Jacques Kallis – Greatest All-Rounder of All Time

South Africa has always had all-rounders aplenty. The cricket structure was nurtured with a vision of future talent. They have always encouraged players to give the maximum thrust to their abilities. If one could bat as well as bowl, it meant a better chance for him to survive in a field flooded with talent. Jack Kallis is a bright example of the success of the system. The year-round demands of the modern game count against genuine all-rounders sustaining a career in Test-match cricket.
When Hansie Cronje was being groomed as a captain and an all-rounder, the South African selectors had an eye on Kalis too, since the lad was seen as one willing to grasp things quickly. Kallis has this innate ability to adapt, and the team has gained immensely as the all-rounder has delivered.
Andrew Flintoff was influential for England with both bat and ball for a few years before his body complained, but Jacques Kallis confounded the argument that it could not be done for a prolonged period. Kallis is the product of a system that strongly believes in grooming youngsters.
The talent, as it was in his case, is identified early and put on the right course. The grind is churning out mentally strong cricketers who revel when the chips are down. Jack Kallis, from the time he toured Sri Lanka in 1995 as an under-19 player with a lot of promise, has remained a fiery competitor, which reflects in his consistency. 
His fast-medium bowling may have been his second-string, but from 1998 to 2008, he averaged 22 wickets a year in Tests as well as 875 runs. He was the nearest thing Test cricket had seen to a great all-rounder since the days of Kapil Dev, Imran Khan Richard Hadlee, and Ian Botham in the early 1980s. He was also a superb slip catcher, in the same class as Botham himself.
It has taken Kallis five years to realize his ambitions and meet some of the goals that he has set for himself. To shine with the bat and then play the role of a bowler is not an easy proposition in contemporary cricket. A player has to really survive to maintain his focus and fitness levels. Kallis has come, and his flying colors speak for his commitment.
Jack Kallis was central to the success the South African team built over the years. He was the rock on which a powerful batting unit was built. He lent invaluable support to a strong pace attack with the ball, swinging it markedly when conditions were right, and missed very few of the many edges that came his way in the cordon.
In the home series against the West Indies in 1998, he was the principal character in South Africa, sweeping the contests 5-0. It was sensational stuff; it characterized the quality of South African cricket, and in Kallis, the nation had found a cricketer of substance. The series against the West Indies was a landmark for Kalli’s
A dull debut against England at home in 1995 was not in keeping with his talent, but he crafted a place for himself in the side with an improved show in the subsequent seasons. Just eight runs and wicketless spells against England had cast a shadow on his capabilities, but Kallis managed to stay in the squad with his useful batting in the following series against Australia and then at home.
A maiden half-century against Pakistan in 1997-98 at Rawalpindi warned him up for the next season, and two months later he was shipping the Aussies to MCG for his first Test century. But it was just the beginning. His confidence level obviously went up, and he was soon built into a talent worth harnessing.
Back to that series against the West Indies, which cemented his place in the team. He collected 485 runs at an average of 69 through hard work and produced some delightful cricket at Cape Town. His home crowds are being treated to two vintage knocks of 110 and 88. He then capped it with spells of two for 34 and five for 90.
The statistics are essentially meant to highlight his value as a genuine all-rounder. He had had just an average tour of England, and that was precisely why Kallis rated the series against the West Indies as the turning point in his career. It has been steady progress for Kallis since then.
Centuries against New Zealand and Zimbabwe showed him as a strong competitor and a reliable batter away from home, too. Then he graduated with consistent performances as one of the senior and significant members of the side, and he celebrated his status by recording another brilliant innings of 160 against New Zealand.
From a modest start, when he garnered 275 runs in 1996, Kallis has made rapid progress each year and reached his peak in 2000, when he figured in 39 matches and aggregated 1,300, strangely without a century to his credit. He came close to it against Zimbabwe at Port Elizabeth, but was left stranded at 98 and then got out seven runs short against New Zealand at Kimberley.
His match-winning unbeaten 100 against Sri Lanka at Paarl was a class act. Capable of effecting crucial break-throughs, he added teeth to the South African attack and has become the most valuable player in the team for many seasons now.
In late 2008, South Africa became the first visiting team for 15 years to win a series in Australia. Jacques Kallis contributed 187 runs and seven wickets. Therefore, a few months later, they ended Australia’s long reign at number one in the Test rankings. They only stayed top for a few months but regained the position in England in 2012.
Jacques Kallis had an outstanding match at the Oval, scoring an unbeaten 182. And after that, reviving his bowling to good effect, his first-inning dismissals of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell shifted the game’s momentum. South Africa was still number one when he played the last of his 166 Tests the following year.
Jack Kallis Test figures are truly awesome: 13,289 runs, 292 wickets, and 200 catches. But he was generally not a player to turn a game with an explosive passage of play in the way Imran or Botham might have done. That was not his style, nor was it’s South Africa’s. Allan Donald recognized his class very early to laud Kallis when he reflected in international cricket.
He said Kallis looked like the best all-rounder in the world. His batting maturity included bowling quickly and taking some wonderful catches at first slip. Such praise from Allan Donald must rank as a glowing jewel in Kalli’s crown. He is also commenting; he bowls as quickly at times as anyone else in the South African squad—apart from me. 
His sheer dependability suited a team that tended to put a premium on minimizing risks. Rather like Sachin Tendulkar, who alone has bettered his tally of 45 Test centuries. Jacques Kallis had an immaculate technique and an amazing ability to stay focused on the business of scoring runs, whatever the potential distractions.
Some observers felt he was impervious to the match situation and simply played for himself, but this was not a view shared by his teammates, who insisted there was no more selfless cricketer. Perhaps he was simply concentrating so thoroughly that he appeared to be disregarding everything that did not affect the next delivery. There were no fundamental flaws in his method, especially as he was happy to play within himself for the most part.
In fact, if he had a fault, this might have been it: his tempo was the same whether he was facing the bowling of Bangladesh or Australia. But there was no arguing with the results; the Jack Kallis Test average of 55.37 is higher than Tendulkar’s. And indeed, they are higher than every other batsman with 8,000 runs to their name, except for Garry Sobers and Kumar Sangakkara.
It is hard to recall times when he appeared ruffled, save for a fiery spell from Flintoff at Edgbaston in 2008, which ended with Jack Kallis off stump being sent flying several yards by a ball that swung late. In Jacques Kallis’s defense, he and several of his teammates had problems picking up the ball from Flintoff against the backdrop of the committee room windows above a sightscreen not tall enough to do its job.
He was also kept relatively quiet by Muttiah Muralitharan and did not score a Test century against Sri Lanka until after Murali had retired, but he was hardly alone in that. Kallis, a protégé of Duncan Fletcher in Western Province, did not take long to make his mark after being first chosen for South Africa at the age of 20.
He struck a stylish half-century in his fifth one-day international against England in Durban, and in his seventh Test match, he scored a match-saving hundred in one of the toughest of all environments, versus Australia in Melbourne, against an attack that included Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.
That performance came after some low scores in his early games and after his part in a tour of Pakistan had been cut short by appendicitis, but there were to be a few more hiccups after that. A season at Middlesex played an important part in his development. I remember John Hardy, who played at Western Province and was a mate of Jacques’, saying when he was on the way up that he would be a stupendous player, and so it proved.
Jack Kallis quickly became an automatic selection, and the only time his methods were questioned by the South Africans themselves was in 2007, when some slow scores at the World Cup led to his being left out of the squad for the inaugural World Twenty20. But he learned his lesson quickly and was the second-highest run scorer in his second season at the Indian Premier League.
The Jacques Kallis Test record against Australia was one of the best measures of his quality. He scored more than 2,000 Test runs against them at an average of 45.43 with five hundred, one of only six batsmen to score 2,000 runs against them since 1995 (he also took 51 wickets). If it was a long time before South Africa had the satisfaction of winning a series against them,
They did get there in the end, beating them in Australia in 2012–13 (when Kallis scored 147 in Brisbane) Valuable though his bowling was, Kallis was probably underrated as a bowler, partly because the batting naturally took priority and partly because he himself was sometimes reluctant to bowl. Jacques Kallis was the man on whom he could rely once he discovered that this professional meant business.
You could understand why, because massive run-making takes time and effort, but he was good enough and strong enough to be a frontline bowler alone. He could bowl a heavy ball, was deceptively quick, and was very tidy. He once bowled South Africa to victory in a Test match at Headingley with figures of six for 54 that anyone would be proud of.
What was astonishing was that he was so durable for so long. He had to look after himself at the end, which was why he cut back on his bowling, but by then he had got through an immense amount of work. Quite apart from what he did in Tests, he scored 11,579 runs and took 273 wickets in one-day internationals.
Jacques Kallis fast-medium bowling may have been his second-string but from 1998 to 2008 he averaged 22 wickets a year in Tests as well as 875 runs.
Jacques Kallis fast-medium bowling may have been his second-string, but from 1998 to 2008, he averaged 22 wickets a year in Tests as well as 875 runs. Photo credit: Cricinfo