"We couldn't out Gavaskar at all", wrote Lord Relator after the India opener tormented West Indies throughout the four Tests in 1970-71. Four decades later, the Indians might want to pen something similar to honour Jacques Kallis after a phenomenal series from the South African. In three Tests, Kallis scored all of 498 runs and was dismissed a mere three times in 870 deliveries. Of those three dismissals, one was a freak run out, and another was the result of arguably the best ball of the series. It was a phenomenal series for a batsman who is a legend, and yet, perhaps, hasn't received the sort of recognition he deserves.
Kallis' series average of 166 is the sixth time he has averaged more than 100 in a series, and that excludes a couple of series - against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe - when he wasn't dismissed even once in a series and hence didn't have an average.
Kallis has been so consistent through most of his career that his runs have almost been taken for granted, which is perhaps the biggest compliment one can pay him. Only in the first three years of his Test career did he struggle a bit, with his average barely touching 30 in his first 22 Tests. Thereafter, his career took off spectacularly, with his average in the last 12 years exceeding 62. In these 12 years, his annual average has topped 60 seven times. On the other hand, his only lean year during this period was in 2008, when he scored one century in 23 innings and averaged 31.66. Many questions were asked about him then, but over the last couple of years, Kallis has, much like Sachin Tendulkar, answered all those queries quite emphatically. He is 35 now, but there's no reason not to expect this run to continue over the next three to four years. (Click here for Kallis' batting career summary.)
Kallis' stats over the last 12 years are incredible, and they're good enough to make him the most successful batsman during this period - he's the only one to average more than 60. He has also scored the most hundreds - 38, to Ricky Ponting's 37 and Tendulkar's 34. Often, the debate over who is the best batsman in the world has been restricted to Tendulkar, Ponting and Brian Lara. Shouldn't Kallis be in the mix too?
And for those who believe Kallis' average has been inflated by matches against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, here's an eye-opener: even when those matches are excluded, Kallis' average over the last 12 years is the best, almost four runs clear of the second-placed Ponting.
Admittedly, Kallis plundered those weaker attacks to get his share of runs, averaging 169.75 against Zimbabwe and 79.25 against Bangladesh, but his stats against the better teams are outstanding too. He started slowly against Australia early in his career, but in his last 12 years he averages 46.93 in 18 Tests against them, and 50.57 in nine Tests in Australia. (Click here for Kallis' career summary since January 1999.)
A closer look at the contributions of Kallis and Tendulkar reveal remarkable similarities: both have scored a little more than 16% of their team's runs through careers that have extended beyond 140 Tests. The percentage of their teams' centuries scored by them are also almost exactly the same: Tendulkar's 146 in the first innings in Cape Town was the 200th century by India in the Tests that Tendulkar has played, of which his contribution is 51. Kallis, meanwhile, has made 40 out of South Africa's 160 centuries in the matches he has played.
The stats are slightly different for Ponting, which shows the relative support that the three batsmen have got from the rest of the line-up. While India and South Africa have relied a lot on Tendulkar and Kallis, Australia have had others to contribute the runs and centuries.
VVS Laxman's exploits in the second innings have deservedly won him plenty of praise over the last year, but overall, Kallis' second-innings numbers are better than anyone else's: in 101 attempts, he has scored ten centuries and averages 60.51, which is more than five runs better than the next-best. In fact, Kallis' first century against Australia was in the fourth innings, in the MCG Boxing Day Test way back in 1997. Faced with a target of 381 and around four sessions to bat, Kallis led the way with a dogged 101 off 279 balls, as South Africa batted 122 overs and saved the Test. His next second-innings hundred didn't come till the beginning of 2004, though he almost got one again at the MCG in the Boxing Day Test in 2001, getting run out for 99 in an innings when the second-highest score was 23. Till around 2001, Kallis' second-innings average was in the mid-40s, but since then it has soared, thanks to six centuries in the last four years.
Kallis' technical excellence is such that pace and spin come alike to him. Since the beginning of 2002, he averages more than 50 against both, with only a couple of bowlers getting the better of him: Mitchell Johnson has dismissed him five times at an average of 16, and James Anderson has nailed him six times at an average of 24.16.
Against spin, though, Kallis has been unstoppable, averaging more than 95. Harbhajan Singh has dismissed him six times in Tests since 2002, but Kallis averages 57.16 against him; against Shane Warne, who has got his wicket four times during this period, Kallis averages 38.80. Whichever way you look at it, there are very few holes you can pick in Kallis' Test career.