India in South Africa 2013-14 December 3, 2013

South Africa faced with Kallis conundrum

With Jacques Kallis being part of South Africa's plans for World Cup 2015, they have to work out the best way to build their eleven around the veteran allrounder - no easy task at the moment

The harsh truth about Johannesburg is that the city only exists because of goldmines. Everything else - the sprawling suburbs, the shopping malls, the largest man-made forest in the world (or so they say) - was built around the need to develop a town for the people who worked the mines and their families.

It fits nicely then that South Africa will start their one-day series against India in this city, where they will begin figuring out how to build their team around its own goldmine - Jacques Kallis. The allrounder made his one-day comeback in the series against Pakistan, although he sat out the final match with a finger sprain, and is expected to play the full series against India in a bid to enter stage two of World Cup 2015 planning. Everyone else will have to fit in around him.

Now that Kallis has recommitted to 50-overs cricket, the shape of South Africa's one-day team has to change again. So far, they've made room for Kallis by leaving out Faf du Plessis, who will have to score mountains of runs to be recalled, especially given the already tight squeeze for places, and there's a chance more will have to fall by the wayside too.

"Having Jacques back does pose some selection challenges because if Jacques is fit and available and in good form, any coach would love to have him," Russell Domingo, South Africa's coach, said. "The issue is figuring out whom to leave out."

Andrew Hudson, the convener of selectors, told ESPNcricinfo that South Africa have two strategies they are developing to solve that problem. "It depends on what type of cricket we want to play," he said. "Our first option is to play seven batsmen and four bowlers, with Jacques as the fifth, like we did in Cape Town."

In that match, the first ODI against Pakistan at home, South Africa played an XI that included three seamers and a spinner but left out their other allrounder Ryan McLaren. After being named Man of the Series in the UAE, McLaren was considered unlucky to be sidelined in that game by everyone including his coach. "He could feel hard done by," Domingo said.

But Hudson has a way to accommodate both Kallis and McLaren by "playing maybe a second allrounder". South Africa did that for the second match against Pakistan, in which they had to bench Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel for McLaren and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

However, then there is the case of too many bowlers, as they had in that match. It usually means McLaren will be the man to miss out, as was always expected, when Kallis is good to go. That McLaren has become one of South Africa's most reliable performers after being given a sustained run in the team does not matter when he is vying for a place in the eleven with the man widely acknowledged as being the best cricketer South Africa has produced.

"With Jacques coming in, Ryan does [have to] compete with him," Hudson confirmed. "And if we do select Ryan, who do we leave out? There's no doubt Ryan's own game has come on and we're delighted for that. You'll probably find there won't be many games when we leave him out, but we also need to balance the side."

In short, that describes the future for McLaren. He is second fiddle to Kallis and Hudson said he "understands" that. No matter how good McLaren becomes, for as long as Kallis is in the mix, he will always only be considered as the "other" allrounder and if South Africa need to make use of other bowlers to vary their attack, McLaren will be the man to miss out.

That reality caused former allrounder Pat Symcox to tell local media this week that McLaren would have been better off playing in England and the selectors "should resign". The wider implication is that for as long as Kallis remains in South Africa's one-day plans, others who have been used as stop-gaps - Colin Ingram and du Plessis are the obvious examples - will be forced out.

For former batsman Daryll Cullinan, that is not good enough because it leads to an "unsettled, insecure" team. Cullinan believes Kallis had been allowed too much leeway and he should either "fit into South Africa's plan" or they should "move on" from him.

Cullinan proposed using the Test batting line-up in ODIs, with the tweak of moving Kallis to No. 6 in order get the best out of South Africa's 50-overs side. "Kallis should play as a bowling allrounder so that he can come in in the second Powerplay and then accelerate the innings," Cullinan said. "If we're looking at the World Cup and we look at Kallis' [tournament] stats, you will see that in 36 matches, he only has one century and he has never been a campaign-winning batsman."

Although Kallis' World Cup average of 45.92 is better than his overall of 45.13, he has, as Cullinan put it, "never got South Africa into the final and has held the prime batting position to do that". Deploying him in a different capacity is what Cullinan thinks will allow that to change, but only if South Africa's entire 50-overs philosophy changes.

"Fifty-overs cricket is not an extension of T20 cricket, it is a shortening of Test cricket," Cullinan said. "For that, you need a pattern of play and a structure, and at the moment South Africa don't have that. The guys only have a blurred understanding of that and that has to change. One-day cricket is about developing relationships, guys have to know their roles and trust each other. With so many changes, that can't happen."

For as long as the World Cup remains Kallis goal, South Africa's eleven is likely to be unsettled because of the question mark that sits over his constant availability. Kallis' workload needs to be managed and there is no guarantee he can play every ODI before the main event. He also needs to be kept as fresh as possible in Tests. And so the conundrum remains complicated.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 10, 2013, 18:19 GMT

    LIFE WITHOUT KALLIS: Sooner than later we will have to accept the imperious JK, probably the greatest cricketer to have played the game ever, will retire from all formats. Furthermore, JK will likely go just before his skip, Mr smith. Mr de Kock is needed now in Tests as a important spanner in ensuring CSA can ride this loss out. I think that a side that looks like this is the near future will be able to do such a job. G Smith+, A Peterson, H Amla, AB de Villiers, F du Plessis / JP Duminy, Q de Kock*, R McLaren / R Pieterson, V Philander, D Steyn, M Morkel, I Tahir.

  • Sharad on December 8, 2013, 18:34 GMT

    I think SA should leave out veteran Kallis now. he is not amongst the runs and he is a burden for team. SA should go for someone like Parnell in place of Kallis to give the side more balance. faf duplessis is also good prospect for world cup. SA should play young team to gather momentum for world cup. David miller should bat at no3 till wold cup. He is best batsman in SA. duminy is the only spinner and this side looks more balanced. 1.dekock 2 Amla 3 David Miller 4 faf duplessis 5 devilliers 6 duminy 7 philander 8 mclaren 9 steyn 10 morkel 11 tsotsobe

    kudos :) to SA team

    i think they can really become no2 odi team.

  • Dummy4 on December 8, 2013, 12:52 GMT

    Unless Kallis gets a handful of wickets when India bat shortly I would think that there is no longer any conumdrum! Hopefully Faf will be back soon to solve the problem.

  • Jeff on December 5, 2013, 22:59 GMT

    McLaren, Steyn, Morkel and Philander as the bowlers, Kallis and Duminy as the 5th bowler. You dont need numptey bowlers like Tahir and Tsotsobe.

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2013, 13:56 GMT

    @Harmony111 It may have been a "super-duper flat track" in the Final, but Kallis was named man of the match for his BOWLING. He picked up 5 wickets in the match; bowling well in those conditions is a remarkable achievement. In the tournament, he picked up 8 wickets in 3 matches at an average of 14.

    I don't see how India's win in this year's CT is worth more. The conditions weren't like traditional English conditions. There was very little swing. And about beating the home team in the Final, it was a shortened match so it doesn't count just like winning on flat tracks.

  • Harmon on December 5, 2013, 11:31 GMT


    Ah, did you mean the Champions Trophy that SA won in BD? Well that does not count cos it came on super duper flat tracks and it came against WI. Try to win something more substantial for eg winning the CT defeating the HOME team and then talk about Kallis winning anything of note.

  • Ali on December 5, 2013, 8:51 GMT

    If Kallis is to be used as a Bowling all rounder it makes no sense at all. He hardly bowls 10 overs in a match. When did he bowl full 10 overs in a match? Oh wait just checked. It was 18th January 2009 vs Australia in Hobart where he last bowled his 10 overs. That means since 5 years he hasnt bowled hi sfull 10 overs. How can we call him a Bowling all round now? How can he be a Bowling all rounder?

  • James on December 5, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    Kallis always has a relevance in the team if he is fit and willing. But to build a team around him is a blunder. SA certainly does not have that many great batsmen who can keep Kallis out of the team, he can be played in place of the less performing batsman- his bowling would be a bonus. Better batsman than him for ODIs would include ABD, Amla (possibly), Miller. The rest- DeKock, Duminy, Albie Morkel, all have comparable abilities currently.

  • Patrick on December 5, 2013, 8:34 GMT

    A nice problem to have but I think we need to go for two things in ODI formats - consistency in selection and batting depth. I don't believe the rotation policy works. Performance and success in sport in general is about momentum and messing with a successful formula is paramount to suicide. But it's very different to Test cricket in that you do not need to bowl teams out. You just need to score more runs than the other team. So having a couple of wicket-takers is important but we also need to have a bowling attack that can do a job. But get the top 7 right and stable. The bowling needs to be balanced and focused on strangling opposition batters. De Kok(b/w), Amla, Kallis (b/b), De Villiers (c/b/W), Duminy (b/b), Miller (b/b), Faf (b/b), Mclaren (b/b), Steyn, Philander, Tsootsobe/Tahir/Morkel. No place for Smith, he needs to get his form sorted out. This side will allow for a huge amount of flexibility and also provide consistency we need. You can rotate roles certain within this group

  • Zaki on December 5, 2013, 4:52 GMT

    Look who's saying that the guy with above 45 avg in WC has just 1 hundred in 36 WC matches, it's Daryll Cullinan, the guy who avgs 33, with 3 hundreds and 23 fifties in 138 matches, stupid bloke, measures a batsman by hundreds, what a joke! By the way, SA's greatest trouble is selection... I believe no Proteas fan wants freakin' Tsotsobe to play, he's a literal mouth-watering prospect for batsmen, he has leaked runs and given away matches so many times, the only way he 'gets' wickets is when batsmen try to go after him, under pressure created by Steyn and Morne! Plz SA, play this team... De Kock, Amla, Kallis, AB, Duminy, Miller, McLaren/Parnell, Botha/Tahir, Steyn, Philander, M.Morkel/de Lange

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