Friday, January 06, 2006

The boy in the bubble

“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.


  1. shocker of a win from Aus. though what made greame smith believe that he could knock out australia when the required runrate was under 5 beats me...

    and they managed to salvage this match after a disastrous first innings bowling performance. of course they had adequate help from their stock 13th player: weather.

    ever notice how they periodically get help from this 13th player when they are doing badly?

  2. Australia, I think, were lucky to win this one. Had the rain not intervened yesterday, things would have been very different indeed. I agree with the philosophy behind Smith's declaration. They had no chance of winning the series, so going for broke at least enlivened the game somewhat.

    That said, I too share an almost pathological dislike of the South African side. They strike me as boring, lacking character, and generally uninspiring. Jonty Rhodes and Allan Donald were exceptions. Even Kallis, though you can't ignore the weight of his figures, is not the most inspiring Cricketer around.

    Hopefully under Smith some of that will change and more such exciting Tests will ensue. I'm reminded of the Hobart Test in 1996-97 between Australia and New Zealand, where a couple of declarations on the last day left us with the prospect of an exciting run-chase. There, though, Australia lost a few wickets and stonewalled their way to a draw. I daresay they'd have done the same today had Ponting and Hayden not stamped their authority on the game.

  3. Agree that Australia were lucky to win this one. Altho also think that it takes a special kind of talent to win when the slightest opportunity presents itself.

    Unfortunately for Graeme Smith, the timing's just horrible. Its the last game before the tri-series and South Africa will carry the ghost of sydney into that tournament. Australia, on the other hand ...

    The other thing about Graeme Smith. I've seen him captain in the 20-20s in the UK. His kind of spunk works wonders in the shorter term forms of the game. Test cricket tho is a different deal. Hopefully, time will teach him that

    Kallis has always been too dour for the way the game's played today. Unfortunately, in this test, his efforts at getting the game to a stage where only two results were possible backfired completely.

  4. nice post. thanks.