Jacques Kallis, the steam powertrain that couldn’t electrify the Proteas in the World Cup
One look at the statistics, and Jacques Kallis emerges as the greatest all-rounder ever. With over 13,000 runs in Test matche, around 11,500 runs in ODIs, close to 300 wickets in both forms, 200 catches in the traditional game and 131 catches in the truncated version, there is no all-rounder who can remotely match Kallis’ figures.
Inevitably, comparisons are drawn with the inimitable Garfield Sobers. But while Sobers was multi-faceted, Kallis was one-dimensional. Sobers was inspirational, Kallis was trite, and was at times even been dubbed selfish. Sobers used to turn around matches with his magical willow and his myriad skills with the ball; it is hard to remember the times when Kallis dazzled at either crease.
Kallis was an accumulator of runs and almost mechanical as a bowler. Both with the bat and the ball, he gave the impression of just going through the motions.
Yet it is impossible to ignore such a glittering record, which is more a reflection of his resilient mind and strong body than any incandescent talent that he was bestowed with. The sum total was a consistent performer, a steam engine that kept chugging on but never failed to reach its destination.
Greg Chappell made a pithy observation: "Jacques Kallis hadn’t set the stage on fire on his debut. He has, however, made slow and steady progress over the years and emerged as South Africa’s leading batsman and the world’s premier all-rounder."
Kallis was barely 20 during the 1996 Cricket World Cup and hardly noticed in a team that flattered to deceive. By 1999, he was an accomplished all-rounder. The conditions in the early English summer also suited his style.
With the ball swinging around, his technical proficiency with the bat was as effective as his lively medium-pace. He took the new ball with Shaun Pollock, and though he was unable to strike against India, he was a hit with the bat.
After the openers fell cheaply, Kallis had a succession of partnerships while the other batsmen departed after playing cameos. Coming in at No. 4, he added 46 with Mark Boucher, 48 with Daryll Cullinan, 64 with Hansie Cronje and 47 with Jonty Rhodes.
One stroke shy of a hundred, Kallis was tragically run out. He scored a well-compiled 96 off 128 deliveries with 7 boundaries. By then, South Africa were well on the way to victory, and Kallis was named man-of-the-match.
Kallis’ bat did not fire in the low-scoring encounter against Sri Lanka, with South Africa setting a target of 200 runs. But he struck early and repeatedly with the ball.
In his second over he had the dashing wicketkeeper-batsman Romesh Kaluwitharana caught by Cullinan. Three balls later he bowled the other swashbuckling opener Sanath Jayasuriya. In his next over he had Marvan Atapattu snapped up at the wicket by Boucher.
At the same total of 14, Pollock trapped the classy Aravinda de Silva leg-before. The fiery Allan Donald then came on, and had skipper Arjuna Ranatunga taken by Boucher. Sri Lanka slumped to 31 for five, and try as hard as they might, they couldn't mount a challenge, collapsing to 110 all out.
Kallis bagged three for 26 off 8 overs. He had shone brightly with first the bat, then with the ball, in South Africa’s two wins.
Dismissed for a duck in the next match, Kallis handed back the compliment to the English captain Alec Stewart. Soon he dismissed the other opener Nasser Hussain too, and had the hosts reeling at 6 for two. They collapsed in the face of the Proteas’ pace bowling assault, and Kallis bagged two for 29 off 8 overs.
Kenya provided feeble opposition, and though Kallis returned wicketless, he was back in form with the willow. He put on an unbroken 67 for the fourth wicket with Cullinan, and ushered in a facile win. Kallis had 4 fours and a six in his 81-ball 44.
After four straight victories, South Africa succumbed to a stunning upset at the hands of an inspired Zimbabwe, with Neil Johnson in terrific form. Kallis failed to take a wicket and had the ignominy of bagging his second duck, this time at the hands of the man of the moment, Johnson.
As South Africa floundered in the super-six game with Pakistan, sliding to 58 for five, Kallis combined with Pollock in a crucial stand of 77, and then another of 41 with the irrepressible Lance Klusener. Kallis fell for 54 and it was left to the heroics of Klusener to clinch a vital triumph.
The Kiwis hardly posed any problem. Kallis hit a brilliant unbeaten 53 off 36 balls, clouting 3 sixes and a boundary. He then claimed both the openers cheaply to return with a bag of two for 15 off 6 overs with two maidens. He claimed his second man-of-the-match prize of the tournament.
Kallis missed the thriller against Australia, but was back for the pulsating tied semi-final. He claimed the prized wicket of Adam Gilchrist, and then featured in another significant stand of 84 with Rhodes after South Africa had slid to 61 for four.
He was dismissed for 53 and in that last-over drama, the teams finished with the scores level. The Proteas were bundled out of the tournament as a consequence of the result of the previous match.
It was a fine stint by Kallis, averaging 52 with the bat with four half-centuries and claiming an average of a wicket per match at an economy-rate of less than four. He was, however, overshadowed by the stunning Klusener, and had to share the bitter disappointment of being edged out of a tournament in which glory could so easily have been his team’s.
The 2003 World Cup on home turf was disastrous for Kallis and South Africa. He was now no longer taking the new ball, and had become the backup bowler instead. The opening clash in which Brian Lara played a magical innings was one that South Africa let slip through their fingers, with Kallis for the most part being a bystander. He failed to take a wicket and was dismissed for 13.
The Kenya game was an easy ride with Kallis hardly in evidence. In that encounter of two brilliant hundreds by Herschelle Gibbs and Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming, Kallis had but a bit part. He put on 67 for the third wicket with Gibbs before departing for 33, his highest score of the tournament.
In the facile wins over minnows Bangladesh and Canada, Kallis was hardly noticed. But then there was a must-win face-off with Sri Lanka, and for the only time in the event Kallis performed with the ball.
He had Hashan Tillakaratne caught behind by Boucher, and then dismissed Kumar Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan. Kallis finished with three for 41, his only wickets of the tournament.
As South Africa set about chasing Sri Lanka’s 268, Kallis fell for 16. Down came the rain and the team as well, in a horrible misinterpretation of the Duckworth-Lewis method. It was a pity that after such a well-organised show in their own territory, the South African team let itself down badly, crashing out after the first stage.
It was a miserable performance by Kallis overall, with a top score of 33 and a total of three wickets in 6 matches.
By the 2007 event, Kallis was almost a part-time bowler. His batting, though, was in full bloom, and he reveled against the innocuous stuff rolled out by the trundlers from the Netherlands.
After AB de Villiers fell for a duck in the first over, Kallis raised 118 with skipper Graeme Smith in 18.4 overs, then another 105 with the rampaging Gibbs in less than 12 overs. Memorably, Gibbs slammed leg-spinner Daan van Bunge for 6 sixes in an over during that match.
Finally, there was a rollicking stand of 134 with Boucher in a little more than 9 overs. Kallis brought up his hundred off 97 deliveries.
Boucher smashed what was then the fastest fifty in the World Cup, off just 21 balls. Kallis was unbeaten on 128 off 109 balls, and hit 11 fours and 5 sixes. South Africa piled up 353 for three off just 40 overs.
There was no opportunity to bat against the other minnows Scotland, but up next was an encounter with the invincible Aussies. Matthew Hayden hit the fastest hundred in the World Cup off a mere 66 balls before Kallis eventually had him caught by Gibbs for 101.
Australia logged their highest-ever total of 377 for six in the showpiece event. The South African openers Smith and De Villiers responded brilliantly by putting up 160 in 21 overs.
Kallis walked into the breach but saw wickets tumbling at the other end. He was seventh out for 48, and by then his team was virtually out of the game.
Their first super-eight match with Sri Lanka was a cliff-hanger. The Lankans put up 209 on the board.
De Villiers was bowled by Chaminda Vaas for a duck off the last ball of the first over. Kallis joined Smith and the two shared a superb partnership of 94 in a little more than 16 overs. He then put on 65 with Gibbs.
At 160 for two after 32 overs, the Proteas were sailing. There were just 50 runs to get in 18 overs. But the wily Murali dismissed Gibbs and Boucher off successive deliveries to make things interesting.
Justin Kemp hung around for a while, and then Pollock allied with Kallis. Off the fifth ball of the 45th over, Lasith Malinga bowled Pollock, and off the next delivery dismissed Andrew Hall.
Kallis squared up to ‘Slinger’ Malinga in the 47th over. He edged the first delivery into the gloves of Sangakkara behind the stumps. Malinga had bagged the fifth hat-trick in World Cup history, and Kallis was gone for a fine 86 off 110 deliveries.
Incredibly, Malinga scattered the stumps of Makhaya Ntini next ball for a four-in-four. Suddenly, it was 207 for nine. Somehow the last pair got the winning runs, in one of the most thrilling matches ever seen at the premier event.
There was a relaxed game against the giant-killing Irish after that, and Kallis once again top-scored with an unbeaten 66 off 86 balls with 8 boundaries.
Another team that threw up surprises, Bangladesh, turned the tables on South Africa after a competent batting performance. Kallis was shaping up well but fell for 32 off 36 deliveries, having struck 5 boundaries. South Africa were trounced by 67 runs.
Up against the hosts West Indies, the Proteas came up with a clinical batting effort. After Smith fell early, Kallis allied with De Villiers in a 170-run partnership in 28.2 overs.
Kallis played another splendid knock of 81, having faced 86 balls and dispatched six of them to the ropes and one over it. With De Villiers getting a big hundred, South Africa posted their highest World Cup total of 356 for four.
Kallis had the great Brian Lara inside-edging on to the stumps, and then yorked Kieron Pollard. He finished with two for 36 off 8 overs, his best figures of the tournament. South Africa triumphed easily by 67 runs, exactly reversing the result of the previous match.
The yo-yoing continued with a defeat at the hands of the Kiwis. After the openers had fallen with just 3 runs on the board, Kallis put on 49 with Gibbs, but was dismissed for 22.
There was redemption against England, with Kallis not having to extend himself much.
A defeat in the semi-final seemed almost inevitable, looking at the way the Proteas were alternating between wins and losses, but more particularly in view of the spectacular form of the Australians. Sure enough, they were bowled out for 149.
The legendary Glenn McGrath yorked Kallis for 5, and the chequered run of the side came to an inevitable end at the Beausejour Stadium in St. Lucia.
Kallis had a brilliant tournament with the willow, scoring close to 500 runs in his 9 innings with an average as well as strike-rate above 80. His bowling was nothing much to write home about.
South Africa, as they have invariably done, performed well in the league stage of the 2011 World Cup, only to be upset by New Zealand in the quarter-final. Kallis had a moderate run with the bat, failing in the first three matches.
He played a vital role, however, in the big chase against hosts India, combining with Hashim Amla to put on 86 for the second wicket in just under 19 overs.
Coming in at 41 for one at the fall of skipper Graeme Smith’s wicket, Kallis took his time settling down. Once Amla fell for 61, De Villiers joined in another fruitful partnership. Soon Kallis brought up his fifty off 66 balls, having hit 2 fours. He then struck Harbhajan Singh for 2 boundaries on the leg-side in the 30th over.
De Villiers too opened up after that but Kallis was run out for 69. He had faced 88 deliveries, the pair having added 66.
The later batsmen rose to the occasion and South Africa pulled off a thrilling victory with 2 balls and 3 wickets in hand.
Ireland were beaten easily. Kallis was run out for the second time running, having scored 19 runs. He took two wickets for 20, bettering his earlier effort of two for 19 against Netherlands.
South Africa romped to a huge win over Bangladesh in their last group match. Kallis added 82 for the 4th wicket with Faf du Plessis.
Having brought up his half-century off 64 balls with 4 boundaries, Kallis swept a six and a four in successive overs. But he was caught and bowled off a straighter one from Shakib Al Hasan for 69, having faced 76 deliveries.
Progressing confidently into the quarter-finals, the Proteas faced underdogs New Zealand, who could muster just 221 in their 50 overs. Kallis walked in at the end of the first over, Amla having been dismissed in unlucky fashion.
Kallis set about putting his side on the victory path along with Smith. The duo raised the fifty of their partnership in 11 overs.
Having strung together a stand of 60 runs, Smith slashed Jacob Oram into the hands of backward-point. But De Villiers came in and started stroking the ball well too.
Kallis was in sight of his half-century when he hammered a short one, which looked to be sailing over the mid-wicket boundary. Oram appeared almost out of nowhere and leapt, grabbing the ball at just the precise moment.
Kallis was gone for 47, having played 75 balls and struck 3 boundaries. This was the turning point, as Oram produced a brilliant performance after that. South Africa collapsed to 172 all out, and were bundled out of the World Cup well before they seemed likely to.
Rarely did Kallis show any signs of brilliance in this tournament. He and the team returned disappointed, doubtlessly wondering about what might have been.
A tally of 1148 runs in the event at an average of 45.92 marks Kallis’ utility to his team. A look at his strike-rate, though, of 74.40 runs per 100 balls - the least among the 17 batsmen who have scored 1000 runs or more in the World Cup barring Javed Miandad, who played in a different era - completes the story.
Kallis was a technically correct, well-organised batsman, but without the dash or the flair of the truly gifted. That his bowling was ultimately just a bonus is borne out by the fact that each of his 21 wickets cost over 43 runs in 36 World Cup matches.
He was more a player for the statistician than for the spectator, and that is likely how history will judge him. In his five World Cup tournaments, Kallis was unable to inspire his team to the title, or even the final.
Kallis’ World Cup record:
Matches 36, Highest Score 128*, Runs 1148, Average 45.92, Strike-rate 74.40, Hundred 1, Fifties 9, Catches 13
Wickets 21, Average 43.04, Best 3/26, Economy 4.28
Also read - Highest partnerships by wicket in world cupPublished 29 May 2019, 18:06 IST