Jacques Henry Kallis
October 16, 1975, Pinelands, Cape Town, Cape Province
Right hand bat
Right arm fast medium
No batsman prizes his wicket more highly, and no wicket in all of cricket is more highly prized. Jacques Kallis is the broad-shouldered colossus of the South African team, a figure whose looming presence inspires calm in some and dread in others.
Few players who belong to the modern age are a better fit for the notion of the classical cricketer. Kallis is a fine, forceful batsman who has at his disposal both a rock-solid technique and a mind impervious to distraction. Though his role as a bowler diminishes with each passing season, he will be remembered as a purveyor of sometimes surprising pace and swing, and awkward bounce. In the slips, his sure-handedness and rattlesnake reflexes make ridiculous catches look regulation.
Kallis announced himself as a batsman of international stature in his seventh Test, the drawn Boxing Day epic at Melbourne in 1997, when he scored a fighting 101 on a worn last-day pitch. Not even Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne could dislodge him before he had all but saved the match for South Africa.
Over the years Kallis has delivered many such innings, performances in which grit is a far more valuable commodity than glitz to a South African team that remains more confident in the field and with its fast bowlers in full cry than as a batting unit. Kallis has willingly shouldered the role of the fulcrum around which the wheel must try to turn. But, occasionally, he has unfurled a stroke of startling aggression that hints at what might have been.
Certainly, his lofted drive, which begins with a menacing backlift before uncoiling into the irresistible momentum of a mighty downward swoop of the bat and finishing in a twirl of Baroque, might be described as Mozart in motion. In the lightning flash of that fleeting instant it really does seem as if Kallis could, in the words of one observer, hit a six whenever he felt like it.
His critics, particularly those who have a limited understanding of the dynamics of the South African team, accuse him of not dominating attacks he has already ground into the dust, of unnecessarily slow scoring, and of failing to take the match situation into account as he plots his innings. All of which hints at selfishness, which is quite ironical, because his team-mates vouch for the fact that Kallis bats the way he does precisely because he puts his team first and his personal ambitions some way behind. It's the only way he knows how.
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