SA has produced the best allrounders - Bacher
South Africa is home to more world-class allrounders than any other nation, according to former Test captain and administrator Ali Bacher. In his new book, Jacques Kallis and 12 other Great South African All-Rounders Bacher and author David Williams pay tribute to the country's premier allrounders, who Bacher believes are the stand-outs in their field.
"David and I are of the opinion that this country has produced more great allrounders than any other Test-playing nation," Bacher told ESPNcricinfo ahead of the publication's launch. "Most other teams only had one great allrounder at a time but South Africa had many."
Bacher made reference to the likes of England when Ian Botham starred for them and Pakistan in the time Imran Khan played and compared that to South Africa's stocks. "There were two periods when South Africa had four allrounders in the same team. I captained Eddie Barlow, Tiger Lance, Mike Proctor and Trevor Goddard. And then if you look at the team Hansie Cronje led, they had Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener and Brian McMillan."
In addition to the names mentioned above, Jimmy Sinclair, Aubrey Faulkner, Basil D'Oliveira, Tony Greig and Clive Rice make up the other men the book examines. While Bacher says "Garfield Sobers remains the greatest cricketer of all time," he hopes to shed light on the talent South Africa has produced.
He is particularly proud of the comment Steve Waugh made during an interview with him at Lord's this year. "Steve Waugh called Jacques Kallis 'one of the greatest cricketers of all time,' and that is really a compliment worth sharing," he said.
Although Bacher had personal interactions with 10 of the 13 cricketers, writing the book "told me things I didn't know about them." For example, he spent time with Basil d'Oliveira's family in Cape Town. "They showed me the house where he was born and from which the family were evicted when the Group Areas' Act came into being. And I also went to the point where he would run at Signal Hill. It was a wonderful day spent with them," Bacher said.
D'Oliveira's fitness regime was not the only one Bacher took note of. Rice, the only inclusion in the book who did not play Test cricket, was also known for his athleticism. "He was one of the first cricketers to really place an emphasis on physical fitness. After training he would sprint around the field and he always said he just wanted to be the fittest cricket around so when the time came to play Test cricket he would be ready," Bacher said.
Rice never donned the whites for South Africa (he played three ODIs) but many believe he would have been exceptional if he did. "Mike Proctor said of him, 'He always gave his best shot. If given the opportunity at Test level, he would have been considered one of the best allrounders in history,' Bacher recalled.
Proctor himself called South African provincial matches among "the toughest he played," according to Bacher, which speaks of the quality of the allrounders the country has produced. Through the work, Bacher would find a common thread running through all the men he featured. "They all have tremendous commitment and passion and they all work hard at their skills," he said.
Bacher does not have an answer for why the number of South Africa's seam-bowling allrounders has dwindled in recent years but is hopeful more will be discovered soon, because he thinks it can only be to the benefit of the national team. "As a captain, it's definitely easier when you have allrounders in your side," he said. "You can effectively be playing with 13 or 14 men on the field. That's a huge plus."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent