By Rohit Ramachandran Poduval
Jacques Kallis. That’s a name which every cricket team in the world would love to have in their playing eleven. Yet, it’s really surprising that despite his humungous achievements over the past decade, he is not spoken of in the same league as a Sachin Tendulkar or a Ricky Ponting. Kallis’s numbers as a batsman alone — nearly 13,000 runs at an average of almost 57.00 in Tests and 11,498 at an average of 45-plus in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) — should rank alongside the best in the game. When one adds nearly 300 wickets in both Tests and ODIs, we are now talking about one of the greatest all-rounders to have ever played the game.
Kallis started as a lower middle-order batsman, who could be considered good enough to be a first-change bowler in the team. As the years went by, his skills as a batsman demanded a position in the top four. His bowling work-load reduced, but Kallis the batsman just went leaps and bounds from then on. An average of over 60 in the 100 Tests he has played at No 4 is a testament to the fact.
For most part of his career Kallis was accused of being an extremely slow batsman. However, over the last four years, he has shown a side of his game which was never seen before. This can be seen in the figures below.
His strike-rate over the last four years in limited-over cricket is 83 as compared to an overall career strike rate of 73. Mind you, despite his aggressive stint, the average is more or less the same, which shows that he has vastly improved his game over this period. A part of the credit must go to the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he has developed his game and took it to the next level.
As a Test batsman, he is already the fourth-highest run scorer in the history of the game. In the process he is set to become the second-fastest batsman to score 13,000 runs in Tests.
There was a period in the 1980s when almost every major team had a great all-rounder. England were powered by Ian Botham, Pakistan had Imran Khan, India were served by Kapil Dev and New Zealand masterminded by Richard Hadlee. It is surprising that ever since, other than Kallis no other player has fulfilled all-round duties over a long period of time. Andrew Flintoff, Chris Cairns, Lance Klusener all had their moments in the game, but never could consistently play over a long period of time. This was mainly due to injuries as they could not sustain the vigours of both batting and bowling. Shane Watson, one of the best all-rounders currently playing the game, has had an injury-prone career. With the amount of cricket being played these days, it’s difficult to imagine an all-rounder having a long career. It is a tribute to how Kallis has maintained himself over the years and be able to contribute in both aspects of the game. Add to that a career tally of 192 Test catches, which is the third highest in Test cricket, he is definitely amongst the greatest all-rounders to have ever played the game.
How does Kallis fair in comparison to all-rounders of yesteryear?
|Player||M||Runs||Batting avg||Wkts||Bowling avg|| Difference
(Bat. Avg – Bowl. Avg)
As we can see, Kallis is matched only by Sir Garry Sobers in respect to the difference in batting and bowling averages, but Kallis has played more around 60 matches more than Sobers and yet maintained his performances. His durability and consistency is something which all aspiring sportsmen should strive to achieve.
Tendulkar is revered as God in India and, recently, MS Dhoni considered Zaheer Khan as the Tendulkar of India’s bowling. Kallis batting has been as good as Tendulkar over the years and has nearly taken the same of amount of wickets as Zaheer as. It proves what a multi-dimensional cricketer Kallis has been.
A fast-bowling all-rounder is a dying breed, and with the standards set by Kallis, it is hard to imagine anyone in the near future matching his feats. At 37, there may not be a lot of cricket left in Kallis, but he will definitely go down as one of the greatest players to have ever played the game, if not the greatest. His exit would most certainly leave a large void in the South Africa line-up.
(Rohit Ramachandran Poduval is a classical leg-spinner, writer and software engineer)