Polly and Pietersen signal new era

Two things are about to change in cricket, change radically and forever. One is the perception that long-serving, even ‘heroic’ players, cannot be allowed to choose their own retirement plan. The other is that third umpires will no longer sit in their isolated turrets and be powerless to intervene when the game makes a mockery of itself.

Shaun Pollock is a legend of the game and will still be regarded as such in 100 years time. He has played 107 Tests and taken 416 wickets, nevermind the 3700+ runs. A record that will rarely be matched in the next hundred years.

Convention dictates that he should not, now, after such a career, be ‘relegated’ to 12th man. “How can they treat him like that?” is a question I have been asked by numerous former internationals.

When those stars of yesteryear are reminded that Dale Steyn is doing a rather good job with the new ball, and that Morne Morkel is bursting to come back after injury, and that Lonwabe Tsotsobi is bursting for a breakthrough, they subside.

“Then Polly should retire,” they say. “It is beneath his dignity to be a squad member.”

It is a worthy and conventional thought. And for conventional stars, it would be entirely appropriate. But Shaun McLean Pollock sees the world differently to the other legends of the game, and differently to most of those who just played it ‘very well’, for that matter.

He is 34-years-old and has slipped from number two (yes, he was never number one) to number five. Why the hell is that reason enough to retire? To do so would be tantamount to throwing a childish tantrum. By accepting his natural decent down the national pecking order, Polly is doing something that no other established international star – in this country or otherwise – has ever done before.

He is accepting the natural movement of time, he is not rebuffing the normal course of events with an angry swish of an outraged arm at selectors who have ‘no respect’. As uncomfortable as it may feel, look and seem to the old fogies, Shaun Pollock is changing the old-school notion of what ‘retirement’ means.

Why the hell should a mine worker, or diamond polisher, or refuse collector, expect to retire at the top of his trade? It doesn’t happen. Most of us in the ‘real’ world will be grateful for an ‘overseeing’ position in the latter years of our career. But in sport, and cricket, pride appears to get in the way.

Shaun Pollock deserves every ounce of praise that comes his way, and more because he is one of the ‘real people’ in the game, so don’t be fooled by the rhetoric surrounding the reasons he ‘should’ retire.

Kevin Pietersen, meanwhile, was given out when he wasn’t on the first day of England’s second Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo on Friday.

Television replays were not only conclusive, they were instantly conclusive. No three, four or five minute delays, but instant conclusion. And still the game makes a complete joke of itself.

This column has mentioned the use of the third umpire at least six times previously, and nothing has changed. Receptive and understanding comments notwithstanding, nothing has happened. All the while, nothing has actually ‘happened’.

Now it will. Whether it was because it was Pietersen, or England, or both, it will change.

Umpires have an impossible job as it is. They are able to make skill-based decisions no more than 90% of the time. Yet traditionalists yearn for umpires to have the final say in all matters.

Stuff them. They are stupid old men who are unable to move with the times.

Pietersen was not out. Every single one of us could see that on television. So stuff the old-timers. They are probably still angry about the money they didn’t earn. Shame.

The pursuit of the right decision should be what motivates us, not some old fashioned perspective of cricket that died 30 years ago…

Ask Shaun Pollock.

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