South Africa v India, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 4th day January 5, 2011

Injured Kallis out-thinks India

Jacques Kallis faced more adversity on the fourth day than he did in the first innings and came up trumps again, winning the mental battle against the Indians

Jacques Kallis makes everything look smooth: be it batting, bowling or catching at slip. He has this cool air about him. A man who knows he is good at what he does, a man who knows he looks graceful when he does what he knows he is good at. Sometimes he can even give the impression that he is not even stretching himself to the fullest. It comes across the most when, at times, he gets off to a quick start, and then settles down into accumulation mode as opposed to domination. It is still a pleasure to watch him because he does things beautifully. The real joy, though, comes when you put him on a bad pitch, or in a pressure situation, asking him to stretch himself, to show you all he has got.

This Test did that. On the first day, he came in a crisis situation on a pitch where the ball seamed all over the place. He also got hit in the rib area, hard enough to put him out for two weeks, but was the last man out after having scored a century that we scarcely thought could be bettered. Today, with the batting crumbling, with four to five painkilling injections in his system, with the sun spewing out 35 degrees-celsius heat mercilessly, with puffs of dust when the ball landed in the rough, with the series on the line, Kallis showed us his first-innings effort could be bettered.

And as he did that, he didn't mind looking ungainly, as if stretching himself. He was in a fight, he wasn't going to run away from battle-scars. You hardly see him play the reverse-sweep; that's not a shot for a batsman who plays proper cricketing shots so well. Yet today that reverse-sweep stood out. Great batsmen do that. They play one calculated, precise shot to change entire games. One shot. Think Sachin Tendulkar's upper-cut off Shoaib Akhtar in the 2003 World Cup.

If Tendulkar put Shoaib off his game with pure audacity, here Kallis got into the bowler and the captain's heads. It was all going well for them until then. The ball was turning appreciably, and bouncing alarmingly. The leg-side fields were there to make sure no easy singles could be taken when playing with the turn. They even removed the silly point to make him play against the break. And what did Kallis do? He reverse-swept - in a Test, no less. And it was not just any reverse-sweep; the wrists rolled on it to keep the ball along the ground all the way. Not for a second did you feel that he was in danger of getting out.

That shot rattled Harbhajan Singh and MS Dhoni. The man who went to collect the ball from the boundary didn't come back. We now had a fielder for a reverse-sweep. Kallis started toying with that fielder. He hit square of him, the fielder went squarer. He hit fine of him, the fielder went finer. It was a clever little mind-game from a hurting batsman, and India - perhaps surprised that he played that shot so well - lost that mind-game. Once he had played around with the fields and Harbhajan's lines, Kallis was free to score as he wanted to.

Except he was batting in mad pain, thanks to the bruising and contusing in the ribs area from the hit he took in the first innings. Mark Boucher, who added 103 priceless runs with Kallis, later said it was impossible to imagine what kind of pain his mate was going through. "I don't think anyone actually understands the kind of pain he is in at the moment," Boucher said. "I just spoke to the doctor, and he reckons it's like someone actually breaking their own rib. Just goes to show the character of the guy. Lot of people talk about this cricketer, that cricketer, but in my eyes, in my opinion, we have got probably one of the greatest cricketers that has ever lived in our own country. It'd be nice if people start realising that as well."

In that kind of physical pain, just his coming out to bat after Alviro Petersen fell in the second over of the day was a brave act. The collective relief around the Newlands could be felt as soon as they saw it was Kallis walking out to bat. King Kallis, as they call him.

Despite the pain, despite the pressure, despite the misbehaving bounce, Kallis managed to make things look smooth, at least he made batting look the easiest anyone has done in this Test. He still played beautiful on-drives and straight drives. Except for the times when the ball bounced and he had to hold onto his side to fight pain, he still was cool Kallis.

"I have not seen many people bat the way he batted today," Harbhajan, who took seven wickets today but couldn't find a way past Kallis, said. "I have not seen many who could take up the responsibility the way he did. It was difficult conditions on the first day. It was overcast, and the ball was doing a lot for the seamers, it was nipping around, and there was a lot of bounce and swing. He has got the technique to play in all conditions. I would rate him up there, very up. After Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis is the best player in the world."

Kallis' effort has all but made sure that South Africa won't lose the series. In the process, he must have surely aggravated the injury, which could keep him out for longer than the original two weeks expected. Other cricket can wait, though. There can be no bigger thrill than to almost single-handedly save your side a Test, and put them on the victory road. The same can be said of watching a man doing it.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harsh on January 7, 2011, 4:18 GMT

    Kallis proved he is one of the greatest batsman of all time and in a crisis perhaps amongst the top5-6.He exhibited the temperament of a Muhammad Ali with his herculean batting efforts ,something even the Viv Richards or the Laras would have been proud of.It reminded you of Gary Sobers batting when the chips were down .Kallis is avery strong contender to Sobers for the title of the best batting all-rounder,and in pure stats analysis may end up only behind Bradman and Tendulkar.

  • John on January 7, 2011, 0:14 GMT

    Here's a telling fact. In test matches between India and South Africa only, Kallis averages 72.04 with 6 centuries in 16 tests. Tendulkar averages only 42.46 with 4 centuries in 25 tests. Big difference there!

  • Finn on January 6, 2011, 23:22 GMT

    I have to admit when I was just getting into the game of cricket about 5 years ago I'd heard all about Warne, McGrath, Sachin, Ponting, Bradman, Sobers but I didn't know too much about Kallis yet when I visited this site for the very first time and I saw his stats I was blown away. Ever since I have watched more and more of him and I have come to really admire and respect him, he's one of the best of all time there's no doubt in my mind!

  • Deepak on January 6, 2011, 16:43 GMT

    KING KALLIS!!! HAIL!!!!! I am a great fan of Jacque Henry Kallis since 1997 and I will always be!!! In my opinion, both Sachin and Jacque are greatest players of Cricket. Itz like one Sun and Moon for earth!!! Kallis has always been a great cricketer but many people always concentrate on Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar but the real fact is, there is no player who can be called as a Legend other than Jacque Henry Kallis!!! Love you Kallis!!! Be happy forever!!! I had seen my hero directly when I went to watch RCB match and I believe one of my wishlist of lifetime is fulfilled!!!!! Thank you Kallis for all your entertaining innings and keep me still!!!!!

  • Dummy4 on January 6, 2011, 16:17 GMT

    Sachin certainly has all the Statistics on his side, but Kallis is a man for the toughest of situations...The way he played, battling a deteriorating pitch , severe side cramps and went on to score one of the grittiest knocks ever played in recent times speaks volumes of his mental and physical stamina ....Kallis is the all time greatest undoubtedly !!!!

  • Neil on January 6, 2011, 16:13 GMT

    I've said it many times, but I'll say it again - being a member of the Indian cricket team must be one of the toughest jobs in sport because of their fans. Man alive! When Zaheer etc were knocking SA over like nine-pins in the 2nd Test, fans were screaming about what geniuses the attack are. When India were flattened in the 1st Test, fans were wailing about what devastation awaited Kallis and co when Zaheer returned. When Kallis and co cmoke those same bowlers around Newlands because they batted well, suddenly Zaheer and co are rubbish and Sachin only ever faced bowlers in superb form. You cannot compare players across generations. Sachin is a great batsman, Kallis a great all-rounder. I'll bet anything you like those two fellas aren't behaving like children in the game of "Mine is bigger than yours!" that is going on here! You only have to look at the smiles and back-slapping between the teams at the end of the 3rd Test to see that.

  • Dummy4 on January 6, 2011, 16:10 GMT

    @sri1ram : R u so jealous to accept that Kallis is a great great batsmen or r u jst plain stupid??? How many players do u think has made a second innings hundred with a broken rib? has the "great" sachin tendulkar done it? No argument that sachin is a great player, but Kallis is jst one of a kind. The way this guy handles pressure is so phenomenal.

  • Dummy4 on January 6, 2011, 16:06 GMT

    sachin is the best batsman and kallis is the best player. same applies with bradman and sobers

  • Dummy4 on January 6, 2011, 16:05 GMT

    This is the series i wish we had in australia - full credit to england though, they have made australia look, well ordinary is being kind

    Kallis, i was lucky enough to be at the boxing day 97 test when he made his maiden test century with McGrath and Warne both close to their peaks of their careers. Kallis has always batted beautifully, with poise, elegance, and most importantly, patience.

    India had no answer, it just goes to show you a lesser person would of thrown away his wicket eventually, but not only did he defy india certain victory, he remained not out. Just pure class.

    Its time the world finally acknowledge Kallis not only as a true all rounder, but a legend of the game. Its sad to see that he has never been mentioned in the same breath as Lara, Ponting, Waugh, Tendulkar. We all know Tendulkar is second only to Bradman, but Kallis i believe is second only to Sobers - Go and look up stats for other allrounders, Kallis puts them all to shame.

    Congrats to both SA and India

  • Dummy4 on January 6, 2011, 16:00 GMT

    We Have Witnessed A fantabulous Test Series Btw Ind-SA.....the best i have seen in last 10 yrs... Probably Draw is the best possible result we can have..Hats off to each and every member of both sides.......Superman Epics by Sachin and Kallis......It also proves Cricket is not a game for young guys..Hope BCCI takes some lesson frm this series

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