South Africa v New Zealand, 1st Test, Cape Town January 1, 2013

Kallis and Steyn on the cusp of individual milestones

The year is set to begin with accolades for two of South Africa's favourite cricketing sons. Having got to the top of the rankings, the team's goal is to ensure they stay there

When Graeme Smith drove into Newlands Cricket Ground in his white BMW X5 shortly after 9.30am on New Year's Day, he looked like a man who had enjoyed his festive break. The effects of relaxation were written all over his usually serious expression because for the first time in over a decade, Smith spent Christmas Day with his family.

While Smith took the opportunity to enjoy rare time off in the summer, he also used it to reflect on what more he wants to achieve as Test captain. The conclusion he came to was the same one he hinted at from the day he lead South Africa to the top of the rankings: he would not be satisfied with that alone.

In a time when the cricket power base has shifted significantly over small periods, Smith eyes an opening for South Africa to establish an era of dominance. Other members of the squad have said the same and the impression coming out of the camp is that they have their lenses fixed on the bigger picture.

"It's great to sit in team meetings and listen to the guys talk about how they're approaching the year. There is real motivation to be better and not just to sit on our laurels and say we were part of something special and that is enough for us," Smith said. "Everyone wants to be a part of more."

For two players, some of that "more," is likely to come in this Test match. Dale Steyn is one wicket away from joining the prestigious '300-wicket club', of which three other South African bowlers, Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini are already part of. And Jacques Kallis is 20 runs shy of becoming the fourth batsman in the world to amass 13,000 Test runs.

While Steyn is the spark in South Africa's bowling, Kallis is the very heart, mind, stomach and head of the Test team. His own body has begun to feel the effects of 17 years of international cricket but he has achieved more than most ever will in that time.

When the 13,000 comes up, Kallis will be the fastest to the mark in terms of number of matches. Cape Town will be his 159th Test, while Rahul Dravid got there in 160, Ricky Ponting in 162 and Sachin Tendulkar in 163 matches. Kallis would have played more innings than Tendulkar in reaching 13,000 and it seems Tendulkar is the only one Kallis cannot catch. With both Dravid and Ponting retired, there is every chance Kallis could pass them both and finish his career as the second highest run-scorer of all time.

Add to that that Kallis is the only one of the top 20 leading batsmen in the world who can be labelled a genuine allrounder and his status as one of the legends is unquestioned. He has often sailed under the radar with pundits reluctant to call him the best allrounder to grace the game but for Smith and South Africa, he is that and more.

"Everywhere we go now he is starting to get the due that he deserves," Smith said. "We hope that he gets even more. He is an incredible player. I don't think many people understand how immense getting to 13,000 runs is. South Africans will hopefully be very proud of him because he has put South African cricket on the map in a big way. He will go down as an all-time great and we can be proud of that."

That Kallis' major milestone will come on his home ground is fitting. Steyn has reason to feel the opposition is a chosen one. He announced himself as a major force on the international stage against New Zealand more than five years ago when he took 20 wickets in two Tests against them in 2007-08. In perfect synergy, Donald, the current bowling coach and one of Steyn's heroes, also took his 300th wicket against New Zealand.

If Steyn nips out his first victim at Newlands, he will become the joint third-fastest to the milestone. Dennis Lillee achieved the feat in 56 Tests and Muttiah Muralitharan in 58. Steyn will play his 61st match to put him level with Richard Hadlee and Malcolm Marshall.

Although Steyn has copped some criticism in recent times over what some see as waning powers, he maintains that it's more a case of him saving the savage spells for when they are most needed. His ability to swing the ball at pace is still unmatched and Smith will continue to rely on him to step up in pressure situations.

"Dale is our go-to guy and he always seems to make an impact for us," he said. "As a captain, he is a real asset to have because I can throw him the ball and I know he will make a play somewhere in the match. When he gets that bit between his teeth, you really start to see things happening and other guys feed off him."

Though the opposition are unlikely to pique the interest of England, Australia or India, the first two days of the match are sold out and Smith said it's this fixture his men most look forward to. "For us, Newlands is the marquee Test match of the year. It's a great atmosphere and we love playing here. The support that we get here is terrific. People wanting to be a part of this Test match is important to us," he said.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Chris on January 4, 2013, 10:32 GMT

    @ Xolile. On reflection, I rather like your "Quality" Criterion. However, examining the all rounder candidates shows that the top 10 batters contribute an average of 71.6 runs and 1.7 wickets per test; and the top 10 bowlers contribute 39.2 runs and 4.0 wickets per test. This implies an equalizing multiplier of 14. If we assume that catches and stumpings have half the weight of wickets, then the formula would be: runs+wickets*14+catches*7+stumpings*7 (per test averages), This would result in (igroring stumpings): 1.GS Sobers WI 93tests 80.37+2.53*14+0.59*7=129.9 2.JH Kallis SA 158tests 82.15+1.78*14+0.61*7=115.6 3.IT Botham Eng 102t 50.98+3.75*14+0.59*7=111.8 4.TL Goddard SA 41t 61.37+3.00*14+0.59*7=111.6 5.RJ Hadlee NZ 86t 36.33+5.01*14+0.23*7=109.7 6.WR Hammond Eng 85 85.28+0.98*14+0.65*7=108.0 7.RB Simpson Aus 62t 78.53+1.15*14+0.89*7=107.0 8.AW Greig Eng 58t 62.05+2.43*14+0.75*7=106.6 9.MH Mankad Ind 44t 47.93+3.68*14+0.38*7=105.7 10,CL Cairns...

  • Chris on January 4, 2013, 3:59 GMT

    @ Xolile Sorry, but your 18 constant is meaningless: since it is applied to everyone it is redundant; adding nothing; and subtracting nothing to/from the comparisons!!

  • Kulparkash on January 3, 2013, 4:55 GMT

    Well Written.. Even as an Indian I would rate Kallis as one of the best batsman and as the Best Allrounder ever to play cricket..Even in Australia last month, Australia were struggling against Kallis but he got injured and Australia amassed huge total.. Such is his capability even at this age!! But sadly, as stated, he has never been given the due he deserves..It does not matter if he surpasses Sachin's record or not because both should not be compared..As Ganguly once said Sachin maybe the best batsman but the best player would always be Kallis with his all round capabilities..As for records Sachin fears Kallis that is why he retired from one day where he was not playing much matches and not from tests where he performed so badly..

  • Dummy4 on January 3, 2013, 3:10 GMT

    I'm so proud to be a South African - I remember early on in Kallis' carreer 1994/95 he was plagued with back injuries and batted number 8 averaging almost 10 or so (may have been provincial from what I recall) , but once that cleared he hasn't slowed down or been injured in 17 years...this is almost ridiculous the amount of effort that he puts into his fitness while pushing himself to the extreme in batting as well as bowling!

  • Kazim on January 3, 2013, 0:05 GMT

    To leave out Ian Botham from the list of the best all rounders will be a sin. While Kallis and Sobers were batting all rounders , Botham was a great bowler who also batted well. Sobers (92 tests) and Botham bowled almost same number of deliveries in their careers (21,500) . Botham took 383 wickets while Sobers had 235. The bowling all-rounders get all opportunity to bat but a batting all-rounder gets a chance to bowl only if he is good. This is the reason Kallis, despite playing almost 60 tests more than Sobers and Botham, bowled fewer deliveries. Do Not forget , he played alongside 3 great S.African bowlers - Donald, Shaun Pollack and Dale Steyn. Yet he has taken 283 Wkts.. I will rate him over Sobers.

  • Chris on January 2, 2013, 23:16 GMT

    @ Xolile your ideas show some merit, but, you seem to omit fielding from your calculations; surely an essential element of being an all rounder. I cannot devine your purpose in the 18 multiplier in your criteria 2 and 3! As to quantity your criterion is grossly biased towards the modern day player; remember that WWII took at lest 6 years out of the careers of many of the contenders of that era; also far fewer tests were played by earlier players, because of the constraints of TRAVEL times and AMATEUR status. Finally, only a single (maybe combined) criterion can possibly provide an objective, rather than subjective, result. Maybe someone else can come up with a more acceptable measure. @ Advin specialist fielding positions are held by those most suited to them; as such they are, surely, an important part of being a true all rounder, nevertheless, the weight of catches, and stumping, is already reduced for the reason you state. All interesting so far, but I'm yet to be convinced!

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2013, 13:59 GMT

    Kallis is the Best All Rounder in all formats of the game and dare I say, of all legends in history too. Stern remains the best fast bowler in the current era. Now, as both have reached their milestones in the first day itself, I can say they deserve feats much greater then these. I hope they will continue to entertain us.

  • Ziyaad on January 2, 2013, 13:20 GMT

    Jacques Kallis is the best batsman of the modern era. He has played half his games in South Africa, where it is far more difficult to score runs than India for instance. Throw in his wickets, catches and performances in both ODIs and T20s, and even Sobers cannot touch him. It's pretty damn obvious. I'm not even really a fan of him but I can look at numbers objectively and say that, over a 17 year career, surely there is not a player who can compare to Kallis?

  • Hiren on January 2, 2013, 13:03 GMT

    Kallis can make as many runs as he wants but he'll never be able to pass Sachin's tally !! .....EVER !!! :D