South Africa in Australia 2012-13 November 7, 2012

Experience bumps up Kallis' value

Jacques Kallis may not have dabbled much in captaincy, but his vast cricketing knowhow makes him invaluable to South Africa

When Jacques Kallis' credentials are compared to those of other legends, they stand up in every way. He is fourth on the all-time run-scoring list and the only allrounder to have scored over 11,000 runs and taken more than 250 wickets. Statistically, Kallis is unmatched but the reason he shares his 'greatest' tag with the likes of Garry Sobers is not only because they played in different eras but because there is one thing Kallis has not done: captain.

In 17 years as an international cricketer, Kallis has officially led the team in 15 times, all in the latter third of his career. In 2006, Kallis captained in three ODIs against Zimbabwe and the next year, he was the designated leader in a tri-series involving India and Ireland.

Test captaincy has been even more rare. He took on the role in two matches against Australia in 2009 and would not have done so if not for extreme circumstances - Graeme Smith was ruled out with a broken hand and Ashwell Prince refused to lead the team because he was being made to open the batting instead of play in the middle-order, which was his preference. Kallis was the emergency replacement and has never been approached to do the job in any form since.

As a result, he is perceived as reluctant to be in charge and someone who prefers to focus on his own game. While that may have been true for the Kallis who ate up balls in the 2007 World Cup against Australia when he should have been pushing the run-rate, it does not reflect the Kallis of today. "He has reached the point where he is adding good value to the team environment," Gary Kirsten, South Africa's coach, said.

Kallis' ability to influence team direction is not overt. He is hardly ever seen assisting in field placings or chatting to bowlers before they run up, and those who have batted with him have revealed that he is a man of few words in the middle. What he brings is experience few cricketers on the world stage can match.

Consider that on Friday Kallis will become one of only three players - Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar being the other two - to have played at 50 Test venues, and you will understand the vastness of his cricketing acumen. By sharing that, Kallis leads in his own way.

"It's an important thing to do for guys who have been to places like England or Australia - you have knowledge that you pass on to guys who haven't been here," Kallis said. "It's about being a captain of your own environment, because it grows you as a person and a cricketer. I've never been one that likes to compare players or eras, especially with the amount of cricket we play. It's an honour to be compared with those guys, but I just love playing and I love winning and I want to contribute as much as I can contribute to winning matches."

Kallis' ability to influence team direction is not overt. He is hardly ever seen assisting in field placings or chatting to bowlers before they run up, and those who have batted with him have revealed that he is a man of few words in the middle. What he brings is experience few cricketers on the world stage can match.

Occasionally, Kallis will dip into some of that wall of wisdom in front of the media and recently he has been doing it with increasing frequency. He launched an attack on DRS in New Zealand and showed prudent sensitivity during Mark Boucher's forced retirement in England.

In Australia, Kallis took the opportunity to express the need for longer Test series. "It would be nice to have more Tests against Australia. I thought the two-Test series we had last year was crazy," he said. "It's about scheduling but we need to find a way for series between top teams to turn into four or five-match series."

The reality is that this series is comprised of only three Tests but it could have the intensity of a longer contest as South Africa are involved in their fourth battle for No. 1 since 2010. This time South Africa are the title-holders and their opposition the challengers.

Kallis knows all too well the feeling of being the latter and thinks South Africa's experience of being nearly-men for so long will be an advantage, even though it could be seen as the opposite. "It does feel slightly different coming to Australia as No. 1 because you come with that at the back of your mind," he said. "But we also come with knowing how hard we had to work to get that success and I don't see any reason why we can't get ourselves into positions to win."

Another of the obvious ticks in South Africa's column is the presence of Kallis himself, whether or not he is contributing in a leadership role. With no allrounder in the Australia XI, Kallis' ability to be, as Kirsten said, "two players in one who would make any team in the world whether as a bowler or a batsmen", could prove a telling divide between the two teams.

It's that, rather than considering whether Kallis is providing inside information that Ricky Ponting said Australia will focus on. For that reason, Australia will treat Kallis as their "No. 1 opponent" for the next week. "He has had a lot of success with bat and ball and we've got to find ways of breaking him down," Ponting said.

Kallis took the warning as a "compliment" but issued one of his own back, in rather captain-like style: "We've got 11 guys in our side who are match-winners. The guys are hungry to do well here and we've set ourselves high standards."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Phillip on November 8, 2012, 22:46 GMT

    Botham still has and when Callis retires, will have him in my opinion. Kallis may be more proficient with the bat, but Botham has him hands down in the field, and I hate to say it but it's in the field where you win a game. Botham was my hero growing up. They both average about 1.2 catches per game, but Botham with 53 less tests than Kallis had taken 103 more wickets. I don't know how ANYONE can say that Botham's bowling let him down in the latter stages of his career. He was the youngest player to score 1,000 test runs and take 100 test wickets of my generation. On 3 seperate occasions Botham scored >250 runs and >20 wickets in a test series - Kallis has only done this once.

  • Mashuq on November 8, 2012, 21:51 GMT

    @Biggus on (November 08 2012, 01:48 AM GMT) you echo my sentiments completely. It's not really fair to compare players from different eras but having seen Sobers play there's no question of his genius. Like Kallis, captaincy did not come naturally, but unlike him he was too much of a gambler!

  • Basil on November 8, 2012, 13:27 GMT

    Its an unfair comparison Sobers played in an era where batsman-analysis was'nt so sophisticated. Sobers had to perform to prove a point and led from the front. Kallis on the other hand had nothing prove to anyone. Kallis is greatest underrated player of all-time; he produce all the time. When we speak about Sachin we agree he is the greatest batsman of all-time; but somehow it's difficult people to say Kallis is the greatest allrounder of all-time. Kallis is King it time cricket supporters accept that.

  • haris on November 8, 2012, 10:42 GMT

    Gary Sobers and Jacques Kallis have played in completely different perspectives. In those days, the quantity of cricket played was low compared to today so this statement brings upon many different questions which one needs to ponder upon. Nevertheless, Kallis himself stated that he wasn't in the criteria of players who like to compare and comment, that remains the greatness of a cricketer who respects everyone on the field and off the field and remains adamant to play for his country and win.

  • Dummy4 on November 8, 2012, 8:42 GMT

    Ponting a cheap captain Australia ever had and now the cheapest player .... King Kallis, a legend of this game...SA beat Aus 3-0

  • Samar on November 8, 2012, 7:03 GMT

    Three greatest crickter ever : 1: Bradman 2. Sobers and Kallis

  • Dummy4 on November 8, 2012, 3:24 GMT

    sobers could bowl left arm ortho, left arm chinaman (extremely rare), medium pace, he was 100 times better fielder than kallis could ever be. sobers was in lines of jhonty rhodes. he would take absolute blinders almost in every match. if your comparing odis/tests u should remember back then FC matches were of equivalent value as odi's today. stats were stacked up on entire tour including FC matches. not to mention playing on uncovered pitches. and the numbe of big sobers had, kallis has one double in 17 years. sobers scored 365 in his 3rd yr of his test career. anyone who says kallis's stats speak for themselves is blind. sobers higher averages, bigger hundereds. also Kallis averages 67 with he bat in SA wins with the bowl in 136 inns he has 176 wkts in SA wins. Sobers in only58 inns has 104 wkts and averages 77 with the bat in WI wins. there is not comparison, kallis is a great player, but a in skills and as a complete cricketer he will never be close to sobers. & u cant change that

  • Murray on November 8, 2012, 2:58 GMT

    When you compare Kallis to Sobers I suggest using your eyes ! Anyone who saw Sobers bat in Australia would know he was better than Lara. Anyone who saw Kallis and Lara bat would say ? It may be the end of the equation, but anyone who really had any idea would realise Sobers bowled spin (both wrist and finger btw) when WI wanted fast bowlers and Sobers bowled seam when WI wanted spinners. Kallis (historically) = perhaps Sth Africa's 3rd best batsman and not even close to Goddard or Barlow (maybe even Proctor?) as their best allrounder. STATS lie nearly as much as those of you promoting them, with no concept.

  • Simon on November 8, 2012, 2:39 GMT

    Kallis is a class act, under rated around the world. He doesn't need to captain to earn respect from the cricketing public. He has faced some of the all time great bowlers and dismissed some of the all time great batsmen. That's all that matters. His achievements at all three forms speak for themselves.

  • Richard on November 8, 2012, 1:48 GMT

    Kallis may not be fashionable and I've certainly been guilty of under-rating him over the years, but the numbers do no lie. He's been prolific over a great period of time and must rate very highly as an all rounder although I do agree he's perhaps more properly a batsman who bowls a bit better than the average batsman. He does however, bore me senseless. I just can't quite put my finger on why but he does, nevertheless we'd select him every time if he was an Aussie, his numbers are just that good, and therein lies his value.

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