Shaun Pollock has never chased the spotlight. Somehow, though, it seeks him out. There he sat, in a Durban hotel in April 2000, hours after Hansie Cronje had made a late-night confession about his involvement in the underworld of bookmakers and betting. Pollock was bleary-eyed, visibly shocked, as he faced his first press conference as his country's new captain.
What started in tears ended in tears too, Pollock being made the scapegoat for a stunning exit from the 2003 World Cup, which South Africa hosted, as the management wrongly interpreted the Duckworth/Lewis system and the side lost by one run.
Pollock is enjoying his cricket again, wickets against India and Pakistan taking him to the 400 mark in Tests and up to ninth on the all-time list. Comfortable in the company of legends, he compares favourably with the other all-rounders in the top 10, Sir Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev.
Yet drama and South African sport are inextricably linked, and again Pollock has found himself at the centre of a political storm. When he claimed his 400th scalp (India's captain, Rahul Dravid), a Cape Town newspaper printed a scoreboard of Pollock's victims, who began with England's Graham Thorpe at Centurion in 1995.
The page came to the attention of the governing body, Cricket SA, who commissioned it to be framed and given to Pollock. But where it showed the nation's bowling hall of fame, CSA asked that the names Peter Pollock (Shaun's father), Hugh Tayfield and Neil Adcock be removed. A political can of worms had been opened. Then South Africa's latest cap, Warwickshire's slow left-armer Paul Harris, walked out for the Third Test against India wearing No 66 on his shirt.
With Australia's Ricky Ponting displaying No 366 and England's Andrew Flintoff 591 during the Ashes - marking their places in their countries' Test history - questions were being asked as to why Harris only wore 66.
"In terms of numerical quantification we only recognise those Test cricketers who have played since 1992," explains the CSA's chief executive, Gerald Majola. "Because South Africa operated in apartheid there was a parallel universe. Therefore we feel it would be divisive if we displayed shirt numbers pre-unification in 1992. Who's to say that my father wouldn't have played Test cricket for South Africa? Who's to say Graeme Pollock was a better player than "Lefty" Adams [a star of the 'coloured' game]?"
Majola says the CSA "recognises South Africa's cricketing history. We have all the stats of those players in the past in our annuals - but in terms of a unified nation it's best that we start the numerical process from 1992".
Makhaya Ntini is regarded as the first black player to represent South Africa in Test cricket at No 34, and Omar Henry (of mixed race) was the 15th player selected post-1992. Yet Charles Llew-ellyn, also of mixed race, played 15 Tests from 1896 to 1912 but seems to have fallen off the radar.
A strong percentage of the population agrees with the CSA and disagrees that the numerical process includes the period from 1889 to 1970, when the country was expelled from the ICC.
One unfathomable is why, as an ICC member, did the country only play against England, Australia and New Zealand in official Tests up to 1970, though West Indies, India and Pakistan were also long-time members. Could it be because the other countries were "black"? And why did the ICC not act before 1970?
Cricket SA may have angered people with their "numerical quantification", but they have made the majority of South Africa's cricket fraternity happy as they look ahead, not behind.Reuse content