The Underrated Superstar

Date: December 15, 2011 / Posted by control

The words ‘champion, legend and great’ are so often thrown around in the world of sport nowadays it is easy to forget their true meanings. However, there is no doubt at all that you can assign those words, with their dictionary meaning, to South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis for he epitomizes each of them perfectly.

But, you also have to ponder whether the man who is now in his 16th year of international cricket truly receives the kudos he so richly deserves. Kallis is currently playing his 148th Test, against Sri Lanka at Centurion. In his career to date he has amassed 12,005 runs at 56.9 to sit fourth on the all-time run scorers list. In terms of centuries he fairs even better with his tally of 40 second only to Sachin Tendulkar’s 51.

Yet, more often than not, when the vexed question of who is the greatest modern-day batsman is discussed Kallis often fails to get a mention. The two usual candidates are Brian Lara and Tendulkar, two men gifted with an innate flair and ability to entertain, yet Kallis’ average is superior to both.

The South African is more an accumulator of runs, very much in the Rahul Dravid mould with a defence that at times appears more impregnable than Gibraltar. The lack of glitz at the batting crease tends to work against that type of player when one considers the ‘greatest’ tag.

But that is the batting front. What none of the aforementioned can boast is a Test bowling record of any note. Kallis certainly can – 271 wickets at 32.3. With the ball he is seen of something of a workhorse, powerfully built and broad-shouldered, able to hit the bat hard with what nowadays is termed a ‘heavy ball’.

When you throw together his performances with bat and ball you get the true measure of Kallis’ ability – and it is enormous in the history of the game. You would be hard pressed to find an argument with Sir Garfield Sobers being the greatest all-rounder in the game – he was named by Wisden as one of the Players of the 20th century. But, when you look at the stats, little separates his performance with that of Kallis – 93 Tests, 8032 runs at 57.8, 26 centuries and 235 wickets at 34.

Again, it boils down to flare. Sobers could be explosive with the bat and with the ball delivered everything from medium-fast to left-arm finger and wrist spin. Sobers only had the opportunity to play in a solitary one-day international while Kallis has trotted out 317 times, accumulating 11,372 runs and snaring 267 wickets.

There is however one area of the sport where Kallis cannot, and will possibly never, be challenged. In the history of international cricket no player has had a bigger ‘direct’ impact in the sport. Across the three forms of the modern game, he has faced a total 42,518 balls and delivered another 29,249.

Those figures clearly display his durability, as he appears to keep turning out year after year as fresh as a primrose. Kallis has very seldom been sidelined in his 16 years – of the 162 Tests South Africa has played since his debut he has missed just 14.

He turned 36 at the end of October. He has been quoted as saying that he wants to play through until the next World Cup in early-2015. If he does, his legend will grow further. Hopefully, when the curtain finally falls he will be fully recognized for his stellar contribution to the sport.

Actually, it would be nice if he was mentioned more often nowadays when the pantheon of greats are discussed.