Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Adelaide, 1st day November 22, 2012

Kallis' absence leaves a big void

South Africa appeared clueless after Kallis left the field today and the allrounder's absence is something the team needs to plan for in the near future when he finally retires

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 22, 2012, 23:31 GMT

    Well well..... In Perth, AB should play as a batsman (and their best fielder) and Thami with the gloves behind the wickets. Imran should be lomited to watching the match in Perth (not even the 12th man). I expect AB to struggle in this Test.

  • rob on November 22, 2012, 23:11 GMT

    Having Kallis in your team must be such a solid, reassuring feeling. Easily the best allrounder I've seen in 30 years of Test cricket. Solid as a rock. ... to be honest I doubt that it is possible to replace him on a like-to-like basis. Players like him come along once every 100 years or so. .. you know, in fact it would be a mistake for South Africa to even try replacing him with another all-rounder. Remember Englands long and fruitless search for the "next Botham". .. if I were an all-rounder in South Africa I'm not sure I would like to fill Kallis's spot when he finally makes his exit. It would be like a mountain trying to replace Everest.

  • Dummy4 on November 22, 2012, 16:29 GMT

    Firdoose - Only Chris Morris and JJ Smuts? Are you sure? There are a long list of quality South African all-rounders currently in the game... Shaun von Berg, Dale Deeb, Simon Harmer, for the spinners. And as for seamers? Obus Pienaar, David Wiese, Brett Pelser (although very much a batting all-rounder), Cobus Pienaar (no, not a typo!)... You seem to have missed quite a few quality genuine all-rounders there!

  • Dummy4 on November 22, 2012, 14:07 GMT

    Kallis is the big man for South Africa specially in test matches.. Off course his absence is created a lot of difference Today ... if he is fit tomorrow it will be a good news for south Africa....!!!

  • Ash on November 22, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    kallis has to make the all time cricket XI. he would be there on batting alone but add his bowling and he is one of the best players of all time.

  • Ben on November 22, 2012, 13:48 GMT

    The truth of the matter is, he can't and won't be replaced. He is a once in a life-time player. Like Australia found out with Warne, many players will be tried in expectation of similar results, but inevitably, that replacement won't come. SAF will need to rely on an adequate replacement, not a freak similar to Kallis. May he get well soon and play for a few more years to come.

  • Dummy4 on November 22, 2012, 13:41 GMT

    Soth Africa was supposed to have the best pace attack today. And depth with Tsotosbe, Marchant de Lange, Parnell etc. Yet when it came to the crunch, both at Gabba and Adelaide, the much vaunted attack has failed to deliver - even granting the blight of injuries today. So what do the critics and experts who are feeding us the fans about the formidable strengths of a SA pace attack or an English quartet have to say now?

  • Shishir on November 22, 2012, 12:06 GMT

    The analogy between Kallis and Boucher, though in a similar vein, is not proper. Kallis is far far too valuable to South Africa. Boucher was a wonderful cricketer with a great attitude and was a game trier. But Kallis is a Legend. He is half the SA team. It just showed in the way they played today.

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