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Jacques Kallis: Can South Africa’s No 4 script a comeback from poor form?

Jacques Kallis: Can South Africa’s No 4 script a comeback from poor form?
The year 2013 has seen a dry run as Jacques Kallis’s statistics reflect a struggle © Getty Images

Jacques Kallis has averaged 16 in seven Tests in 2013 and this is a major slump when compared to his previous years. Nishad Pai Vaidya examines Kallis’s struggle.

Jacques Kallis took guard to Ishant Sharma with the Wanderers watching. His prolonged struggle has been a subject of intense debate as the legendary all-rounder isn’t getting any younger. With South Africa in control at 130 for two, here was his opportunity to knock some runs and get back into his groove. However, Ishant overpitched it and trapped Kallis plumb in front to get him first ball. A Kallis in full flow would have put his foot forward and played it with conviction, but he was rooted to the crease. The heat on him has intensified.

For a few years, Kallis has been one of the most consistent batsmen in world cricket. However, the year 2013 has seen a dry run as his statistics reflect a struggle. It is quite astonishing to see him get into this rut and touch such a, previously unimagined, nadir. Here is a break-up of his numbers since 2010:

 

Year

M

R

Ave

100s

50s

HS

2010

11

1198

79.86

6

2

201*

2011

5

359

51.28

2

1

161

2012

9

944

67.42

4

1

224

2013

7*

160

16.00

0

2

60

 

*includes first innings of first Test against India at Johannesburg.

Kallis was phenomenally consistent from 2010 to 2012 as he scored runs at a brilliant average. The runs were flowing and he also recorded 12 tons in this period. Then, there is a sudden drop once we enter into 2013. The average is paltry to say the least and it certainly isn’t something you expect from a player of his calibre. There are shocking figures and the South African selectors would be watching this very closely.

This year, Kallis has only two fifties and if you take them away, there isn’t much to talk about. There are however a few significant points one must note before judging Kallis. Firstly, South Africa have been so strong that Kallis has only batted 10 times in the seven Tests this year. Secondly, most of the games have been against Pakistan and some of the bowlers in that attack seem to have got the better of him.

Yet, given the high standards Kallis has maintained throughout his career, this is a drastic drop in form. In a formidable batting line-up, he is the rock at No 4 and the South Africans bat around him. At the top, they have the likes of Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla taking the responsibility. Kallis comes in at No 4 and AB de Villiers follows him. While there is a cushion on both sides, Kallis is like the unshakable element in this line-up.

Before the commencement of the first Test between India and South Africa, Andrew Husdon the convenor of selectors told DNA, “There are going to be some changes in the Test side in the near term. One of those changes is Jacques. We have got some nice support bowlers and batters coming up. In terms of changes, Jacques will be the catalyst.” He also added that there may be someone else coming in at No 4 to replace Kallis. And, he mentioned that the all-rounder has to decide how long he wants to continue.

Having said that: Are South Africa ready to let go Kallis? It isn’t going to be easy as he is a multi-dimensional cricketer. In Smith, Amla and de Villiers, they have a formidable batting with loads of experience. The problem is the lower middle-order, where there has been a lot of chopping and changing. If Kallis leaves the No 4 spot vacant, there may be more instability. Perhaps, they may ask him to go down the order and get another batsman up.

Kallis is a true champion and one will only write him off at ones peril. He may be 38 years old and the reflexes may not help him now. What will take him through is his hunger and desire to succeed at the highest level. This is the first real major slump Kallis has witnessed and there may be a little more from the all-rounder. The likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara bounced back from phases when they were written off, but of course they had more time on their hands. Kallis is short of time, but one can still expect a few big scores from him anytime.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

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