Kieron Pollard retires: MI’s one-club man whom the crowds loved back

The Caribbean all-rounder, part of all the five titles the franchise won, ends his MI tenure but will play for the franchise’s team in the new UAE T20 league.

‘Once an MI, always an MI’ Kieron Pollard wrote in his Indian Premier League (IPL) retirement note. Player loyalty in a league that allows squad overhauls every four years isn’t easy to build and sustain. But the Pollard-Mumbai Indians association easily makes it to the list. The Trinidadian “wanted to keep playing a few more years” but following discussions with the franchise that is looking to rebuild the squad, he decided to call it a day.

“I cannot see myself playing against MI,” Pollard said in a statement on Tuesday. Joining the list of MI legends who moved into coaching the franchise, Pollard will be its new batting coach, while he continues to play for them in the new UAE league scheduled to start in January. “At @mipaltan there is never a goodbye, Polly,” tweeted Sachin Tendulkar.

Pollard’s final season for MI this year wasn’t that memorable (144 runs, 11 matches) but that can’t smear the all-rounder’s enviable career record—189 matches, 3412 runs, SR 147.32. “It’ll take some used to you not being on the field out there with us, but I’ll still enjoy our banter in the nets. Congratulations on an incredible career Polly and all the best for your new innings,” Jasprit Bumrah posted.

“Right from Season 3, we have shared joy, sweat and tears–those powerful emotions that forge lifelong bonds on and off the field. He has played an important role in the success of MI and been a part of the winning side for both our Champions League trophies and all 5 IPL wins,” MI owner Nita Ambani said.

When Pollard made his international debut in 2007, West Indies batting was best recognised with the genius of Brian Lara. Within a fortnight of Pollard’s international entry, Lara exited the stage. The strongly built player also made a name like his fellow Trinidadian, but in the format of the future.

The high points for Pollard, a two-time World Cup winner, wearing the MI jersey was when he tasted tournament success five times. He was picked for an undisclosed sum via a tie-breaker at the auction for the 2010 season after four teams bid for him, impressed with his heroics playing for Trinidad and Tobago in the now defunct Champions League T20 in 2009.

Pollard found a true home in Mumbai and showed his range with match-turning innings, pulling off impossible chases, taking gravity defying catches and holding his own with the ball thanks to a ticking T20 brain. Holding a bat that looked like a toothpick for the giant player, Pollard would hit straight sixes at will, forcing teams to bring long-on and long-off fielders so straight that they caught the attention of the umpires. He would then merrily loft the ball over their heads into the stands, often at the Wankhede stadium that would fill to capacity to see ‘Polly’ go big.

Pollard endeared himself to the Mumbai crowds that stood with him through thick and thin. Even when his confrontation with Mitchell Starc resembled a pre-boxing bout showdown, they had his back, directing jeers at the bowler.

For having ‘20-20’ styled on his hair, refusing national team contract to earn a better remuneration in leagues around the world, Pollard couldn’t please the likes of West Indies icon Michael Holding. The fast bowling great once said ‘Pollard in my opinion is not a cricketer’.

But Pollard showed clarity even that many years ago when T20 was still loved and maligned in the same breath, that he was taking the right call. Pollard hasn’t played any Test, but his 614 T20 matches for 30 teams over the years is proof enough to show the direction cricket in the Caribbean was taking.

‘Hulk, powerhouse, destructive’ MI captain Rohit Sharma describes Pollard in a team video. With destructive batting skills, mentoring a young Hardik Pandya and his innate understanding of T20, he became the most capped overseas player in IPL.


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