St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Personalities St George's Park - Graeme Pollock: Cricketer Of The Century
Graeme Pollock: Cricketer Of The Century
Jackie McGlew

Port Elizabeth's Graeme Pollock was voted cricketer of the century. Who else had been in such a position to be able to judge him than ex-Springbok cricketing captain, Jackie McGlew.

Years ago, in 1984, McGlew wrote the following article that was published in the 1984 Protea Cricket Annual of South Africa.

By Jackie McGlew

Graeme Pollock is very simply one of the greatest cricketers ever. No batsman in South African history has ever dominated the scene for so long and so indisputably by sheer prowess and presence as Robert Graeme Pollock.

Had South Africa not been cast into a cricketing desert for so many years, Pollock's batting records would have made statistical minds boggle. His achievements in Test cricket alone would have been colossal.

There is very little doubt that record would have followed record had Graeme's Test career been allowed to run its natural course. He was in his prime when cut off.

A large proportion who watched and who played against Graeme Pollock have absolutely no hesitation is naming him the best batsman ever - in South African cricket, anyway.

This is especially true of him on the big occasion, and his batting mastery was offen revealed in a genuine crisis, or on lively, difficult wickets and frequently against formidable bowling.

Graeme Pollock is a true immortal. I well remember an occasion when I was having a chat to the legendary Denis Compton who was expounding upon the sheer magic of Graeme's hundred against England at Trent Bridge in August 1965.

Click image to enlarge
Graeme Pollock
"It was the greatest Test knock I have ever seen", raved the former England and Middlesex batsman. "Hang on, Denis", I asked, "what about all the countless great Test hundreds you have seen?"

Leaning close to me in that warm-hearted Compton manner unique to him, Denis confided, "Yes, I have seen many great Test hundreds including some masterly knocks by Don Bradman, but I have never seen a century to equal Graeme Pollock against England at Nottingham".

High praise indeed!

In fact, in many ways he is not unlike Denis Compton. They share a natural genius, an air of the debonair and their quintessence of timing and fluent power. What was once written about Compton, could aptly and accurately be ascribed to Pollock.

The Comptonesque quotation reads. "His batting had a poetic quality mixed with the spirit of the eternal schoolboy".

Now back to that memorable Test match of 1965. The South African Cricket Annual reported this heroic feat in glowing terms "with half the Springboks out for 80, England was riding the crest of the victory wave. It was then that Pollock turned in the finest display of batting Trent Bridge has seen for many years.

"Thirty-four not out at lunch, and with van der Merwe at the other end proving the ideal foil, the young batsman gave a magnificent exhibition of stroke play to increase his score by 91 runs in 71 minutes.

Every stroke was effortlessly executed with perfect timing. His 21 fours sped along the carpet penetrating an astutely placed field and his 128 runs in 2 and threetluarter hours, out of a total of 178 gave the young Pollock his 4th Test hundred and the l5th of his short career".

That just about says it all. It summarises graphically Gra erne's superb skills and his effortless elegance in compiling big scores in crisis situations.

Pollock sees the ball early and because of this he moves into each stroke calmly and comfortably. His many centuries have, on most occasions, been scored with serene poise although the manner in which he has offen devastated his opposition must surely have given them the impression that Pollock has blasted and scorched his way to the hundred mark.

However when describing the genius (if indeed it really can be described) of Graeme's batting, it is almost sacrilegious to employ explosive expressions. His batting contains all that is majectic, almost delicate.

He is rather a player to be remembered for the joie de vivre and classical stroke play associated with his dominating, polished left-handed batting, excelling in exciting cover drives and delicate leg-side strokes.

Over six feet tall, Graeme has a super abundance of the qualities required to succeed in cricket. These are his enormous natural ability, (he was allocated a gigantic overdose!) confidence, natural courage and an automatic cricketing common sense.

Pollock is almost invariably prepared and totally willing to attack the bowling. Afthough a batsman possessing a full array of superb strokes, his batting is founded on the observance of first principles.

He is absolutely correct in his defensive mechanisms despite his statuesque nobility and easy, powerful stroke-play.

Everyone knows that Graeme Pollock holds the South Afican Test record of 274 scored in Durban against Bill Lawry's Australians. His Herculean effort eclipsed my own test record of 255 not out made 17 years earlier.

For me it was a true distinction that such a coveted Test record should go to a genius whose

dazzling skills had always inspired such admiration in me.

The record could so easily have diappeared three or four years earlier to the same gentleman.

The occasion was when Graeme strudc 209 scincillatirg runs against Bobby Simpson's Australians in Cape Town. From the back foot he crashed ball after ball to the offside boundary with such velocity that the ball would bounce yards back into the field of play after striking the boundary fence.

At one stage it seemed that Simpson had the whole Australian team, except wicket-keeper and bowler, fielding in the covers.

It was my good fortune to be writing on that Test match and it was my firm conviction that Graeme was about to establish the new South Afica Test record then and there, such was his regal authoriiy.

In my book "Six For Glory" I paid whole pages of tributes to the maestro. Suffice it to quote this small portion regarding his mammoth 209. out of a Springbok total of 353.

"A huge crowd of 19 000 will never forget the dazzling innings played by Graeme Pollock on the third day of the second Test at Newlands. Not only was this his highest Test score but it must rank as the greatest innings in the tall Springbok's Test career.

His 209 comprised of superb timing and magnificent strokeplay, had the excited spectators almost delirious with delight. He is almost without doubt a genius of the crease".

What is probably little known is that Pollock became the youngest player to soore a hundred in the Currie Cup. In addition, it was only two years later that he became the youngest South Afican to post a double first-dass century.

Of more than passing interest is the fact that Graeme could have become an outstanding leg-spinner. He bowled right over the top and really made the ball "fizz" with his genuine finger spin.

It was an area of his game, however, which he treated lightheartedly. Whenever he bowled you could detect it was the enjoyment of the act rather than the seriousness of the occasion. This did not detract from his big spin and lift, both dangerous to the batsman.

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