Throughout the history of cricket there have been some truly great players. Don Bradman, Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendaulkar are often touted as amongst the very best players to take to the middle. This tag of ‘the greatest’ is not one that is thrown around loosely, with few players making the bracket.
The South African team of a decade ago is another that has it’s place in cricketing immortality for the sheer amount of talent it contained. Captain Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs, Shaun Pollock and Hashim Amla were just a few of the players to don the shirt. However, of all of these players, they pail in comparison to one of the world’s greatest ever all-rounders – Jacques Kallis.
Kallis actually began his senior cricketing career in northern England with Netherfield CC at the age of 19, and there was a taste of things to come as he notched just under 800 runs at a frankly outrageous average of 98.87 for 14 matches.
Later that summer he went on to make his test debut for South Africa against England, dashing any hopes the English had of poaching this budding talent. Kallis initially struggled for his nation, with chances to shine proving few and far between.
His first real display of his ability came against Pakistan in 1997 as he scored 61 runs, before putting in a match saving display as his defiant century meant the spoils were shared between Australia and South Africa.
It wasn’t long before Kallis established himself at the forefront of the cricketing world with his displays with both bat and ball. A Man of the Series display lead the Proteas to victory in the 1998 ICC Champions Trophy, which succeeded the South African topping the charts for all-rounders, something he spent much of his career doing.
With Kallis holding the number one spot for an all-rounder in both Tests and ODI’s, he was able to make the number three spot with South Africa his own. While this may not sound particularly impressive, England’s recent struggles have displayed just how good a player you must be to come in at three, with the Three Lions going through a number of candidates, much in the same way South Africa did.
— Lord’s Ground (@HomeOfCricket) 16 October 2016
The records kept tumbling for Kallis, as he became only the fourth player in Test history to make a century in five consecutive games, meaning his name was put up beside Don Bradman, Mohamad Yousuf and Gautam Gambhir, illustrious company then.
This preceded Kallis scoring five centuries in four tests in 2007, once again putting him alongside Bradman, while he was this time joined by Ken Barrington and Matthew Hayden.
Even with all of these records, Kallis struggled to shake the accusation that he was a predominately defensive batsman, something that dogged him for years. However, while many subscribe to this theory, there are more still that see him as one of the most well-rounded batsmen ever.
His cover drive and ability to deftly flick a ball off his hip was legendary and made him superbly difficult to bowl against, while he was able to score quickly when needed to with flashy drives and powered shots. This was seen by his incredible rise in limited overs cricket, as he finished with 97 sixes with the bat in Tests, second only to Australian wicket-keeper and demolisher Adam Gilchrist.
However, while he was renowned for his ability to strike a ball, he was also a stubborn player that was, on his day, impossible to get out. This is why he was such a successful number three. The third batsman has possibly the most difficult position in the batting order, with the possibility of coming in second ball with the score at zero to face the new ball, or after 50 overs against an older ball with the score at 200 or so.
Kallis’ ability to read a situation and adapt his game made him the perfect barrier between the opposition and the rest of the batting line-up. His play against the new ball was as intelligent as his batting against an older ball is classy. He gave those around him a huge amount of confidence as they knew that when he went in, he would invariably score runs after slowing their opponents momentum.
While it is tough to get a grasp of Kallis’ style without watching him play in a number of different situations, the statistics say a lot:
The stats, in both batting and bowling speak for themselves. He had three superb batting averages spanning across all three formats, while he was also an adept wicket taker throughout his career with his medium-fast bowling. This was in conjunction with the fact he was an outstanding fielder. He was superbly athletic and determined, while his ability to take a catch was superb, meaning, along with his batting and bowling, it was impossible to keep him out of the game.
His career is best summed up by the fact he is the only player in cricketing history to score 10,000 runs and take over 200 wickets in both Tests AND ODI’s, a truly incredible feat.
As previously mentioned, it is impossible to get a sense of just how good an all-rounder he was, and just how much he meant to South African cricket, and the world, but the reaction of the commentators, the crowd and his teammates says a lot about one of the greatest cricketers ever to play the game:
— Ek Narendar ☝ (@srnv_) 1 January 2017