South African cricket January 13, 2011

South Africa's two greatest cricketers

From Adam Wakefield, Australia

From Adam Wakefield, Australia

Jacques Kallis has matched Graeme Pollock's achievements © AFP

Cricket, as a sport, has a habit of indulging itself in its own legend. Players are elevated above mere mortal status to something divine, something Bradmanesque as it were, where their influence on the game goes way beyond the boundary ropes of their personal selves.

South Africa is no stranger to such musings. One name especially stands out as the man who inspired those in South Africa as Tendulkar does today in India. Graeme Pollock is his name, a player recognised internationally as one of the best batsmen to ever play the game. He had the second highest Test average (of those who had scored more than 2000 Test runs). He used to hold the record for the highest score by a South African and is part of the Pollock dynasty that has given so much to the South African cause over the years.

Today, South Africa has yet another cricketer who should be classed in Pollock's elite company. Jacques Kallis has never felt the full affection of the South African public, for reasons ranging from being perceived as aloof at the crease to batting to slowly. For one reason or another, Kallis never received the praise that he deserved, and only now, as the twilight of his career approaches, are South Africans waking up to how good he really is, and how much a hole he is going to leave in their national side when he eventually hangs up his well worn boots.

Kallis made his debut when Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock were still figuring out how best to work together, Hansie Cronje was captain and Dave Richardson wicketkeeper. He is a physical embodiment of South Africa's cricket history after re-admission, just by being there most of the time in person. He, along with Mark Boucher, are the last of that generation of cricketers in the 1990s who were tasked with forging South Africa's image in the world game.

Greatness is always difficult if not near impossible to see at the passing moment. In the present, we lack the foresight which allows us to put an individual’s achievements in context. Once put in context however, and weighed against the deeds of his or her peers, only then is it plausible to label a player 'a great'. Kallis' achievements are so immense, and his way of playing the game so pure (technically speaking), that along with Tendulkar and Ponting, will be canonized as a saint of the modern game, a man who batted in a way which survived the Test of time.

The reasons Kallis and Tendulkar have been able to continue excelling to a level even past most of their younger contemporaries is because their techniques allow them to do so. Even when they have struggled, as both have done at times in their distinguished careers, their technique has gotten them through. The fact Tendulkar and Kallis were the leading run getters in the recently concluded series between their two sides, in conditions toda in the most part, underlines this fact.

Kallis has also disproved the old adage that he bats at too slow a pace. He recently scored his quickest Test century, and has upped his strike rate in the five-day format significantly. And being selfish? If it weren't for his efforts in Cape Town, South Africa would have lost the series. Harbhajan Singh, known as a fiery character but not one to shy away from expressing himself, told media before the final day in Cape Town that he hadn't seen many bat like Kallis did that day. King Kallis, as he is known at Newlands, put on a batting masterclass which will be seen as one of his better Test innings.

He further sealed his reputation by scoring his maiden double-hundred at Centurion, an achievement which in some weird way finally ensures his transition from very good to great. When Jacques Kallis comes to the crease, South Africa breathes a sigh of relief. He has been the ultimate fire-fighter, assassin and strangler for them for 15 years, and he still has a couple more seasons in his body. But when he does eventually decide to go, at the moment he walks off Newlands (it will be there) for that final time, that is when we will feel his absence, a feeling as powerful as sadness, happiness and fear. By George we are going to miss him. He has earned our affections hundreds of times over, and is finally getting the admiration he deserves.

Graeme Pollock and Jacques Kallis are the greatest cricketers South Africa has ever produced. It's simple as that.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on February 27, 2011, 22:47 GMT

    @Dinesh R your last statement that Tendulkar has sc ored runs everywhere, check his average against RSA.

  • testli5504537 on February 18, 2011, 8:31 GMT

    Everyone forgets Trevor Leslie Goddard he was a batsman and a first class bowler captain and some of the best catches ever taken in the slips. He scored more 90 than any one I have heard of, That was his draw back, he always went out in the 90's great allrounder.

  • testli5504537 on February 17, 2011, 11:13 GMT

    Cricket is a game where you need people who can bowl bat and field. Kallis does it all and he does it brilliantly. He is the greatest and most complete cricketer ever. We not gonna see another Kallis for the next 20 to 30 years atleast.

    When he eventually retires its gonna be a very sad time for not only SA but the world

  • testli5504537 on January 24, 2011, 13:15 GMT

    This is more at cricfan24 than anything else (our conversation was unfinished). You said that others (and quoted specifically, Dravid and Ponting) had glory days in the mid-2000s. My point was that Kallis found his feet in about 99 and it's been exponential since then - no mid 2000 'peak', in fact he's got better every year with the last possibly being his best and this year has started pretty well too. Only Sachin follows this trend; Dravid, Ponting and Lara faded a little at the end. I was never comparing Kallis with Sachin but you have now convinced me that i should ... your analogy of *knowing* a sprinter is better not a good one but the one place it can be applied is that it is harder (despite timeings) to compare sprinters over different times. Kallis and Sachin did not have similar contexts so you would have to lay out a criteria to be convincing in your arguement that their is Great...and great can be divided into top rung and second rung. Sachin has achillies too!!

  • testli5504537 on January 22, 2011, 22:56 GMT

    I am always bemused by the perception that Kallis has not received the praise or acclaim due to him. Certainly in the circles in which I move we have long acclaimed him one if the greats. It has always been my perception that the English media have had it in for Kallis and have compared him to lesser lights like Flintoff and co. and so the perception has been that he has not been well thought of but I think that these perceptions exist mainly outside of SA where we have sat by and watched others receive the praise which we have long since thought Kallis deserves (Ricky Ponting was crowned as the most influential cricketer of the 90s I think, ask Saffers what they think of that).

  • testli5504537 on January 22, 2011, 6:48 GMT

    Apart from the points raised by Adam in the article above,I would like to emphasize that both Kallis and Tendulkar have another great similarity apart from both being superlative batsmen:their wonderful and successful to the one day format of the game.In modern times we talk of good Test players and good shorter format players.Here are two men who have both excelled in both forms and have taught the newer generation of batsmen how it is done.No praise can be high enough for these to pillars of batting technique.

  • testli5504537 on January 21, 2011, 19:54 GMT

    Barry Richards was on a plane above mere mortals, -- elegant, powerful, effortless, and technically the finest opening batsman I ever saw. Comparisons between the greats are particularly odious. Kallis is a magnificent all-rounder, -- probably the best SA has ever produced -- but even his formidable batting skills have never approached the sublime levels of Richards and Graeme Pollock.

  • testli5504537 on January 21, 2011, 3:56 GMT

    I do not agree with the closing statement. I am an Indian and I believe that Kallis is the greatest cricketer to have played the game-not only in South Africa and certainly Graeme Pollock is no competition-great as he is.

    He might not be the most attractive batsman when he is playing, but in terms of delivering the good, King Kallis never fails. Had he been born in India, he would have been GOD possibly rivaling Tendulkar.


  • testli5504537 on January 21, 2011, 1:19 GMT

    Kallis being compared to Tendulkar??? What Rubbish! Jacques Kallis has one man to thank for his success & his name is Sachin Tendulkar! Why, you may ask? Because he changed his technique & modelled 'his' batting on SRT.I can point out when this occurred. It was during the 2000/01 season when India toured SA. Tendulkar scored a century in the 1st test at Bloem. When JHK came out to bat, his entire technique had changed. It was a carbon copy of SRT's. Even the straightening of the bat upon backlift. Tendulkar has since cut out the walk across the stumps but JHK benefited from learning from the grand master of batting as his record shows since that series. Video's from that series can prove me correct. Maybe Cricinfo can have a look and confirm. Kallis is merely a student and Tendulkar is the teacher - Kallis will never be in SRT's class! For me Pollock & Richards are SA's best ever cricketers. FYI Francois, Tendulkar has scored runs everywhere & against the best - not only flat wickets.

  • testli5504537 on January 21, 2011, 1:02 GMT

    I wonder if Pollock's average would be same as Kallis if he palyed the same number of tests as Kallis? Who knows - Pollock may have faded away half was through. My point is Kallis is way better than Pollock for his longevity and still maintaining such a high average plus don't forget his number of wickets and catches in both formats. We keep hearing Pollock Pollock Pollock - yes Pollock may have been good but not as good as Kallis. Kallis is extremely under-rated cricketer. Cricket is a game of numbers and on numbers Kallis is better than Sobers also.

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