Former South Africa cricketer Shaun Pollock is considered one of the greatest ever pacemen of his country with 421 Test wickets in 108 matches, the highest for the Proteas.
The 44-year old, who has a Test bowling average of 23 that sometimes saw him compared with the other great pacers of his generation, is currently commentating on Bangladesh's tour of South Africa.
The former right-arm pacer gave an interview to Dhaka Tribune where he shared his thoughts on the two-match Test series between the Proteas and the Tigers, the Bangladesh bowlers and his cricket career, among other topics.
Here are the excerpts:
How do you evaluate Bangladesh's performance in both the Tests?
It was disappointing. I think Bangladesh have seen them grown, particularly performed well back (home). I mean the way they played against Australia, it was really competitive. All the good things we have seen. I saw them have a good Test match against New Zealand in New Zealand. They played really well there. I have been a little bit disappointed about their performance here. These are not the normal or typical South African wickets. Potchefstroom and Bloemfonteim are probably the two flattest and easiest wickets to bat on. If we go to Bangladesh or India and they play wickets that don’t turn we would find that easy. These wickets don’t really bounce and have that much pace. So I have been a little bit disappointed. I think Bangladesh have been around for quite a long time now. I just feel that they need to reach in to the next level when they tour away from home. As I said at home they are very good, but when they tour away, in Tests, I expect better. They are good in ODIs or T20Is but particularly in the Test arena I was expecting them as a stronger unit away from home.
Your father, Peter Pollock, and uncle, Graeme Pollock, were nicknamed 'little dog' and 'big dog' respectively. You got the nickname 'Polly'. How did you get it?
Polly is just the short version of Pollock. Makhaya Ntini said I must be called 'puppy'. But that never stuck. Big dog, little dog then puppy (smiles). But it was just Polly. Everyone in cricket has nickname like Jonty or Hansie...everyone has it...it's just the way it is.
You were considered one of the greatest bowlers of Test cricket? How do you assess the Bangladesh bowlers on these wickets?
I think it's challenging for them. You know they don’t get chance to bowl much. If you watch the Test matches in Bangladesh, they bowl five overs with the new ball and then try reversing the ball. And then they bowl a lot of cutters. That’s not what you really want to do in South Africa. It's about more consistently hitting line and length. I like Fizz (Mustafizur Rahman). I enjoy his bowling. He has got a lot of skills. I think they need to do some work on getting him to seam his position right to shape it back in to the right-handers. Rubel Hossain, he is a skiddy customer. He also under-cuts the delivery. Yeah, they have a lot to learn but they don't often get relied on. Honestly, when played at home, your spinners are the ones who win the game for you. I think the more they (pacers) get experience away form home, the better. But how are you going to fast-track them? Probably can't. Only wait for them to get here and learn. So it's difficult for them. I don’t know how the coaching set-up works. I don’t know about domestic game. May be a lot of spinners are dominating there. I think you have to search and find some tall guys who have some good speed and that can help you away from home.
Have you seen any lack of awareness in longer-version bowling?
It's not the problem for Bangladesh only. It becomes a problem in lot of teams around the world. Because of the amount of one-day cricket they play. They learn the skills of cutters and all different variations. When they need to sustain to build up pressure like Courtney Walsh used to do, your (pace) bowling coach, I think the young guys like to bind to, you know they like to see things happening quickly. May be they are a touch impatient.
You were also more than a handy batsman. How do you rate the Bangladesh batsmen in this series? Are you disappointed at the way they batted on these batting pitches?
Yeah. I don’t know what preparation went on. They played one practice match, probably they need to play two or three. But when it comes to dealing with Bangladesh, like when we go to Bangladesh, we know the pitches here and nets, they will make them as rough as they can. There may be foot-holes and their spinners will try to bowl out. That's what you are going to experience there. I mean for us when we went to face the West Indies for example, against [Curtly] Ambrose and [Courtney] Walsh, we used to practise a lot of tennis-ball serving. We get the tennis ball in indoor-school and learned how to solve the problems. I think your guys are not so tall like us, so they end up trying to play a lot of deliveries and that's what cause them trouble. You have to learn the art of dropping the hands, and leaving the ball. And that’s not something that they will experience day-in and day-out. So that’s why they need to do a lot of preparation to try and get themselves ready to go.
Did some of the Bangladesh batsmen impress you?
All of them done alright. But there (were) little contributions. [Liton] Das played well [Saturday], Mominul [Haque] played nicely one innings, Mahmudullah played nicely one innings. I am impressed with Fizz. Two spinners (youngster Mehedi Hasan Miraz and left-armer Taijul Islam) were good. But the problem is you need four guys performing like that. It can’t be the one performance every innings. And that must be the frustration for Bangladesh. Do they want to play great cricket away from home? I am not sure. May be that's not an objective for them. May be they want to play well at home and want to compete in ODIs away. I don’t know.
Mustafizur Rahman did brilliant at the start of his career. Now he is not performing that much. What you do you think he is lacking?
You have to learn different skills. As I said he is very skilled, he bowls really good cutters and also bowl bouncers. But those are very good in the one-day format where batsmen are going after you and the ball is gripping. But when you come to South Africa where ball comes nicely to the bat, it'sgoing to be more of a challenge for him. As I said if he could learn the art of shaping back to the right-handers, I think he will become a much better bowler.
Not many fast bowlers these years are compared to the 1990s and early 2000s like the bowling duo of Pollock-Allan Donald, Wasim Akram-Waqar Younis and Walsh-Ambrose, among others. Why is that?
Do you want to be a fast bowler any more? (Smiles). The fast you come the further you go. I think even in the schools and in the clubs there are lots of short-format cricket now. There are not a lot of longer-version cricket. These days people want to play in the exciting formats. Some of them may be does not think Test cricket is as exciting as shorter formats. They prefer T20s, ODIs, the atmosphere, the crowd, the energy. May be that’s why.
How much does batting friendly pitches have an effect on that?
I think pitches in general have gone flat. When we started playing, there were four sub-continent teams with sub-continent conditions. But now if you go to Zimbabwe, it's (more like) sub-continent now, go to West Indies, (more like) sub-continent now. There are lots of pitches around the world which got flat. It creates big challenges for a bowler as the amount of cricket they are playing every year (is a lot). I think you might have to get the stage where you need separate players who will just play Test matches. But the young kids don't want to play only Tests. They want to play shorter formats as well.
Do you notice any lack of hunger among Bangladesh in Test cricket?
No there is no lack of hunger. I am just saying about the objective. I mean you come and play in South Africa or Australia once only after four-five years. In general, there are lots of sub-continent tours. All those are similar surfaces. Is it worth putting a lot of time and effort in to developing players to be able to play in these conditions? Or just come here (South Africa) and see what happens and try your best and focus on performing well at home. That’s what I am saying. I don’t know if that might be the focus.
What should they do to improve their fortunes?
I want to (see) cricketers who can compete around the world. But there are so many flat surfaces. It helps the spinners. You can rely on your two (spinners). They (Taijul Islam and Mehedi Hasan Miraz) are really good. Then you have Shakib [al Hasan]. He has scored 200 in Test cricket. I would like to see him here in Tests. He is a good cricketer. I think he could have done well here. He could show the others how to play in these surfaces.
Do you think Bangladesh can compete in ODI series here?
Obviously. Wherever Bangladesh go they are competitive in ODIs. And the wickets you get will be flat. Kimberley, Paarl, East London, Potchefstroom, Bloemfontein; all are flat wickets. All good wickets for batting.
Mushfiqur Rahim's decision to bowl first has surprised his opposite number Faf du Plessis and commentator Shaun Pollock.
What are your thoughts on Mushfiqur Rahim's decision to field first in both the Tests?
I would not have bowled first. But anyways, if he can bowl first in Potch, then I can understand he can definitely bowl first in Bloem as well (smiles). According to local cricketers in Potch, we know, if it looks like a batting (wicket) you bat, if it looks like a bowling (wicket) you still bat, if it definitely looks like a bowling (wicket) you still bat, because that is how much the wicket is flat. We will not bowl first after winning the toss in Dhaka.
You have scored two Test centuries batting at No 9. Which one is the best?
Finally they found my batting position (smiles). I think my first one (against Sri Lanka in Centurion, 2001) is the best. Because obviously first time is special.
What is your favorite spell of bowling, and one that you have seen from the opposition?
There are plenty. For me, my best bowling figure is against Australia in Adelaide. Donald did not play that game. So I had to lead the attack. That was best for me.
And (as for) opposition, there are plenty.