“Jacques Kallis has managed to be a great batsman without being a thoughtful one,” says Cricinfo’s Peter English in this opinion piece, and I agree completely; in fact I’d be inclined to use a few ruder words for Kallis myself. For years now I’ve thought of his batting as the perfect symbol for South Africa’s surprisingly timorous approach when it comes to crunch situations. As a team they’ve been good enough over the years to maintain a high success percentage in both forms of the game, but when the stakes are really high it’s invariably crash boom thud. (This is most notable when it comes to playing a Test series – or an ODI of any consequence – against Australia, the team they want to beat more than any other; and of course in their World Cup goof-ups.)
And right at the centre of it all, stonewalling away flamboyantly, is this incredibly versatile, naturally talented player who time and time again errs on the side of caution – refusing to take initiative when initiative is required – while still averaging nearly 70 in the past five years. Kallis is one of the reasons for the strong dislike of the South African team that I developed a few years ago. I’ve actually had nightmares about being strapped to a chair, eyes prised open (Alex-in-A Clockwork Orange-style), and being forced to watch a second-wicket partnership between him and Gary Kirsten; 180 runs in 100 overs or thereabouts.
Today Graeme Smith did just about the boldest thing I’ve ever seen a South African cricketer do against Australia, by declaring early and giving them nearly 70 overs to chase 287. But if (as English points out in his article) Kallis had shown a little more initiative while compiling his first-innings century, his team might have had more time to square the series.