July 17, 2012
Jacques Kallis has a record that sits comfortably amongst the very best of the game. Batting in England though has clearly been his bane. An average of 29.31 in England as compared to his 56.78 overall is not a stat that he would be proud of. A few big name players do give him company in this regard too. Matthew Hayden, Kumar Sangakkara and VVS Laxman face a similar plight. But Kallis is perceived to have a tighter technique than the other three. That is why his batting travails continue to confound many.
Any other team would have felt the pinch of losing so many runs from one of their top order batsmen but surprisingly South Africa have been doing consistently well in England. Despite having a below par record, Kallis, has lost a series in England only once. Ironically, it came in 1998, which was his best tour with the bat individually.
Some other men like Graeme Smith have made up for the lack of runs from Kallis but it is the bowling attack that has helped South Africa remain a consistent force throughout. Allan Donald has been South Africa’s best bowler in England with 45 wickets at a measly average of 23. His last tour of England though was in 1998 which was incidentally, Kallis’ first.
This may come as a surprise to a few but from then onwards, Kallis has been South Africa’s best bet in the bowling department. He boasts of a better average than the likes of Makhaya Ntini (35.43) and is equal with Shaun Pollock in the wickets tally (35) despite having bowled 30 overs less.
The average of 27.51 is well below his career average of 32.51 and thus more than making up for his shortcomings with the bat. While this puts into perspective as to why Kallis is right up there with the greatest all-rounders the game has seen, it needs to be asked if Kallis can continue in the same vein for the upcoming tour as well.
South Africa possess a much more balanced attack now. Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander have proved that they can balance the pace attack between themselves. Kallis used to bowl on an average 13 overs per innings right up to 2010 but that has now reduced to 8.5. With him pushing 37 it would be realistic to expect him to continue to do the same for the upcoming tour as well.
With signs of his bowling prowess waning it’s all the more imperative for Kallis to right his batting wrongs in England.
It will also help him that his second wind with respect to batting has been as good as anyone’s in recent times. With averages of of 54.01, 53.82 and 57.45 in the last couple of years, Kallis will be in the right frame of mind going into the series.
One of his biggest concerns would be the quality of the current England bowling line up that put to shame some the Indian batting greats last year. It is an attack that is desperate to scalp the big names in order to gain a fearsome reputation.
Will Kallis be able to absolve himself off such a fate? Will he be able to exorcise his batting demons or Will he somehow find a way to surprise us and make his presence felt with just the ball?
That will be an interesting sub-plot to this marquee series.