Kallis' absence leaves a big void
When Mark Boucher was thought to be nearing the end of his career and the South African domestic landscape was scanned there seemed to be no other wicketkeeper in sight. Even though some of them where good enough, Boucher's stature and legacy loomed so large, it was as though nobody could fill the space he would leave behind.
The same can be said of Jacques Kallis. Retirement is not in the allrounders' immediate plans. He hopes to play until at least the 2015 World Cup and for as long as he can contribute, which on current form appears to be endlessly, but it will have to come. Avoiding it is impossible because it serves up a reminder regularly: Kallis has been injured on each of South Africa's three away tours this year.
Boucher can also testify that things don't always go according to plan and South Africa would do well to heed that warning because they don't have one for life after Kallis. As the most complete "two-in-one-cricketer," as Gary Kirsten has called him, Kallis actually does need to be replaced by two other players when he is unavailable. When he suffered a stiff neck in Wellington and could not play in the match, JP Duminy replaced him with the bat and Marchant de Lange was brought in as cover with the ball. That threw out South Africa's team balance and they had to leave out Imran Tahir.
His absence in the field today was also marked. South Africa's bowling effort turned around when Kallis was brought on at first change. They went from conceding more than four runs an over to Australia's openers to creating serious damage in the space of 16 balls, 12 of them bowled by Kallis.
Both his yorkers resulted in wickets, a sign to the rest of the attack that a fuller length would not go unrewarded. When he left the field, the South African effort sagged visibly. It may have been the panic at losing another player mid-match whose role with the ball was being relied on, but the bowlers were consistently too short. The only tactic that remained was them trying to bounce Michael Clarke, but every other strategy seemed to have left them.
Gary Kirsten wearily admitted that was the case. "When we did bowl a fuller length, we were more of a factor. We might have bowled a bit short early on and they left well. But someone like David Warner, we could have made him play more and I thought that Rory [Kleinveldt], when he got fuller, bowled really well," he said.
After the lunch break, perhaps when the news had been conveyed that Kallis would be taken for a scan and was unlikely to make another appearance on the day, South Africa completely lost it. In the ten overs following the interval, they leaked 100 runs as Warner and Clarke pounced. Imran Tahir was the guiltiest party as he continually offered up full tosses and had minimal impact.
On a pitch that will only really offer Tahir something later on, he would not have been expected to get much turn. But it also would not have been expected that he would be so expensive. His 21 overs cost 159 runs the most by anyone who has bowled more than 20 overs in Tests. Kirsten was sympathetic without being harsh on his legspinners' predicament. "He didn't play the last Test so he was hoping to make an impact," he said. "I don't think it's easy for a guy like that who is trying to find some form and trying to exploit everything."
Neither Morne Morkel nor Kleinveldt are senior players and when even Dale Steyn had to leave the field, Graeme Smith could have used a strategic partner to consult. Kallis is that person. None of the team apart from him has played a Test in Adelaide before and although that may not count for much in an age where information can be sourced, a quiet word from the stalwart here and there would have probably been appreciated.
Kallis is more involved in team leadership these days. He is part of the think tank and the discussions that happen on the field and his vast knowledge is always of assistance. An intangible like that speaks volumes for what Kallis offers that cannot be explained by numbers.
It should also serve as a wake-up call to South Africa about what they will be without. A player like Kallis can never be replaced instantaneously. From an experience perspective, South Africa have the likes of Smith, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Steyn to lean on. From an abilities one, they need to begin the search for someone who can develop into an all-round Test player.
Of the players on the circuit now, those whose batting is almost as good as their bowling or vice versa are few. Chris Morris could become a player in the Kallis mould with time. Others include Wayne Parnell and Ryan McLaren although one needs to do serious work on his bowling and the other may be running out of time.
A few spinning options have emerged like Jon-Jon Smuts but a genuine allrounder, the kind that once seemed to be coming off a conveyer belt in South Africa, is starkly lacking. Vacuums are too easily filled with things that should not be there and it is about time for South African cricket to realise that Kallis will leave one behind. As much as they value him now, they do not want to be in a situation where they value him more in absentia and the breeding grounds must be combed for someone who can step up.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent