Durban: A true measure of Jacques Kallis`s stature as a truly great cricketer is the respect he is accorded by his opponents.
Kallis, 35, boosted his career test tally of centuries to 40 with a hundred in both innings against the world number one side India this week.
He is now second to Sachin Tendulkar only in the all-time list and, as a result of his efforts, shares the current world number one ranking with the Indian maestro.
Kallis made his name with a maiden test century against Australia in 1997, scored over six hours to save the Melbourne test after accumulating only 64 runs in his previous six innings.
Steve Waugh, Australia`s captain in the 1997 series, said at the time: "We`ve tried simply everything against this guy, but we can`t find a weakness in his game."
Former South African fast bowler Allan Donald, a long-time team mate of Kallis, retains vivid memories of Waugh`s respect for Kallis.
“Steve Waugh made a great comment about Jacques Kallis. He said it did not take the Australian team long to respect him. They tested him thoroughly, as they do with all young players, and it didn’t take them long to realise he was a very special cricketer, and they backed off,” Donald told reporters on Friday.
“He takes so much responsibility on to himself in crisis situations, he can get in his bubble, he knows how to switch on and off.
“But for me, his outstanding feature is his hunger for runs. He plays tightly within his limits, he has wonderful discipline and patience and his technique is also fantastic. In fact, the two batsmen who have stood out for me as the most technically brilliant are Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis.”
Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh made a similar comparison during the final test against South Africa when he said: “After Tendulkar, I think Kallis is the best cricketer in the world,” and The Little Master himself is an admirer.”
“Kallis has always been a great player, he’s really consistent and the backbone of the South African batting. It’s terrific what he has achieved,” said Tendulkar.
Kallis’s all-round achievements are equally astonishing and his overall figures bear a remarkable resemblance to those of West Indian Garfield Sobers, the best all-rounder in test history.
He has scored 11,947 runs at an average of 57.43, taken 270 wickets at 32.01 and taken 166 catches in 145 tests. Sobers scored 8,032 runs at 57.78, took 235 wickets at 34.03 and held 109 catches in 93 tests.
Even in his homeland, Kallis has been under-estimated and rated third in the queue behind Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards, who lost their best years during South Africa’s international isolation.
Kepler Wessels, the former Australia and South Africa batsman, believes Kallis should be in first place.
“There’s no question, he’s the best batsman South Africa has produced. He’s technically excellent, his powers of concentration are phenomenal and that hunger for runs is always there. He’s a class act,” Wessels told Reuters.
Another former South Africa captain Shaun Pollock, himself a fine all-rounder, says Kallis has many strings to his bow.
“What’s particularly impressive about Jacques at this stage of his career is how he has worked out his game plan for whatever surface, whether it’s flat or nipping around, he’s been there before, he knows how to handle it.
“He can also be attacking at times and put the pressure back on the bowlers. He really is the complete package as a batsman, and then you add all the wickets and catches on top of that,” Pollock said.
After yet another man-of-the-series award against India, Kallis has shown no desire to retire.
“I’m taking it year by year. I’m part of a really good setup now, the body still feels young and I’m still enjoying my cricket,” he said.