When Miley Cyrus sung ‘The best of both worlds’, she definitely was not thinking about Jacques Kallis but one look at the phenomenal cricket career of Kallis- that comprises excellence over both batting and bowling- one is forced to wonder if anyone in real terms can come close to being this perfect in the modern game of cricket!
Many will argue and some will differ if I call Kallis as the best cricket talent in contemporary cricket, but the argument will be more based on our emotions towards Sachin Tendulkar and less on the factual stats which show that we should acquiesce to this reality.
Ever since cricket’s birth, all-rounders have been indispensable to any team’s winning combination and Kallis’ exploits as an all-rounder over last 16 years will surely draw comparison with the best that have ever played the game.
While some may name Sobers, Botham or Kapil as cricket’s greatest all-rounder, the assessments of these greats of past era fall short of Kallis’ performance when you consider a players’ performance in black and white.
Highly deceptive as a bowler who cannot only swing the ball both sides but also surprise any batsman with his lethal yorker or awkward bouncer, and vastly effective as a batsman who can dig heels on unplayable surfaces, Kallis comes across as a perfect amalgamation of top-class bowler and much greater batsman- and he, whether bowling or batting, has at all times been a force to reckon with.
With over 11,000 runs in both Tests and ODIs- Kallis’ credentials as a batsman alone makes him a world-class player. Add to this an awe-inspiring tally of more than 250 wickets in both these formats and an assured slip fielder who converts difficult chances into regulation ones- Jacques Kallis is a complete package that make stats of purists look extremely ridiculous!
A step ahead of fellow all-rounders who usually come to bat at number six, Kallis throughout his career batted at number three/four, a position that belongs to any team’s central batsman just like Tendulkar, Ponting or Lara.
While some may say that number four, he got more opportunities to bat in comparison to what other all-rounders usually get, but the position also meant that he rarely got to rest his heels during the match and unlike other counterparts had to bat sensibly than just bat aggressively and garner quick runs.
Without Kallis, the success story of Proteas in recent times would have been different. Whenever the side was in problem- this man held all the solutions to it. With a stable head on his shoulders, rock-solid technique and firm determination- Kallis has made all the bowlers toil hard for his prized wicket.
Kallis has been so consistent through most of his career that his runs have almost been taken for granted, which is perhaps the biggest compliment one can pay him.
Alan Donald once said that Kallis had the pace and temperament of a genuine strike bowler, but with presence of bowlers like Pollock, Ntini, Steyn and Donald himself- Kallis always had to be contented with the role of fourth seamer- a role that he excelled at and provided great balance to South African outfit.
The contribution of Kallis to the game of cricket has been immense, but just like Laxman or Dravid, he’ll be always hailed as the unsung hero of the present generation.
Not many saw this one coming but Kallis now is the second in the list of highest century-getters in Test cricket, next only to legendary Sachin Tendulkar, and with age and golden form at his side, it is trivial to guess where the journey of this unruffled giant will end.