South Africa v India, 3rd ODI, Centurion December 10, 2013

The Citi Golf carves its niche

Ryan McLaren has made a space for himself as an allrounder in South Africa's 50-over team, distinct from the role Jacques Kallis plays
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"You can't compare me to Jacques Kallis. That's like comparing a Citi Golf to a Rolls Royce."

That was Ryan McLaren's self-deprecating answer when questioned about his position in South Africa's ODI team now that Kallis had made himself available for the format again. Although they are allrounders, McLaren does not rate himself in the same category as Kallis, but his comment was not simply a mark of modesty. It was a sign of how they can both fit in.

When asked whether he thought some people might prefer Citi Golfs to Rolls Royces, McLaren had a speedy response. "Depends where you're driving." Indeed it does. Everybody may like the idea of the luxurious Rolls Royce but few can experience it on anything other than special occasions.

Most of us have to make do with some version of a Citi Golf, a workmanlike, everyday car that does the job without being too flash. As long as it's reliable, we're happy to use it for years. It won't be the most expensive or most well-kept car around, but it will be something we can call our own.

By using that analogy McLaren, perhaps unknowingly, aptly described the differences between Kallis and himself. Kallis has the aura of a Rolls Royce - and a drive like one. He has aged gracefully and has been allowed the space to do so. Between March 2012 and the ongoing series against India, Kallis had not appeared in an ODI because the team management wanted to preserve him for Tests.

With the Rolls Royce parked safely, South Africa started up the Citi Golf. McLaren assumed the allrounder's role but it was slightly different to the one Kallis performed. Instead of cruising serenely, "batting higher up and bowling a few overs," as McLaren put it, he was required for a less glamorous task. "I have a different role lower down the order at No. 7 and have to bowl at first or second change."

He hoped to carve a niche for himself, so that when the Rolls Royce was ready again, the Citi Golf could continue chugging along in its lane. McLaren developed skills different to Kallis. He worked on his batting so he could power South Africa in the final overs, like he did with 71 against India in Cardiff, and his handful of scores in the 20s against Pakistan. He became more of a bowling allrounder and worked on exploiting bounce, bowling the slower ball and honing his yorker. The results are evident: McLaren is 2013's third-highest wicket-taker in ODIs.

When McLaren was left out on Kallis' return, there was some dissatisfaction, most notably from Pat Symcox, who called for the selectors' heads. McLaren was promptly restored to the XI and convener of selectors Andrew Hudson said he would probably play more games than he misses.

The same does not apply to Kallis. Although he has looked a little rusty on return, he has been rested for the dead rubber in Centurion. Kallis' form may not be a concern - the 2015 World Cup is so far out that runs now may not be a consideration for that event at all - but finding the right combination around him should be. South Africa have not yet managed to do so.

In Durban, once Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla had laid the platform, Kallis was pushed down the order because the likes of AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and David Miller were tasked with accelerating the innings. The plan backfired and Kallis had to come in at No. 6, to little effect. In the end, McLaren ended up doing the finishing, taking 20 runs off the final over with Vernon Philander. It highlighted where South Africa's ODI team is headed. Sometimes a Citi Golf is better suited for the task than a Rolls Royce.

With no ODIs on their schedule after tomorrow for seven months, South Africa have time to mull over whom they would prefer in their 50-over set-up, or how they can accommodate both allrounders. For now, the Rolls Royce is resting and the Citi Golf and his colleagues are aiming to dent India's confidence further.

McLaren confirmed South Africa are looking to inflict mental blows on India ahead of the two Tests. "We want to keep a high intensity and energy, psychologically we want to make inroads," he said.

He also has a personal goal for the summer. "I want to get into a position where I can get in the queue for the Test team," McLaren said. He has played only one Test for South Africa, against England in January 2010, but has an impressive first-class record. With South Africa's No.7 spot up for debate, McLaren hopes the selectors will consider a Citi Golf for the role.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on December 11, 2013, 9:10 GMT

    He is showing more consistency in bowling than Albie Morkeil

  • Testcricketistop on December 11, 2013, 6:28 GMT

    I firmly believe Kallis' time in ODI's are over, his inability to score runs at more than a run a ball as always been an issue.

    He is a luxury in the team at the moment.

    If we lose early wickets then he is still useful, but he should only come in in the first 15 overs, after that he is of no benefit to the team as he scores at 4.5 runs to the over.

    As for choking, the pressure in chasing increases on the other batsmen if he only scores at what can only be called a pedestrian rate.

    We need batsmen who can up the ante, and he simply isn't it.

  • dummy4fb on December 11, 2013, 5:11 GMT

    @Proteas-13thman: it's always nice to have a good few options when it comes down to the bowling side of things but a team of Jack-of-all-trades won't master much. Possibly a better idea for the 20 over game.

    The balance of the 50 over team should be of as much concern as a test side. All said and done, Maclaren certainly has proven his place in the team! :)

  • DaisonGarvasis on December 11, 2013, 4:44 GMT

    A City gold named "McLaren"???

  • Proteas-13thman on December 11, 2013, 0:49 GMT

    Well I think the ALL-ROUNDER department is looking better~! Kallis is the best simple as that and to spit DOMINGO he SHOULD be a priority since with him there we are less likely to CHOKE.

    Anyway here are some all-rounders(current) that could make a team to play about almost anyone : Kallis , Mclaren , KYLE Abbott , Marchant De Lange (he will learn to bat ) , JP duminy , Wayne Parnell ,Robin Petersen , FAF and Vernon Philander(seems handy enough with the bat). Thats 9 players to make 3 part spinners , 5 pace bowlers , almost everyone can hit a ball when needed to slog AND one genuine BATSMEN.

    Now image we add De kock , steyn , morkel and AB , Tahir and Amla to the mix and you have a ODI side that could play anywhere.

    SO if i were a ODI selector I would just go for ALL of our alrounders instead of fringe players...

    Any one agree?

  • sharadgargconnect on December 10, 2013, 19:34 GMT

    He is the best allrounder in SA side. He can take 5 wickets regularly. At the same time he has pace and bounce to surprise the batsman on any pitch. He is a better player than jack kallis of modern times. He can hit 50-60 in no time. He should be promoted up the order if SA has to win this world cup 2015.He can really become Lance klusener.

  • dummy4fb on December 10, 2013, 18:08 GMT

    That "Citi Golf" is turning into McLaren F1.

  • pjd_Howzat on December 10, 2013, 17:36 GMT

    When he bowls those yorkers, he is more McLaren than City Golf

  • Unomaas on December 10, 2013, 17:16 GMT

    Hey!!!

    I drive a Citi golf! No making fun ! :(