How South Africa’s lack of a world-class all-rounder tarnished their number one status
South Africa had it all. They were the number one team in the world, they had the number one bowler and batsman, but suddenly everything changed and now the Proteas are struggling to maintain their supreme status that they held for more than four years.
And the answer to the question might be the lack of finding a decent (not necessarily great) all-rounder.
SA sans Kallis
For 18 years, the Proteas were spoilt as they had one of the greatest and most valuable players of all time– Jacques Kallis. Since his retirement from Test cricket in 2013, South Africa has had the burden of replacing the world-class all-rounder and it has not been easy.
They’ve tried everything from putting an extra batsman to putting an extra bowler and left the all-rounder's role to a part-timer, JP Duminy. Although Duminy has done well with his off break, he is not a good all-rounder. He is average; he is a batsman who can bowl a bit, just like Dale Steyn is a bowler that can bat a bit.
Now you may think I’m harsh on Duminy, but my definition of an all-rounder consists of a man or woman with the talent to excel with both bat and bowl. In proving that a player is based on their statistics in the individual aspects, i.e. bowling and batting.
Do they make consistent knocks and do they have an average above 35? Do they take consistent wickets and can they bowl over 30 overs a day and is their bowling average below 30? If you answered yes, then you are an all-rounder (in my book).
Lack of all-rounders everywhere
Looking at the cricketing world today, there aren’t any or many talked about all-rounders in the international scene. It’s impossible to find a player who can even scrape near the calibre and class of Jacques Kallis, Andrew Flintoff, Imran Khan and Gary Sobers. There are a few that stand out as real all-rounder’s, such as Shakib Al Hasan and Moeen Ali. Then there are those who are good, but who won’t be remembered as being one of the great all-rounder’s of the game.
South Africa were blessed in the late 90s and early 00s when they had Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener, Andrew Hall and Kallis. But now the Proteas are sitting with no settled option.
Wayne Parnell and Ryan McLaren were thrown into the mix, but didn’t impress the selectors enough to cement their position in the squad. Albie Morkel was the closest bet (limited overs wise) to fill the all-rounder's void as he is an explosive batsman and good bowler, but he still mysteriously manages to not get selected and don the Protea shirt. David Wiese is the only other all-rounder the team has faith in, but he still hasn’t made an immense impact.
And in 2016, the Proteas are without Kallis and Graeme Smith at the helm, and the South African team have lost their number one status they worked so hard for.
There are a few reasons why, but I honestly feel that once South Africa sort out their weak captaincy issue and find a confident and consistent all-rounder, the teams winning ways will hopefully be back on track.
Stokes- an example
A great example of where another team has capitalised on their all-rounder in the longer format of the game came against South Africa in the New Year Test this year. English all-rounder, Ben Stokes, scored the second fastest double century hitting 258 off 198 balls at Newlands. In South Africa’s first innings, Stokes went on to get a wicket and bowl 28 overs for his side. That’s an all-rounder.
South Africa did not have an all-rounder in the Test series against England at home. Although Duminy was present in the first Test, he got dropped in the second and third match. Part-timers Dean Elgar and Stiaan van Zyl, South Africa’s opening batsmen, bowled more than 20 overs each in the Test series thus far and share five wickets between them.
Surely this proves how important and impactful an all-rounder is to a team.
If South Africa wants to regain their number one position, they need to sit down and look closely at what’s missing and at what’s needed.
It will be hard to find a player similar to the great Kallis, but South African fans are not looking for a copyrighted Kallis. They are looking for a potential young player who will uplift and steer the team to their glorified days and inspire the nation to believe in their team again.
And at this moment, South African fans need all the hope and luck they can get.