South Africa in Australia 2012-13 November 27, 2012

Where's South Africa's next allrounder?

Ryan McLaren has been called up as cover for Jacques Kallis. The replacement is no where near the quality of the incumbent and South Africa's supply of allrounders seems to have dried up

Ryan McLaren and the powder blue Volkswagen Beetle made in Mexico City in 2003 would appear to have nothing in common, but they do. Both are the last of their type to roll off the production line.

At least we knew the Beetle's end was nigh, but the abrupt halt of South Africa's supply of seam-bowling allrounders is surprising. Gone are the days when Brian McMillan could have been replaced by Lance Klusener, Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall or Justin Kemp. The typically burly, bustling, big-hitter who could also bang it at brisk pace is now a thing of the '90s. With Jacques Kallis' body serving as a continuous reminder, South Africa need them to get back into fashion fast.

Kallis has been injured on every away tour in 2012. In New Zealand, he woke up with a stiff neck on the morning of the Wellington Test and missed it, forcing South Africa to make a double change. In England, Kallis' back seized up overnight and he was immobile for the fourth day of the Headingley Test. Now in Australia, he injured his hamstring for the first time in his career; he couldn't bowl and had to bat at No. 9 and No. 7 in the Adelaide Test.

Kallis' ailments are caused by wear and tear, of the same kind that convinced the Beetle manufacturer to make only the new model for the last nine years. The time to trade-in Kallis is not here yet but his injuries should serve as a warning for South Africa to scour the market, especially as the only person they could all as an emergency replacement was picked purely because he can do both jobs - bat and bowl - and not because of how well he does them.

To suggest Kallis and McLaren are interchangeable is to say the Morris Miner had the same cool as the Beetle. Not quite. The real problem is that there wasn't a Mini or Mustang in sight and no one is revving an engine on the horizon.

Peter Kirsten, a former South Africa Test opener, cannot see that changing because of current trends in world cricket. "The specialist tag endorsed by coaches and selection committees due to overload of Twenty20 and ODI cricket requires players to concentrate more on one particular craft or format," he told ESPNcricinfo. "For example you will find guys who focus on slower deliveries, blockhole or death bowling in shorter formats and then have to adapt suddenly to the great demands of Test-match bowling."

Making the adjustment has already proved a problem for a few of the younger crop of quicks, who go from steaming in at full pace for four overs in Twenty20 to needing a more sustained effort over many spells in a Test. Injuries have abounded as a result. Now add to that the demands of batting, which could stretch to hours in a Test as it did for Kallis in Adelaide, and it's clear why trying to be good at both could be difficult to manage.

"The prerequisite for a pace-bowling allrounder is physical fitness," Kirsten said. But with the constantly increasing match and travel time, there is not much time left over to concentrate on the finer aspects of conditioning and even less time to rest.

The alternative is to be "managed," as Kallis is, which is how Kirsten thinks the allrounder has prolonged his career thus far. "Kallis has proved that the allrounders' workload can be sustained for a period of time if fitness levels are effectively maintained and managed," he said.

That is just a kinder way of telling players they will have to make choices about how often they play and how many series and tournaments they want to take part in. The uncomfortable truth is that it simply isn't the done thing.

With opportunities to make money the world over, few players want to miss out on maximising the years they will have as a professional athlete, so they may be willing to compromise in other areas.

Sometimes one discipline is favoured over the other unintentionally and that seems to be what has happened in South Africa. Although an extreme case, Morne Morkel once talked about becoming a lower-order allrounder of sorts but seems to have abandoned that plan.

Wayne Parnell was a genuine allrounder at under-19 level but was brought into the national side as a bowler. At some point, he hoped to complement his bowling with batting but injuries and inconsistency led to him being dropped. Ironically, he now seems to be having more success with bat for Warriors. Both Vernon Philander and Rory Kleinveldt are handy with the bat but have much to work on as bowlers - to begin with, not overstepping - that the time they can spend honing batting will be limited.

Albie Morkel is one of the few to have polished skills in both disciplines. He has not lived up to his reputation though. In Twenty20 cricket, he has been successful for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, where the coach Stephen Fleming said Morkel was more secure in his role. At international level, however, he has been erratic. Morkel plays very few first-class matches and has only one Test to his name.

So McLaren was the only drop of water in a barren landscape and he may also have been the last drop. Spinning allrounders are starting to emerge but South Africa seem to have placed a premium on the additional option being pace. Over the years, the presence of Kallis has perhaps led them to take for granted that they would always have an extra seamer in the team.

In 2012, however, Kallis has shown that sometimes he cannot be that other bowler and there will come a time when he will not be there at all. When that happens, Kirsten hopes someone will have emerged as a successor. "Hopefully instinct, desire, understanding of the demands of the allrounders' role and limited 'over coaching', can ignite the South African conveyor belt," Kirsten said. "Kallis cannot operate forever and the value of his ilk is surely evident to any aspiring youngster."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dave on November 30, 2012, 6:45 GMT

    I think CHRIS MORRIS is the next alrounder. . . .

  • Dummy4 on November 29, 2012, 11:12 GMT

    Kallis is truly one of the legends of world cricket. Easily one of the greatest all-rounders ever. He has been exceptional with the bat and very decent with the ball in the last 15 years or so. I don't think SA will find a proper replacement for him for a while.

  • Amit on November 29, 2012, 0:06 GMT

    Cant replace Kallis. There has never ever been a better allrounder (including Sobers). And there has been very few better batsman ever. He's should be a slam dunk in any all time world XI along with Bradman, Sobers, Gilchrist, Tendulkar, Richards, Warne and Hobbs. SA is treading on edge here. Right now they get 2 players in Kallis and 1.5 in De Villiers (if he keeps wickets). This is unsustainable and when they leave, SA will drop in ranking.

  • Alex on November 28, 2012, 23:24 GMT

    SA lacked balance because of lack of good pace all rounder. Kallis can't bowl anymore.

  • Sameer on November 28, 2012, 19:16 GMT

    Kallis has been the best allrounder...sorry, batsman in the last 20 years. His consistency along with the ability to either win or save matches puts him in a different league altogether. The only batsman who comes close to him would be Lara, who had greater match winning abilities, but was a bit inconsistent. As for Sachin, let me put it this way, sometimes a 40 is more valuable than a century. He is not even the best Indian batsman in his time.

  • Mashuq on November 28, 2012, 19:09 GMT

    @WC96QF on (November 28 2012, 14:54 PM GMT) "More impt is to get their best 11 on the ground, to get the best results possible !" So who plays on Friday? Given that Kallis will probably play but not bowl the best balanced team would be: Smith, Petersen, Amla, Kallis, de Villiers, du Plessis, McClaren, Peterson, Philander, Steyn, Morkel. McClaren provides some stability and a bowling option at 7 as does Peterson's variety at 8. But given the Saffers mindset they will pick Elgar instead at 7 and have no spinner (again?). Anyway, the best suggestion for post-Kallis is probably the one where Duminy and du Plessis "graduate" from their part-time roles leaving 4 quicks and de Kock to fill spots 7 through 11, e.g., Smith, Petersen, Amla, de Villiers, du Plessis, Duminy, de Kock, Philander, Steyn, Morkel, de Lange.

  • Asif on November 28, 2012, 14:54 GMT

    Name one other team in the world which has an allrounder in the 'Kallis class'. Ans : NONE ! When AUS was dominant for over 10 years, they never had an all rounder. When WI were No.1 for nearly 20yrs, they dint hv an allrounder of the Botham-Kapil Dev-Hadlee-Imran Khan type. So SA shud not really worry abt the perfect replacement for Kallis. More impt is to get their best 11 on the ground, to get the best results possible !

  • Dummy4 on November 28, 2012, 14:17 GMT

    I am an Indian and I can tell you, Kallis is much more than an all rounder. Most all rounders are people who can do both the jobs but lack the class to be remembered in at least one of those jobs. Agreed Klusener could bat well as well as bowl, but who here would agree that he was classy in tests? Who would say Pollock was a reliable and complete test batsman? He could get some runs, but they were a bonus.

    Kallis is unique in that, he is a classy and a complete test batsman, if you ignore his bowling, and if you ignore his batting, he is a very very competitive test match medium fast bowler. He would select himself a a pure bowler as well as a pure # 4 batsman. he is not an all rounder. He is 2 complete players in one package.

  • Dummy4 on November 28, 2012, 13:23 GMT

    There will be no immediate replacement for kallis

  • Gordon on November 28, 2012, 12:52 GMT

    All I can say is this. Whoever the next batch of Allrounders are coming through South Africa they should focus on coming in at say number six or seven with the bat and then of course if they start improving alot then you could look to move them up the order. It is good to see though that there are a fair few Allrounders still coming through in South Africa domestic cricket. But the interesting point is one that a person mentioned before how there seems to be some who are Allrounders who are spinners.

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