July 22, 2003

South Africa look to downplay Kallis's absence

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Omar Henry, South Africa's convenor of selectors, said that South Africa would cope with the loss of allrounder Jacques Kallis for the first npower Test against England at Edgbaston starting on Thursday (July 24). Kallis is in Cape Town with his father, who is suffering from lung cancer.

"We are in daily contact with Jacques," Henry told reporters. "One can assume he will not be here for the Test match. It's too important, his relationship with his father. It creates difficulties for us but this is far bigger than any of our problems."

With the first and second Tests only three days apart, Henry admitted that Kallis might well be ruled out of both matches. "We're just taking it day by day," he said. "He's an enormous loss. But sometimes these things happen for the best. It's a chance for a guy like Jacques Rudolph to say 'this is my opportunity'."

But it is Kallis's role as first-change bowler that will be harder to fill than the No. 3 slot. South Africa's bowling attack already has a raw look to it, and Monde Zondeki, Dewald Pretorious and Charl Willoughby will be vying for the spot vacated by Kallis.

"We brought these guys over here, we have to back them," Henry argued. "They've got to learn about bowling in English conditions and bowl different lengths. The objective is to take 20 wickets and we have five Tests to find out if they can do it."

Henry also defended the decision to appoint Graeme Smith, a relative newcomer to international cricket, as South Africa's captain following Shaun Pollock's dismissal after the World Cup. "He's come through with flying colours already," Henry smiled. "When he was 12 or 13 and I was giving spinning clinics in Johannesburg and he'd bat for three days. It was clear he wanted it.

"He's very strong," Henry continued. "He told me he was disappointed when we dropped him for the World Cup but said 'I'll show you that you've made a mistake.'"