South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 2nd day December 19, 2013

Can Kallis make a U-turn?

He may have hit one of the roughest patches in his career, but Jacques Kallis, in the past, has shown he can recover spectacularly

Cullinan: Kallis should assess where his career is

At Mark Boucher's tribute dinner recently, he wished his best friend Jacques Kallis "best of luck for the next 20 years of your international cricket career". Amid laughter Kallis responded he would either stop enjoying it or stop contributing if he keeps playing to offer some reassurance to the audience. Those people may revisit that evening and wonder what Kallis thinks about that quip now.

A golden duck at the Wanderers - only the second of his career - is not a reason to condemn the man widely acknowledged as the best cricketer South Africa has ever produced to retirement. But because it's part of a streak in which he has only gone into double figures only once in the last six Test innings, it is an indication of something worrying.

Kallis has had the leanest Test year in 2013, for years in which he has played more than one match. In seven Tests, he's managed only 160 runs at an average of 16.00. He has not scored a century for the first time in a calendar year since 1997. In the three years preceding this one, he has averaged over 50.00.

More alarming than the sudden dip will be the manner in which he has been dismissed. In the five of his last six Test innings, including today Kallis has been out lbw to deliveries that have come into him, even if only slightly. On every occasion, he has played across the line and been late on the shot.

No example of that was clearer than today. Ishant, having bowled Hashim Amla the ball before, follow-up perfectly. He kept it full and directed it straight. Kallis looked a little slow on the shot, played across and knew he was out as soon as the ball struck the pad.

The method of dismissal could be a reflection of Kallis battling to judge the line quickly enough or simply a sign that he is short on confidence early on in his innings. As one of the most technically correct batsman around, it's likelier it is the second. That would not be too surprising considering the year Kallis has had.

He has been betwixt and between in terms of how he wants to manage what he admits are the twilight years of his career. Having said he wants to play one-day cricket, with the eventual aim of turning in the 2015 World Cup, Kallis initially made himself available for the Champions Trophy. He withdrew on the eve of the squad announcement citing a need for a break.

Since then, he has recommitted to the ODI team but his comeback has not been as successful as he would have liked. After being absent from the fifty-over squad for 19 months from March 2012, he scored a half-century on his comeback against Pakistan, but managed just 26 runs in the three innings after that.

South Africa rested him as soon as the series against both Pakistan and India were decided. While missing out on the Pakistan game with the series lost appeared a genuine attempt in managing Kallis workload, leaving him out of the India game could have been the selectors way of kindly nudging him to the exit sign in that format.

But if Kallis' career needs clipping, that should be the extent for now because Kallis still has plenty to offer in the longest format. He has had lean patches in Tests before - most recently at the end of 2011 when he scored just one half-century in seven innings - and recovered spectacularly. So there is reason to believe he will do it again.

Then, there were also concerns about his reaction times as well, particularly because he was being peppered with short balls by a young, quick Australian pack. Matters came to a head when Kallis recorded his first pair against Sri Lanka in Durban, some said his shelf life was over. Kallis responded with a double hundred in Cape Town and centuries on all three of the tours that followed.

The fourth visit - to the UAE a year later - did not bring the same success. With three single-figure scores and no wickets, statistically Kallis had the worst outing of his career. When Graeme Smith was asked if it was cause for concern, he brushed it off, adamant that the desire to continue playing at the highest level was still high for Kallis. No-one can doubt the hunger remains and the second innings may be the perfect opportunity to begin satiating the appetite.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 23, 2013, 22:37 GMT

    One thing you notice about Jacques Kallis is that he tends to go through periods where he doesn't score many runs and then suddenly he'll score five hundreds within a few innings. If you look at his innings you'll see this has happened on five seperate occasions throughout his test career. This tells you that when he gets in he makes his starts count.

  • Pundit on December 22, 2013, 18:36 GMT

    Kallis has much to offer. Look how he played in 2nd innings.... Wore being done by the umpire! My favourite player of all time! Pak supporter, but it love watching him. Best batsmen for the last 10 years.

  • srikanthan on December 22, 2013, 4:13 GMT

    Without doubt he has been the most valuable player. He was truly one of thos people who could have been selected for his batting alone or his bowling alone. But to be fair , one finds that after 38, the reactions suddenly slow and the fall is precipitous atleast in batting. We saw the same with Sachin Tendulkar. As Boycott says, the margin is just a few inches. That is all the difference between great performances and miserable failures. But if as an Indian, if I can put up with anyone beating SRT , I would say Kallis is the most deserving one, without doubt.Whether he does or not will not change the fact that he is the best all rounder next only to the great Sobers. As far Chanderpaul , somene says that he is great. Agreed he is still paying very well at 39, but greatness has to be measured against the best. His performances in Australia is quite bad. Just does not measure up to an SRT or a Lara

  • parjanya on December 21, 2013, 5:49 GMT

    @swarzi: In 2013 Kallis averages 16 if the commentators are to be believed. Shocking that he has not met your high standards, but am sure he won't lose any sleep over it.

  • arjun on December 20, 2013, 20:48 GMT

    @ swarzi " Between Apr. 2004 and Dec. 2007, SRT played 32 tests; batted 51 inngs which is a big chunk of his career." --------------- Wrong. Excluding Bangladesh and Zimbwave. Tendulkar played 27 matches and scored 1 hundred and 11 fifties with average of 32. (Much higher than Kallis average of 8 in 2013). Here is according to cricinfo : " filtered 2004-2007 match=27 innings=45 3 1369 109 Average=32.59 2870 47.70 Hundred=1 Fifties=11 1 194 4" ...... For Opposition team Australia remove Australia from query or England remove England from query or New Zealand remove New Zealand from query or Pakistan remove Pakistan from query or South Africa remove South Africa from query or Sri Lanka remove Sri Lanka from query or West Indies remove West Indies from query Start of match date between 1 Apr 2004 and 31 Dec 2007

  • arjun on December 20, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    @ swarzi , your hero Kallis averaging 8 in last 9 - 10 innings and what were you saying. Here is your quote " a man should show signs of greatness right through his career" . Averaging 8 in 2103 is sure sign of greatness. BTW Tendulkar did not average 8 in any year in life. Try again.

  • Graham on December 20, 2013, 13:38 GMT

    Even more than Tendulkar, Kallis has earned the right to go out on his own terms. He is the greatest all-round cricketer of all time. He is not far off Dravid's catching record, he is close to 300 wickets - and still bowling crucial overs in this latest test with Morkel injured - and has over 13,000 runs. I find it highly unlikely that any future Test player will even get close to a 200 catch, 300 wicket, 10,000 run triple.

    He is a phenomenon and it will take more than a poor run of form with the bat for SA to possibly think the team is better without him in it.

  • Ryan on December 20, 2013, 13:37 GMT

    I don't see how you can read into this at all. Every cricketer goes through lean periods. The only reason to get edgy is for somebody like Ricky Ponting, who went through an extended lean patch for a couple of years. Even then, he still averaged over 40 in the last part of his career, which is only poor compared to his overall career.

    Its unfair that just because the player is old and has been great, that people can think of them being replaced or forced to retire. Chances are their replacement will average that same 40 or possibly less.

  • randolf on December 20, 2013, 13:08 GMT

    sachin_vvsfan, there's no need for hostility in discussing these people who entertain us! We just need to be fair to all of them. It's unfair to sit in commentary boots or write in the media, about how great some are, when they're in no way better than those that are being ignored. Eg: When SRT was not able to cope with the best in the business, and thus, had to settle for mediocrity (playing regularly against Bang) to inflate his record, Chanderpaul played against everybody throughout his career, with flying colours! Now in his 40th year, Shiv is hooking and pulling fast bowlers, just as if he's 18, while since at age 38 SRT seemed not to be able to get the ball off the square; but people still want to say that he's greater than Chanderpaul - I don't agree - a man should show signs of greatness right through his career! Between Apr. 2004 and Dec. 2007, SRT played 32 tests; batted 51 inngs which is a big chunk of his career. But he only scored 100s vs Bang and avgd 24 in 2006! TRUTH!

  • Altaf on December 20, 2013, 12:53 GMT

    It's time to replace Duminy with Elgar after continuous flop show at crucial time of the games.