Hyderabad v Kolkata, IPL 2013, Hyderabad May 19, 2013

Jacques stuck in the box

Kallis might have just about pulled his weight this IPL season, but the demands of T20 and his slow strike-rate has made him look desperate with the bat

It was a flat pitch, surrounded by a quick outfield, on a hot day in Chennai, and 263 runs had already been scored in 26 overs by the time Jacques Kallis came out to bat. Kallis didn't bat badly. There was one loft back over the bowler's head for a six. You couldn't say he was struggling. When you looked at the scoreboard, though, he was only 19 off 19.

Then you saw Kallis do only what the quickest of the bowlers might have made him do, that too with the sharpest of bouncers: he played a shot while not looking at the ball, a length ball from Dwayne Bravo. Kallis premeditated a shot he has hardly ever felt the need to play, the ramp, and went down on his knee too early. The head fell away and the eyes were almost shut as he dragged this from outside off and into the lap of short fine leg. We don't need to see Kallis to be brought down to this level, but it's a format he has chosen to play on in. And obviously he felt under the pressure to do something crazy.

The thing with Kallis in T20 is, we still see the lovely shots and the poise at the wicket, we still see he looks good and untroubled, but when we check the stats we see a season strike-rate of 97, which is not appreciated in this format. If you listen to commentators, though, you'd think Kallis has been Kolkata Knight Riders' most valuable player.

Kallis has done his fair bit with the ball. He has been canny, and has used the cutter on the slower pitches superbly, but it is as a top-order batsman that he has hurt Knight Riders. He has faced close to 54 overs for just 311 runs, which can possibly work in the company of big hitters in red-hot form. Not with the way the other Knight Riders batsmen have gone this season.

Kallis is not the reason Knight Riders have failed to defend their title. In fact if you look at his bowling contribution - 16 wickets at an economy rate of 7.43 - he has pulled his weight. However, Kallis will hate to be judged against that low a standard. He is used to doing much better. Nor should he be reduced to playing ugly T20 shots. Once again, even as the commentators exclaimed about a great contest between Dale Steyn and Kallis today, it began and ended with an ugly hoick.

Kallis had scored 24 off 28 balls when Steyn came back, and under the pressure he just went after the first ball. To call it a contest would be to insult the word. Just like it is an insult to the great batsman to go through uncricketing shots, but it is a choice he has made.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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