By Bharath Ramaraj
As Jacques Kallis enters the autumnal sunset of his career, it is time to turn the clock back into his marvelous career and reminisce all those breathtaking memories fondly. Kallis, who will retire after the end of the second Test between India and South Africa at Durban, walks away as one of the greatest all-rounders the game has ever seen and someone who can never be replaced. Let’s take a look at some of the magical moments of his glorious 18-year career.
Back in 1997-98 when South Africa toured Australia, Kallis had established himself in the side and was well-known for his burgeoning potential. However, that career defining moment was missing from his resume. The critics opined that he tended to fling away good starts and not make it count.
His century at Rawalpindi against Pakistan albeit on a flat deck in 1997 had given a glimmer of hope that he was about to turn the tables around. Yet, no one envisaged that he would stand toe-to-toe against the Australian bowling line-up consisting of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in 1997 in the Boxing Day Test and essay his first hundred. When he edged a length delivery from McGrath to Ian Healy in the first innings, critics jumped the gun and reckoned that Kallis lacked the Test match temperament. In the second innings though, he made his detractors swallow bitter-pill by stonewalling the famed Australian bowling line-up and accruing a match-saving century.
The close-in fielders of Australia tried to hunt down Kallis like a pack of hungry vultures by snarling, growling and sledging him. Kallis gave a deaf ear to it and essayed some of the most felicitous textbook drives one could see. Michael Kasprowicz and McGrath bowled a barrage of bouncers, but Kallis was rock-solid and didn’t flinch even an inch against some inspired stuff from Australian bowlers. The century proved to be a path-breaking moment for him.
In 1998, when South Africa travelled to England, he showcased his abilities as a swing bowler, benefitting from the stint with Middlesex in 1997. He seemed to have suddenly added another bow to his string by getting the ball to swing late and prodigiously. He did just that by taking a four-wicket haul at Lord’s in the second Test. Kallis took the wickets of Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe, Mark Ealham and Dominic Cork with a wonderful bit of swing bowling. He swung it away from the right-handed batsmen, before trapped the left-handed Thorpe dead in front with the one that swerved in the air the into the batsman. Mark Boucher behind the stumps had a field day, as English batsmen kept edging length deliveries to the wicketkeeper. Unfortunately, Kallis would be more remembered for his slowish hundred at Old Trafford in the third Test, which many feel cost South Africa the match.
In 2003, Kallis yet again shone brightly in swing and seam conditions of England by taking a match haul of nine wicket at Leeds, Headingley. If England captain Michael Vaughan was snared with a superbly pitched fullish delivery that invited the drive to catch the edge, then Nasser Hussain had to take a slow walk back to the pavilion with Kallis bringing one back into him to trap him in front. Andrew Flintoff delayed the inevitable of England losing the match with a typically aggressive knock. But he too had to march back after a back of a length delivery from Kallis with natural variation off the pitch helping him to produce the edge off the bat. Kallis’s ability to swing it both ways just showed the mastery he had over the inswinger.
In 2004, against England at Durban, South Africa was in the ascendancy after cleaning them up for a paltry score of 139. England seamers though, led by Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff with rip-roaring deliveries came back strongly to leave South Africa in dire-straits at 90 for five. They were virtually trouncing what seemed like hapless batsmen with pace and extra lift. However, Kallis stitched crucial partnerships with the lower-order batsmen to take South Africa past 300. If one needed to watch a master-class of shepherding the tail then it has to be Kallis’s century at Durban.
Kallis is also a brilliant fielder in the slip cordon who now has 200 catches to his name in Test cricket. Back in 2011, he took a splendid catch to dismiss Thisara Perera off Imran Tahir. The ball flew of Perera’s bazooka of a bat. Yet, Kallis showed extraordinary reflexes to take a stupendous catch by diving to his right with a humongous leap.
Even after Jacques Kallis walks into retirement life after playing the second Test against India at Durban, his heroic performances would be echoed by future generations for ages.
Read more here — Jacques Kallis retires from Test and First-Class cricket
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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