problem as long as you are not missing straight deliveries because of your technique not being right.
Runs keep you alive
Once you get into the mid-30s, your reflexes slow down. The individual alone knows how much more difficult it is. You must be aware… are you slowing down, is it worthwhile and are you getting runs?
Sachin is still going to get a lot of runs. Technically, he is good. It takes longer to settle in and you will not get on to the bad ball as often. But if you are still making a contribution and you are confident within yourself — that you can make runs — there is nothing wrong with that.
Tendulkar has played a huge amount of cricket. His record is absolutely incredible, and he’s still enjoying it. A lot of people tend to get out (of the game) earlier than they should. If he is still enjoying it and still making a contribution, then he must keep going. At 43, I got a hundred against (Rodney) Hogg and (Terry) Alderman and I was confident of handling it. It does get a little more difficult (with age), but you are more experienced and you can come through without a problem.
How I managed…
I was confident. I was never constrained by the thought of not being good enough. When you are personally confident of being good enough, you can do it. It takes a bit of effort. You are not quite in control of the game than maybe what you were 10-15-20 years ago.
Controlling the game, makes the bowling easier because when you put bowlers under pressure, they tend to bowl worse than when on top. But when they are bowling to you and you are not taking advantage of the odd loose delivery like you used to, it tends to make the bowlers more confident and they start bowling better to you. It’s a psychological thing too.
Sachin’s still the man they want
I don’t think the bowlers believe that Tendulkar is playing any worse than what he played 15 years ago. I think they see him as a tremendous player and the key man who they have to get out. Irrespective of whether he is slowing down or not, he has enough of experience and talent to see him through.
If you think you can handle it, you just keep going. He has done such a wonderful job. All he has to be careful of is that he doesn’t leave the game and not be seen making a contribution.
You don’t want to leave the game in a lower light than you have been used to all your life. You still have to leave the game feeling that you still are a bit superior to anybody else. People must see you still standing out as someone better than anybody else.
Tendulkar’s gaps shouldn’t be a problem (Tendulkar played after five months. Now, there is another gap before the Test series against England at home)
I don’t think the gap makes any difference. Technically it’s all there and your eyesight should be good. You have to be as sharp as possible — that’s what you have to look after at all times.