Sport has produced its fair share of controversies.
There was Hansie-gate for example, sale and more recently Zinedine Zidane’s World Cup final antics which brought violence in sport into the spotlight again after incidents such as Mike Tyson biting a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear or Johan le Roux doing the same to Sean Fitzpatrick on the rugby field. Why is it that some sportsmen seem to lose their cool while others manage to keep themselves in check?
One man who seems to get things right most of the time is cricketer Shaun Pollock who is not only the country’s leading wicket taker but also one of SA’s favourite sports role models.
Since making his debut in 1995, he had donned South African colours 233 times in One Day Internationals and 94 times in Tests before the start of the current series against Sri Lanka. But despite his success, Pollock reckons there is more to life than cricket. And how you react to trials on and off the field is largely a result of what values have been instilled in you from a young age.
But it is not always easy.
“It can be difficult at times. I think that playing for your country amplifies your emotions. There’s a huge crowd and your adrenaline is pumping. And in those sorts of situations you need to exercise as much self control as you can because obviously you’re excited about being out there,” he explained shortly before heading to Sri Lanka last month.
“In terms of performance, you probably fail about 80 per cent of the time in that you don’t take five wickets or make 100 but you need enough self-control to evaluate the situation and to control your emotions.
“Being a Christian has helped immensely with that because I have been able to realise that cricket is not the be all and end all. There is more to life. But obviously it can become difficult at times. If you get out and are really frustrated, you can sometimes overreact but often it’s not just that dismissal you are reacting to. It could be selection pressure or a combination of a lot of other things.”
Pollock used the example of disgraced French soccer captain Zidane to illustrate his point. Zidane’s illustrious career was brought to an abrupt end when he was red-carded in the World Cup final (a match that was supposed to have been his glorious swansong) for head-butting Italian Marco Materazzi
in the chest.
“There is no way that it was just one comment that he was reacting to on the night,” reckoned Pollock. “I think it was probably a build up of many things, maybe stuff that was said during the course of the tournament, or the pressure of the final or the fact that he was retiring afterwards.
“Obviously it’s still important to still exercise self-control in those situations though and be a role model for the kids.”
Having just become a father for the second time – his wife Trish gave birth to their second daughter on July 21 – Pollock believes a child’s upbringing is vital in how they learn to deal with a test of their self control.
“I think it’s all about how you have grown up and been brought up and also if you have shown self control during your career. If you get out in a match and head back to the changeroom, you want to show the guys that you’re disappointed but you don’t do anything stupid. You need to learn how to deal with it and I think that goes along with maturity and experience.
“I think if you’ve grown up with the right values, you have a better chance of knowing how to deal with it better,” he said.
While Pollock has a clear picture of the correct way to conduct himself, he will be the first to admit that he hasn’t always been able to stick to it.
“I can’t think of too many times on the cricket field where I’ve messed up badly but there are examples in everyday life in the way you deal with people and certain situations where you realise afterwards you could have done it differently,” he said.
“But even with celebrations after you’ve taken a wicket, sometimes you can overreact, give someone the hairy eyeball and punch in their direction. Your emotions are high, adrenaline is pumping and you get swept up in it all but you see it on TV afterwards and it looks really stupid.”
There haven’t been too many occasions when the former SA captain could be faulted for his on-field behaviour but back in 2003 he was fined his entire match fee for showing dissent after an unsuccessful appeal in a one day game against Pakistan in Faisalabad. In 2000, both he and New Zealander Craig McMillan were docked part of their match fees for a “verbal exchange” during a Test in Bloemfontein.
But the examples are few and far between.
On the other hand, perhaps the most famous example of a cricketer whose indiscretions were far greater and eventually highly publicised is that of the late Hansie Cronje whose actions rocked the country after it emerged that he had been involved with Indian bookies.
“Hansie was a very disciplined person and worked hard at what he did,” reckoned Pollock who was thrust into the position of captain when Cronje was removed from the national team after the revelations were made in 2000. “He just seemed to have a weakness, which was a desire to obtain more wealth. At the time it obviously didn’t seem like too much of a big issue for him, what he was doing, but looking back he regretted it.
“I think if you are not constantly conscious of what’s going on, things like that can get away from you.
Having the right values helps you to stand the test of time. Being a Christian, I read the bible and those are the values I want to cling to and try to obtain and live by. We’re all human though and we make mistakes but we need to admit them and apologise and try to rectify the situation.
“It takes a big man to do that and that’s what Hansie did. I think although he’s taken a lot of criticism, one of the positives to have come out of that situation was that he came clean and admitted his mistakes while a lot of others have just kept quiet and got away with it.”
Aiming to rectify mistakes and to establish and live by a solid set of values is what Pollock believes can build a better nation.
“When we were growing up there were always a lot of discussions at school about what was morally right and wrong but as a society I think we have moved a bit away from that and it seems that anything goes,” he said. “I think the more that organisations and institutions and people discuss values, the better chance we have in life and the better our country can be.” _ Heartlines Features.