Former South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis is one of the greatest all-rounders of all time    Getty Images
Former South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis is one of the greatest all-rounders of all time Getty Images

South Africa face England at home in what promises to be a tough battle for the hosts. The fact that South Africa are not perceived as the obvious favourites in the build-up to the four-Test series only adds to their mental pressure in addition to the 0-3 thrashing that they received at the hands of India barely a few weeks ago. The South African squad, which has been announced for the first two Tests only so far, has raised a lot of questions. Chief among them is the absence of match-winning all-rounders. Amit Banerjee delves further into the latest phenomenon in South African cricket, which is that of the drying up of the once-overflowing all-rounder reservoir. FULL SCORECARD: South Africa vs England, 1st Test at Durban

The South Africans have been among the top sides across formats ever since their readmission into international cricket, with the Proteas carving a niche for themselves especially in One-Day Internationals (ODIs). They have traditionally had a sensational fielding unit as well. They rose to the top of Test cricket during the inspirational leadership of Graeme Smith. One of the key reasons for the Proteas success has been their bank of all-rounders, which has always been one of their key strengths.

South Africa may very well have produced the greatest all-rounder in international cricket (according to statistics anyway) in Jacques Kalllis. They had the hard-hitting Lance Klusener, the legendary medium-pace all-rounder Shaun Pollock (who has three international centuries and a Test batting average of 32 to his credit), and the likes of Jimmy Sinclair, Aubrey Faulkner, Mike Procter, Brian McMillan, and Clive Rice, among others. The South African all-rounder factory s consistent production over the years is one that is rivalled by few aspects of other cricketing nations, with the West Indian and Pakistani pace factories being examples that come close in this regard. READ: South Africa vs England, Basil D Oliveira Trophy 2015-16: Expect a seesaw ride between two quality sides

Over the years however, the South African all-rounder phenomenon has seen a gradual decline. While the Proteas may have boosted their pace-bowling and batting departments over the years, they have neglected the one trait that has defined them for over a century. The problem manifested following Kallis retirement from international cricket during the One-Day International (ODI) series against Sri Lanka in 2014. Since then, JP Duminy is the only regular member of the side fit enough to be called an all-rounder. This has been a serious decline of sorts, akin to West Indies pace decline without the overall slump in performances.

The South Africans have strengthened themselves in other departments. They have a fantastic batting line-up, and a terrific pace attack. The new-ball duo of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, as well as AB de Villiers revolutionary approach towards batting has played its part in South Africa s rise to the top in recent years. However, the lack of all-rounders has been palpable. If the team truly is to be unbeatable, they need someone who lends stability with both bat and ball. The Australian team under the captaincy of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting was one such example that got it right in all departments.

The team has the potential to develop all-rounders in the current side. Chris Morris has been earmarked as one of those destined to carry the legacy of the medium-pace-bowling all-rounder in South African cricket forward. Among the other contenders in the side is Dean Elgar, who put up a great display with the ball in India to record four-wicket-innings hauls alongside opening the batting for his side. David Wiese has exhibited his prowess both with bat and ball in domestic as well as franchise-based Twenty20 cricket, but needs to carry those performances over to the international arena. Then, there are cases like KwaZulu-Natal s Daryn Smit, who hasn t been able to play for South Africa despite superb all-round First-Class statistics. The story of Stephen Cook is similar. In short, South Africa has the potential, but needs to mould it in order to keep the tradition alive.

South Africa have a major challenge ahead in the form of the home series against England, one which will witness the hosts rely majorly on its pacers and middle-order batsmen for its success. While all-rounders may be out of equation for the Proteas, at least for the first couple of Tests, they need to go back to their old methods while preserving their new ones if they truly are to maintain their No. 1 Test ranking, as well as scale the peaks that have eluded them so far.

(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, travelling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)