Batting legend Graeme Pollock believes playing for the country should remain the pinnacle of a cricketer's career. Speaking to The Hindu on Monday, he expressed concern over England's Kevin Pietersen's controversial remarks on the issue of central contracts.
The formidable southpaw from the past said, "You cannot be giving in to the cricketers all the time. I just fear that if the cricketers begin to freelance themselves playing in the Twenty20 leagues, then playing for the country could become secondary. I fear for the game."
He added, "Everything has become so commercial these days. The administrators should ensure that the game survives in its present form. The contracts and the deals should not be put before the game.
Money cannot come ahead of cricket itself. I believe if playing for the country is threatened or diminished in any manner, then the game will not survive."
Pollock does not want Test cricket to be tampered with in any manner. "It's fine as it is. Why do you need to have day-night Tests? Test cricket is the premium form. Do not meddle with it," he said.
The South African felt there was enough space for all forms of the game. "I enjoy watching the 50-over-a-side game. Why do you want to reduce it to 40 overs? Why do you want to compete with Twenty20 cricket?
The ODIs give you a nice full day of cricket. Twenty20 cricket is entertaining in its own way."
Pollock, now 65 years of age, is considered by many as one of the two greatest left-handers the game has seen; the other southpaw being the immortal Garry Sobers.
In 23 Tests, Pollock made 2256 runs at 60.97 with seven centuries. He was a gifted timer of the ball and batted with lazy elegance of a natural. Those who watched him at the crease say, he no more than toyed with the most fearsome of attacks.
In South Africa, they call him, "the cricketer of a lifetime." But those were the dark days of apartheid here and Pollock's international career was cut short after South Africa was banished from international cricket.
Turning his attention to two of the finest batsmen of the present era, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting, Pollock said, "What I like about them is that they put the bowlers under pressure. They make them sweat. Technically, they are exceptional. They also seize their chances. They put the bad balls away and create scoring opportunities."
Pollock feels Tendulkar should continue representing India for a couple of more years. "He still has cricket left in him and India will be going through a transitional phase. India will need Tendulkar to guide the side during that period."
Asked about the most destructive batsman in present-day cricket, Pollock was quick with his answer. "It has to be Virender Sehwag. He is the most feared and ruthless batsman in world cricket today. When you get a triple hundred in a Test match so quickly, you have to be a destructive player."
Not a great believer in the use of feet, Pollock pointed out that cricket had moved away from the MCC coaching manual. "That has been a healthy development. Batsmen should be comfortable with their stance, the way they hold the bat and the way they strike the ball. You essentially need to play straight, and not across. And you build on that."
The South African legend is impressed with the current crop of left-handers in world cricket. "The left-handers get more width than the others. You have the ball going across you and you get room. I like the way Chris Gayle stands up and hits the ball. Graeme Smith has come on a lot. I like Yuvraj Singh. He has been very impressive in the one-dayers. But he is not running up big scores in Test cricket.
A double hundred against Australia, that's what I would want to see from Yuvraj. Batsmen are playing a lot of shots in the shorter versions and perhaps this is affecting their approach in Tests."
On the issue of suspect bowling action, he opined "You see the spinners getting away with it. But the moment, a pace bowler sends down one with a doubtful action, he is pulled up. Whatever is the rule, whether it is the 15 degree (flexion) rule, you have to be consistent."
Asked about the most complete fast bowler, he took on, Pollock replied, "It has to be Dennis Lillee. He was fast, aggressive and moved the ball."
And he has words of praise for leg-spin legend Shane Warne. "There was a time in the 70s when a side like the West Indies had four fast bowlers and they would send down just over 70 overs in a day. That was not good for the game. Then somebody like Warne came along and changed things. Spin was in the forefront. This has been his biggest contribution to the game."
The bowlers have been largely marginalised these days because of the nature of the wickets and the shorter formats of the game, he said.
"You need to have lively pitches to restore the balance. If you look at Test cricket, the average of even the top bowlers has risen from say 22 to around 28."
Pollock was happy with the pitches for the ICC Champions Trophy here. "You need to give the bowlers a chance," he said.