Ed Pollock: Hitting Bigger
It’s always a good time to be a sportsman at the start of a new era. Whether that’s the IPL, the Premier League, or the upcoming Hundred, new tournaments mean new opportunities. So to be a young sportsman, who’s skills are perfectly set up to become a star in the new competition, and you have an amazing opportunity.
That is the chance that young Warwickshire star Ed Pollock has when The Hundred launches in 2020. The much-discussed new format of cricket has polarised the sport, with some saying it’s unnecessary, while others see it as a great opportunity to evolve the game further. Pollock, 21, sees it very much as the latter.
“I’m very excited. It’s another new format we’ve come up with in this country, another new way to push the boundaries and to push how good people can be. The skills of bowlers, the skills of batsmen, and every part of this game, the more we can push it to the limit the better. It’s going to be great to be a part of and great to watch.
“I’ve managed to play in the pilot matches that came up and they were great to be a part of. It will help bring a new audience in while maintain the current audience that are watching it, it sounds like we are getting big stars to join in. It’s another chance for everyone to put their skills on show.”
Modern cricket has a very interesting conundrum. While Test cricket is still the pinnacle for most players, the allure of the shorter format around the world is great. But in the chicken or egg scenario, what comes first – the desire to hit spectacular boundaries, or to occupy the crease?
“As a youngster, at the age of 15, I was a really little lad and couldn’t hit the bal; off the square. I turned 16 and hit my first 6 and I got a bit hooked on that. I think one of my strengths if I compare myself to other players is that I can hit quite a clean ball. I’m never going to be technically correct like Ian Bell or Jonathan Trott – I’m not gonna grind out that innings. I realised that was my strength and found T20 was going to be my route into first team cricket. I looked at that and realised “what did I need to do to get into the T20 side” and so I adapted my game seeing what I needed to do from there.”
The game moves on, and so do players’ approaches to playing and training. What does that look like in terms of of physical and mental training? And with the constant movement between formats, is there a mental switch that needs to take place to get in the correct frame of mind?
“Physically, the main thing is working out which options I can try and play and have an option for any ball that comes down to me, and to make the bowler’s area as small as possible. I had to work a lot on hitting straight because I used to take everything over square leg, and that was basically all I could do. But I’ve had to open up the options that I have, which has helped.
Mentally, it’s being clear on what I’m looking to do, but the moment I finish training or finish the match, its being able to reflect and switch off, so you can come back fresh. in that moment the ball is released, all you’re thinking about is watching the ball and letting your instincts take over. For first-class cricket it’s very similar, it’s just the options you’re looking to take are different, lower risk, I’m not looking to hit the ball for six over mid-wicket, you’re looking to defend or drive. But again mentally, it’s being clear what your options are. That’s one thing I have picked up from the senior guys I play with. You need to switch off to be at your best when you come to perform."
The Hundred will all be about hitting sixes. Strike rates will go up, and the team that can clear the rope most often will be out in front. So what will Pollock change from a kit point of view for that competiton. Not much, it turns out!
“About a year ago I started using a heavier bat – I went from 2lb9oz to 2lb11oz. I found with the extra weight behind the bat I noticed balls went from clearing the rope to way back in the stand, now it’s just become the norm for me to use it. My preference is to become comfortable with one bat that I’ll use across all formats, but I did make the change a couple of years ago to go a bit heavier.”
The aim of The Hundred is to bring in a new, younger audience to the game of cricket. They will see innovative shots that they’ll want to copy immediately, so what does Ed give as his key piece of advice for a junior looking to add to their shot repertoire?
“Practice! You might get a few weird looks in the nets trying to smash the ball out of the park over long-on, but it’s like any shot in the book like a straight drive or a cut or a pull – the only way to get better at it is to practice it.
“The one thing I found personally was looking at different sports – I looked at golfers, people who played baseball, if you can spot similar traits that go across the sports it’s a good way to realise that there are fundamentals that works across. Baseball talks a lot about using your front side to generate power, and golf is about having a long powerful swing, so I borrowed from that, but in essence if you want to score more quickly it’s have the options and practice them.”