Pollock an important cog in SA wheel

Published: Monday, February 26, 2007, 16:54 [IST]
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Two years ago his long-term future was questioned; now Shaun Pollock is the world's leading one-day bowler and a key to South Africa's hopes of success in the World Cup. At 33, Pollock is in the best form of his life.

After he took five for 23 against Pakistan in South Africa's final international before the World Cup, the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced that he had achieved the third-highest bowling points ranking of all time - behind only past greats Joel Garner of the West Indies and New Zealand's Richard Hadlee.

Critics pointed to a decline in the pace of Pollock's bowling. He was no longer used as an opening bowler in Test matches and his wicket-taking ability in one-day matches was sliding.In the calendar years 2004 and 2005 he took only 33 wickets at 33.09 and conceded just over four runs an over.

Since then, though, he has been in supreme form. Since January 2006 he has taken 41 wickets at 17.63 and maintained a miserly economy rate of 3.06 runs an over in an era when batsmen are getting bolder and totals are mushrooming. The key lies in hard work and self-analysis.

During the 2005 off-season he worked in the gym, not previously a place of choice, to build up strength and he modified his run-up. He now uses a standing start, has taken a couple of metres off his approach to the crease and reckons that as a result he is "stronger" at the moment of delivery.

Pollock's revival has coincided with a winning streak by South Africa, often set up by him taking wickets with the new ball and putting pressure on opponents by keeping the scoring rate low.

Pollock will be playing in his fourth World Cup and acknowledges that it will be his last. He expects good batting pitches, which may encourage batsmen to try to attack him. "Teams have different game plans against me," he said.

"Sometimes they're prepared to let the ball go and I'll be economical but don't get the wickets. Sometimes teams take me on and it gives me more opportunities to pick up wickets.

"I can't really worry about their game plans. I've just got to make sure I'm up for it and hit the right areas. If they come at me I have to be calm under pressure."


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