Australia in South Africa 2008-09 March 18, 2009

Heavy burden for captain Kallis


It's never very satisfying to be the second choice for a job but that's the position Jacques Kallis will find himself in when he captains South Africa in Thursday's third Test. He was handed the captaincy after Ashwell Prince turned it down and the extra responsibility will weigh heavily on Kallis, who already has the burden of being a key batsman, bowler and slip fielder.

And so it will be captaincy by committee for the South Africans, who will also lean heavily on the advice of the injured Graeme Smith, who has been taking a key role in their training sessions and will be in the dressing-room during the match. Kallis has captained South Africa only once before, in similar circumstances three years ago when Australia were 2-0 up in South Africa and Smith was injured for the final Test.

"I've always said that to be an allrounder and captain is probably the hardest job in the world," Kallis said. "That's why I don't think there are too many who do it. But I'm fortunate that I've got Bouchy [Mark Boucher] next to me, I've got Hashim Amla, guys that have played quite a few Tests now and that have captained before.

"I'm the type of captain that pretty much lets the team make the decisions. Obviously there are times when I've got to make a decision but I let the team captain and let guys get involved and run it like that. That certainly is the way I've done it in the past and the guys have enjoyed that."

The most interesting feature of the captaincy meetings will be the input of Prince. The vice-captain under Smith, Prince was upset at being overlooked at the start of this series having missed all three Tests in Australia with a broken thumb, and when he was thrust into the unfamiliar opening position for this match he declined to take the reins of the side.

"I think he had his reasons and his views why he didn't want it," Kallis said. "Obviously he was offered it first and he turned that down. Then they phoned me and said would I do it for the one Test match. Certainly there's no issue there. We've had a chat and there's no problems. The guys respect his point of view and respect the fact that I've taken over."

Kallis insisted that he was looking forward to the challenge but his opposite number Ricky Ponting sees Kallis as a reluctant leader. He said he could not understand why Prince would be hesitant to take on the captaincy upon his recall.

"You can understand the reason he was disgruntled in the first place I guess, being the vice-captain and being left out of the side," Ponting said. "But when opportunities come around like that I think any Australian would grab that with both hands."

The Australian captaincy rarely changes hands and when stand-ins are appointed they treat the job with reverence, as Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke have done when taking charge of limited-overs games. Ponting said South Africa's leadership dramas could play into Australia's hands.

"You'd probably think so, one of them not wanting to be captain and them having a reluctant captain at the moment," Ponting said. "I don't think Kallis is the sort of guy that would be jumping up and down to do the captaincy, knowing the sort of laid-back guy he is on the field.

"He's got enough on his plate anyway with being a top four batter and an allrounder. He's someone who bowls 20 overs an innings for them. We saw something similar when England came to Australia in 2006-07, [Andrew] Flintoff was captain. When you are an allrounder you already have a lot to think about so that won't make his job any easier."

South Africa are likely to hand debuts to Albie Morkel and Imraan Khan, while Australia have to decide whether to include the legspinner Bryce McGain for his first taste of Test cricket on a pitch that will turn. The Australians were given a four-day break after the Durban win, which secured the series, and Ponting said with such a young side it was important to make sure they would lift again to push for a clean sweep.

"I've been letting them know they can't take anything for granted in this game," Ponting said. "I've got to most of the young guys today and had a chat about putting last week behind us and moving on, starting from fresh with the scoreboard at 0-0 and remembering the things that made you successful over the last couple of weeks, it's important that we do all that."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Hans on March 19, 2009, 9:10 GMT

    TheOzGov. Do you want to say that Johnson first played in Sydney in that series. Smith scored 293 runs in the first two tests, in the presence of Johnson, and his 108 in 147 balls set the tone for the remarkable Perth win. He has been performing consistently recently. I am not a great fan of Smith either as a person or captain or batsman, nor of the SA team as a whole. But, the Aussies have held the world title in arrogance (though there are a few nice guys also) for quite long and Ponting is also king in that aspect both on and off the field. He has miraculously escaped action even after intimidating all and sundry including umpires. So far as injury to Lee is concerned, it must be remembered that he opened bowling in the SA 2nd innings and bowled 10 overs. In the first innings, perhaps Ponting was cooking him for his inability to take a wicket in 13 overs, just like what he did with him in the India series.

  • Amol on March 19, 2009, 8:47 GMT

    Anyone who comments here is not required to possess the all-complete accurate knowledge of the statistics of the game but one need to be atleast realistic,... whoever said that Amla should be axed should be axed himself first. Amla has scored the most number of fifties (4) by any SA player since the whole Australian saga began in December. That speaks of consistency. The right guy wsa axed, Mckenzie. He anyway was batting with the average that was ideal for bowling (24.00 or something). Morne Morkel is still in learning phase. Anyway bowlers always have to work harder than batsmen. I hope the new guy, Khan, atleast hits a fifty in each of his innings. SA badly needs a good partner for Smith. And truly yes,... Smith's injury HAS cost SA the victory in the 2nd Test. No doubt about it.

  • Patrick on March 19, 2009, 7:58 GMT

    So Ponting is arrogant because he answered a few questions honestly. He's right, it's hard to imagine any Australian player turning down the captaincy like Prince did. I seem to remember Smith coming out at the start of the series proclaiming a 3-0 drubbing. Then they come out and play like all they have to do is turn up and they get taken to the cleaners by a bunch of new blokes. And the Aussies are arrogant?

  • Shannon on March 19, 2009, 6:37 GMT

    Robeli, champion (not world champion of cricket, as this title remains with the Australian Cricket team!), if you want to talk cricketing knowledge you should mention to your captain that taking the ball form the fastest bowler in the world on both his gloves (within three Tests!) and breaking his hands in the process, is not the way to play fast bowling! If he heeds your advice, he may even last those extra 10 balls that you are fixated about! Some more cricketing knowledge for you Robeli; Clarke, Lee and Symonds were all injured at stages in the Australian home series v South Africa and you are not hearing any 'if and buts' about this! All the best!

  • Val on March 19, 2009, 6:00 GMT

    Thank you Robeli, exactly the point I was making earlier, except that my point was that at the time he was injured, in the First innings he was scarcely being threatened by the bowling, and those of us who REALLY follow cricket will remember that over the past two years the foundation set by Smith upfront has given the momentum for the rest of the side. In both the first innings in Sydney and the first innings in Durban South Africa were effectively reduced to 10 men. It is not a matter of whinging about injuries - all teams face those problems (does anyone actually remember the injury list faced by Polly's team in Aus?). It is just a statement of fact that had the Australians had to face all 11 of our players in those tests the outcome may well have been different.

  • Brenton on March 19, 2009, 2:39 GMT

    All of this talk about Graham Smith being unfit for the 3rd test in Sydney allowing Australia to win, what about the second test? Brett Lee was injured and hardly bowled in the second innings. Just after he got injured Duminy and Steyn posted a match winning partnership. Steyn made 75? 1 test all going into the final test. It's unusual for the vice captain to be overlooked if fit, this wouldn't happen in Australia. Amla hasn't set the world on fire, drop him in place of Prince! I'm sure Prince had his reasons and wants to make sure he makes runs to get his form back.

  • Warks on March 18, 2009, 22:28 GMT

    Am surprised that anyone would turn down the captaincy of the national team. The Australian Test team has had five players as captain since the start of 1985, 24 years ago. Of those Gilchrist was the only stand-in - taking over from Ponting in India in 2004 and winning the series. You'd think captain of the national side was the highest accolade possible and turning it down doesn't send a good message, despite Prince's need to work on his own game. The captaincy of most sides seems to be a lottery with a new captain every second series, SA and NZ have been exceptions here.

  • Steven on March 18, 2009, 19:43 GMT

    I see South Africa having Captaincy issues . How come no one thought of Johan Botha, the off spinner. I was very impressed with his bowling in the one dayers and and his thinking on his feet in the series in Australia.

  • Roelof on March 18, 2009, 16:11 GMT

    The (lack of) cricket knowledge "TheOzGov" is showing is astounding! If a heavily injured Smith came within 10 balls of saving the Sydney test, then it is common knowledge to assume that a fully fit Smith would at least have drawn the test and a big possiblity existed (based on the first 2 tests) that SA had a very good chance of getting the runs. LOL

  • Shannon on March 18, 2009, 14:38 GMT

    LIsten here, hanstrk, do not make the claim that if Smith was fit, South Africa would (possibly!) have drawn the last Test. The fact remains that Smith obviously is unable to handle the pace and skill of Johnson, as his two broken hands show!

    South Africans are definitely world the arrogance stakes!!

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