Ed Pollock on self reflection, Finals Day and being a Gary Ballance...

Ed Pollock on self reflection, Finals Day and being a Gary Ballance lookalike

Ed Pollock is not a man who gets asked for his autograph all too often.

“Except for the time somebody thought I was Gary Ballance,” he quips, “I was 12th man for England and someone came up to me, so I had to give my best impression.”

Thankfully for the 22-year-old, and all those at Edgbaston, his is the name that has been up in the Warwickshire lights this season.

But when you’re plundering a half-century on your home ground in your first T20 Finals Day in front of plenty on television, then these things tend to become a bit more run of the mill.

And in a season that has brought more firsts, maiden experiences and breakthroughs than you can shake a stick at, it’s little wonder that this is just another aspect he can take in his stride.

“It’s usually my mates who can’t get their heads around why anyone would want my signature, but I’m pretty much fine with it.

“It helped that I was in a buzz on Finals Day. I’m usually tired after one game but the energy that you get from everyone around you, whatever they’re doing, really helps you through the game.”

In a Warwickshire/Birmingham season that can only be described as dismal – relegated from the Specsavers County Championship and finishing bottom of their Royal London One-Day Cup group – Pollock and the Natwest T20 Blast final provided the only point of solace.

But what makes his breakthrough all the more impressive – aside from his awesome array of hitting – is his plucking from obscurity to leading talent.

Any journalist looking to research him before his Derbyshire debut, in August, would have likely been disappointed at only finding footnotes towards the bottom of articles.

He had made his first-class debut some two years before for Durham MCCU, where he still studied this season, while he plied his club trade at Barnt Green. But aside from that?

There was no swashbuckling 200 in 50 balls that had seen him shot to fame, no six sixes in one over and no title escapades for second XI, club or even village green teams. Just good, old-fashioned elbow-greasing effort.

“Apart from the one I flick over square leg, every shot I have is one that I’ve worked hard at,” he adds.

“That one somehow comes naturally, but everything else is putting everything I’ve worked on into practice.

“People say I have a nice swing of the bat. That’s not natural, but working behind the scenes and putting in the hours in the nets.

“I never used to like watching myself back because I’d pick apart my technique, but now I’m in a place where I can reflect, have some honest self-reflection and look at where those improvements can come.

“I’ve worked a lot with Paul Grayson [MCCU coach] at Durham, then done a lot with Tony Frost at Warwickshire, keeping things simple but also knowing what the game-plan is.”

Already in his nascent career, that aforementioned flick over square leg has brought heady comparisons to Sanath Jayasuriya – a stroke au naturale that was first unleashed in the first year of high school.

In that game, chasing a target, Pollock was challenged with giving it a go and knocking it around by his teacher. He has not looked back since.

But to lay claim to his ability being “all natural” would take away from the sheer desire to work and improve from the left-hander. This, after all, is a man who has watched Brian Lara’s 400 not out from start to finish on more than one occasion.

Until he was 14 he couldn’t hit the ball off the square. At 18, he was No.9 batsman and an aspiring off-spinner in Worcestershire’s academy. Now, barely 22, he is celebrating a new contract at Warwickshire.

That all reached its denouement on home turf once more, a debut to savour as Derbyshire felt the force of his 66 from 40 balls.

But if anything, the work was only beginning from there. Scores of 5, 10 and 13 followed and Pollock knew then the hard yards were changing – the next battle was to come in his head.

He added: “I only knew I was going to play Derbyshire two hours before, so when I got told there was a little bit of a panic. But I’ve spent a lot of time with Tony, working on the mental side of my game and those processes, so when it came to going out there I felt remarkably calm.

“Whilst it was going on I was very focused. It was only afterwards that I was able to take in that I was playing a county game and scoring runs, and how surreal it was.

“I just kept trying to ride the wave from there and took the confidence.

“The next three games I didn’t do quite so well, you have to learn quickly and I saw myself on TV and a few technical changes I could make.

“I didn’t always have a clear mind and was fearing bowling a little bit, whether they would bowl a Yorker or bumper, but changed that to reacting to what they were bowling instead of pre-meditating.

“Mentally I learnt about switching off away from the game. Previously bad patches had been in my mind, even away from cricket, but this year I was able to focus on other stuff and then be able to come into these T20 matches feeling fresh, physically and mentally.”

And boy it worked. A trip to Durham yielded 52 more glorious runs, in an eight-wicket win, while 49 from just 24 deliveries saw the Bears squeeze home by two wickets against Lancashire.

Suddenly Pollock had gone from Economics graduate to leading the Bears to the knockout stages; the silver lining to what had otherwise become an ever gloomier cloud over Edgbaston.

A paltry 24 – we can’t all be perfect – against Surrey in the quarterfinal followed, but even better was to come: the limelight was his when top-scoring with 50 against Glamorgan to reach the final.

There and then Glamorgan captain Jacques Rudolph – a man who has seen it at international level with South Africa – predicted big things and he’ll probably be right. But it will be no coincidence.

“Effectively I gave myself a second stint in the next five matches,” he continued.

“I went up a level, that went all the way through to the quarter-final and semi-final, because of watching myself on TV. I could see my head falling over so I wanted to keep my head as still as possible.

“Bad things do go through your head when you’re not scoring, you wonder if the first game is a fluke and if you’re actually way out of your depth.

“But once I took a step back, thought rationally, fixed the mentality I got things together.”

Whether liked or not, Pollock is currently doing his work in an era where the number of T20 leagues globally is on the cusp of eclipsing the number of Championship games in a season.

Such numbers would bear thoughts of becoming a T20 diehard, a mercenary if you will, with the Warwickshire man a sure-fire candidate for the multi-million-pound empire in the years to come.

But such thoughts are not on his mind. Whether it is three-, four- or five-day cricket, the longer format still occupies his attention, even with a first-class Warwickshire bow still in the future.

And with twin 30s at the start of the season – against county champions Essex, no less – the hallmarks are in place that this pipe dream resembles something closer to reality.

“I’d only really been playing second XI cricket and, while I’d been working hard on my game, I didn’t really know what level I was at and what I was capable of,” he adds.

“Realistically, it was about playing well in the seconds and pushing for that spot so to be able to do that and do well is massively pleasing.

“I’m only 22 – if I pigeonhole myself as being a T20 specialist already then I’m really narrowing down what I am capable of.

“Test cricket is the purest form. That is an overall goal and I probably did more red-ball training last winter with Paul Grayson and it will probably be the same this year.”

While he would loathe admitting it, relegation to the second tier of four-day cricket could be a blessing in disguise for Pollock’s 2018.

Such is the rebuild Warwickshire need. Things could fall at the ideal time, away from the limelight and harsh realities of a first division that sees a quarter of its competitors chopped come season’s end.

But, in the meantime, those at Edgbaston can hardly complain at a man who could already be revolutionising their T20 campaign and is surely set for more.

Not bad for a mere Gary Ballance lookalike.


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