10 May 2007
Shaun Pollock was named South Africa’s Cricketer of the Year at the Mutual & Federal Cricketer of the Year Awards in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening. He succeeded Makhaya Ntini who had won the award the previous two years.
Before Ntini’s successes, Jacques Kallis had also won the award two years in succession.
Pollock’s award capped a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the all-rounder after many people, experts and fans included, had considered his international career over, his best days behind him.
Remarkable control, nagging accuracy
Even early in the season, it appeared he might be lacking the zip that was previously present in his bowling. To a degree, that might be true, but Pollock made up for his reduced pace with remarkable control and nagging accuracy.
Going back to August 2006, he managed only 1 for 112 in 35 overs, facing Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka. Certainly, he didn’t appear to be on song and concern that it might be the end of the road for him could have been justified.
However, after returning to South Africa, Pollock answered any criticism in style when the Proteas hosted India in both one-day international and test series.
In the ODI series, opening the bowling, Pollock stifled India’s batting efforts, conceding a miserly 2.30 runs per over, while also capturing eight wickets at an average of only 8.30. It was the kind of return that one might expect in schoolboys’ cricket, but not at international level.
In the first test match at The Wanderers, the Indians shocked South Africa, racing to a 123-run victory, but Pollock definitely didn’t let the Proteas down. He weighed-in with five and 40 with the bat as South Africa made only 84 and 278, while he shone with the ball, knocking over 4 for 39 and 3 for 33.
Although he captured only one wicket in the second test, which South Africa won by 174 runs to level the series, Pollock’s return of 1 for 37 in 23.5 overs again told a story, his tight economy exerting pressure on the Indian batsmen, which helped the other South African bowlers pick up wickets.
After making 11 in the first innings, he played an important knock the second time around, making an undefeated 63.
Test series victory
A five-wicket victory in the third test saw South Africa secure a 2-1 series victory.
India batted well in their first innings, tallying 414 all out but, again, they were unable to assume control over Pollock who picked up 4 for 75 in just less than 30 overs. He then contributed 15 to South Africa’s reply of 373 all out.
In their second innings, the Indians collapsed to 169 all out as the pitch became increasingly difficult. Pollock claimed 1 for 24.
Then, in South Africa’s second innings, he was sent in at number four; this was because of his shot-making ability on a pitch that the batsmen were struggling to score runs upon. That decision paid off as he scored an important 37 to help guide the Proteas to the win.
As in the one-day international series, the ginger-haired all-rounder was named man of the series.
To the fore
When Pakistan toured South Africa after the Indians, Pollock was again to the fore as the Proteas won the ODI series 3-1, and the test series 2-1.
Pollock had a quieter test series against Pakistan, but finished fifth in the South African batting averages. He picked up eight wickets at 23.37, but his runs per over rate was again exemplary at 2.79.
When the one-day international series came around, however, he was back to his match-winning best.
SA won the first ODI at Centurion by a mammoth 164 runs as the team’s batsmen took the spotlight.
It was Pakistan’s batsmen that flourished in the second ODI as the visitors tallied 351 for 4 to claim a huge 141-run victory. Pollock claimed 1 for 53 and scored 32 off 34 balls, but in the context of the game it wasn’t enough to make a significant impact.
After rain forced a no result in the third ODI, the teams headed to Cape Town.
South Africa annihilated Pakistan, racing to a 10-wicket victory, whilst needing only 14 overs at the crease. The result had a lot to do with Pollock’s effort with the ball. He strangled the Pakistani batting effort, capturing 2 for 13 in his 10 overs. His crucial part in the outcome of the game was recognised as he was named man of the match.
The fifth ODI proved to be another tour de force for the star all-rounder. Bowling brilliantly, he removed five of the top six batsmen as he knocked over 5 for 23. That effort spurred South Africa to an emphatic nine-wicket victory and Pollock to a second man of the match award in succession.
Not surprisingly, he was named man of the series.
At the Cricket World Cup, South Africa disappointed despite reaching the semi-finals; after all, the Proteas had entered the tournament ranked number one in the world.
Pollock started slowly, but as the event progressed he returned to form. By the end of the tournament, he was once again South Africa’s most economical bowler, having conceded only 3.52 runs per over in a competition that had proved very harsh on bowlers.
It was clear after this that Pollock was the leading candidate for South Africa’s cricketer of the year, and so it proved as he won the award.
Gritty left-handed batsman Ashwell Prince, who came on in leaps and bounds, was named the Castle Test Cricketer of the Year Award.
He was comfortably the highest run scorer on either side in the test series against India, tallying 306 runs at an average of 61.20.
Against Pakistan, his aggregate of 240 runs was second only to Jacques Kallis. Prince again topped the batting averages at 60, having made a century and a fifty, as he did against India.
Recognised by fellow professionals
The tigerish Mark Boucher earned the prestigious South African Players’ Player of the Year Award as his fellow professionals recognised his determined and hard-working contributions.
Left-arm spinner Paul Harris, who settled into test cricket with surprising smoothness against India and Pakistan, was named the South African Newcomer of the Year.
Jacques Kallis, who excelled at the World Cup, scoring 483 runs at 80.83, which took him past 9 000 runs in one-day internationals, was named the Standard Bank ODI Cricketer of the Year.
Supporters of the national team didn’t forget Makhaya Ntini as the charismatic fast bowler was named the SuperSport Fans Cricketer of the Year.
Despite South Africa’s dismal exit from the World Cup in the West Indies, where they crashed out to Australia in the semi-finals, Cricket South Africa chief executive Gerald Majola was upbeat in his assessment of the 2006-07 season.
“The disappointing results of the World Cup must be seen against the backdrop of the Proteas producing one of the best international seasons since unity,” Majola said.
‘We will now build on this success’
“We will now build on this success for the next season as well as taking into account the lessons learnt at the World Cup.
“These annual Mutual & Federal SA Cricket Awards show that diversity is our strength and we must use this diversity to our advantage.
“We also have solid development and high performance structures in place and we have the talent out there to get us to the top.
“We must ensure that we utilise this diverse talent in building for the future.”
On the domestic scene, the Wanderers’ Chris Scott was named Groundsman of the Year for the fourth consecutive time, while Marais Erasmus was named Umpire of the Year for the second time.
The Highveld Lions’ Gordon Parsons was named Coach of the Year.
Morne van Wyk excelled, winning three awards: the MTN Domestic Championships Cricketer of the Year, the Standard Bank Pro20 Cricketer of the Year, and the Domestic Players’ Player of the Year.
Another Free State Eagle, Ryan McLaren picked up the SuperSport Series Cricketer of the Year Award, while the Warriors’ Lonwabo Tsotsobe was named Domestic Newcomer of the Year.