When I came out to bat against Australia, I was aware that I hadn’t made much impact on the tournament. Chris [Gayle] came up to me then and told me: “Tonight, I want to see the old Pollard”. His words had a very big impact on me because Chris has been around so long in international cricket. He takes pride in watching me bat, and knows what I can do for the team. From a young player’s perspective, it gave me instant confidence. I knew I could go there and perform.
Chris has been very mature in going about things. He’s shown the way in terms of how to approach an innings. He’s been playing more than ten years and it’s great to see the impact he’s having now. He’s trying to pass on that experience to younger guys like myself.
All that experience has also made Chris very consistent. In the Twenty20 format, he has mastered how to approach and build an innings – when he’s going to score, which bowlers he’s going to target and which areas he’s going to score in. When you watch that as a young cricketer, it gives you the enthusiasm to go out and practise and work more on your technique. Consistency is only possible when you know your game inside out.
After he said what he did, it was a matter of me carrying the momentum forward whenever Chris was off strike. After [Shane] Watson had bowled his final over, we knew that someone else would have to come on for the penultimate and the final over. We wanted to capitalise on that and get maximum runs from it.
The big over turned out to be the last one. Till then, it was a matter of knocking the ball around and hitting boundaries in between. With the power that Chris and I have, when the bowlers fail to hit the right length, we can hit it out of the ground. We planned how we were going to attack the Australians, and it came off.
A lot of people have asked me about the clip through midwicket late in the innings when Pat Cummins bowled a really fast yorker. To me, that was a normal cricketing shot. I didn’t lift my bat and try to hit him out of the ground. He’s one of their strike bowlers, and at that point of time George Bailey was gambling on taking one or two wickets to make it easier for those bowling at the death. We just had to get through that small little period. That ball came to me at some speed, but I managed to respond with a proper shot.
Of course, against guys bowling at 90 miles an hour, you need to practise some unorthodox strokes as well. When Mitchell Starc pitched one up, I managed to scoop it over the wicketkeeper’s head for four. I’ve started practising such shots and fiddling with different things in order to have a better all-round game. I don’t want to rely on power hitting alone.
When you have guys like Ravi Rampaul bowling at you in the nets, it’s easier to try out these things. You’ll ask them to bowl six yorkers. There won’t be any short balls then. It gives you time to walk across the stumps and practise the scoop. You help each other really. He’s trying to nail his yorkers, and you’re trying to scoop him. It works well for both of us.
This tournament has also taught us how cricket is about controlling ups and downs. Once you back yourself and your teammates and enjoy what you’re doing, things will work out for you. We didn’t win a game in the first round. We won against England in the Super Eights, lost badly against Sri Lanka and had to dig really deep to prevail against New Zealand. Once you have a common goal on the field, it doesn’t matter what happens off it or in the dressing room. We just play hard on the field and forget what’s gone before.
We’re quietly confident about the final. We aren’t just up against the Sri Lankan cricket team. They’ll have an entire nation behind them. The stands will be packed, and it will be noisy and colourful. We don’t mind going in as underdogs. We know they’ve beaten us once, but it’s just a matter of staying calm and winning the key moments.
We have the guys who can take on their spinners. Mendis did bowl well against us in the Super Eights, but some of the guys played him pretty confidently. The start we had in that game set us back, and we couldn’t catch up at the end as we normally do. It doesn’t matter if they have long-on and long-off because with the power that our guys have, we’re confident that we can clear the rope. That’ll be a key element of tomorrow’s contest.
Most of us were not even born the last time West Indies won a World Cup (1979). Hopefully, we can give the old and new generation of Caribbean cricket fans something to cheer about tomorrow.