Polly: Boring -- in a sexy kinda way

Trish Pollock might disagree, but what the hell: there is nothing sexy about her husband.

Not for him the off-duty rock-star life loved and lived by Herschelle Gibbs, nor the model-go-round that Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis seem to spin on endlessly and effortlessly.

Then there’s Mark Boucher who, despite qualifying as a team wrinkly these days, still has women lining up four deep to conduct probing examinations of his oesophagus and who knows what else. To his credit, he deflects them with practised politeness.

Makhaya Ntini, once the world’s biggest fan of Fanta orange, has lately been known to foist shots of Stroh Rum on the unsuspecting. Funny how he always remains rudely sober himself.

Shaun Pollock? When last has he been in the pub, much less veered within a hemisphere of any sort of trouble?

Even squeaky-clean Jonty Rhodes would occasionally prop up a bar counter during his playing career.
That was only because, tee-totaller and all, he was the most recognisable face in the room and would invariably secure a round of drinks faster than anyone else. And, of course, he never dropped anything.

Press conferences during Pollock’s tenure as South Africa’s captain were ordeals to be endured with the stoicism of a fasting monk. Never before or since have 15 minutes after the end of play gone on for two days in which not much worth printing was said.

“We need to hit the right areas,” he would mouth if South Africa were bowling. And if they were batting: “We need to show application at the crease.”

And that was it, with a few umms thrown in for added banality. For variation he would chuckle and scratch his chin.

In one celebrated instance during a Test in Port Elizabeth, a veteran reporter who shall remain anonymous—but if you called him Trevor Chesterfield you wouldn’t be wrong—actually fell asleep during a Pollock presser. Not many of us around him noticed because we were trying hard to keep our own eyes open.

Verily, Pollock played it straight in every which way, on and off the field. Boring git.

His bowling action was the epitome of textbook correctness: everything unfurled itself straightly side-on as if he were an animated tin soldier. He swung his bat as straight as the line down the middle of a Free State freeway. His throws whistled in from the outfield as flat and straight as Riaan Cruywagen’s kuif.

Which has to make some of us wonder, here in the kinky seats, what all the fuss is about now that someone boring enough to have played for Arsenal in another life has retired.

More tears were shed during the “Polly Parade”, the engine that powered South Africa’s abjectly one-sided one-day series against the woeful West Indies around the country, than might have slid off the chewing gum on the cinema carpet when they shot Bambi.

Here’s why. Quite apart from his 421 Test wickets—the most by a South African—and the reassuring sight he made trundling towards the wicket in one-day internationals, Pollock represents many good things to a good many people.

To some he is the last—so far—in the line of one of cricket’s most famous families. Others think of him as the only remaining link to an era in which South Africa sometimes beat Australia.

Let’s not forget those who have rooted for Pollock over the years largely because he was one of their own, a born-again Christian.

Or those who saw in him a bedrock decency in this age of excess among sports stars. They can rest assured: their man might have very tired feet after bowling all those overs, but those feet are not made of clay.

Another section of the cheering stands bidding Pollock farewell would doubtless have done so in the sad knowledge that he was one of the few active players to have obtained a degree, in his case a B Comm.

Which brings us neatly to the thoughts of cricket-writing’s finest Marxist, the West Indian CLR James, who famously wondered out loud, “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?”

Pollock knows what it’s like to live in the world beyond cricket. On that score, he could teach today’s tyros—who go straight from school into the professional ranks, sometimes without even catching their breath in an academy—a thing or 12 about real life.

It is a world he is about to return to, outside of a dalliance with the Indian Premier League and perhaps a season or two with Warwickshire.

Perhaps that’s the key. Pollock’s life is not over just because he is no longer an international cricketer. In fact, it’s about to begin, and there’s nothing boring about that.

If you’re Shaun Pollock, that’s an entirely sexy thought.

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