Is Kallis the greatest Test player ever?

Last Updated: Sat, Mar 31, 2012 08:00 hrs

To put the legendary Jacques Kallis in perspective in Indian eyes, how would you react to a batsman who has a chance of going past Rahul Dravid's Test tally? Or how would you react to a bowler who has as many Test wickets as pacer Zaheer Khan?

Now imagine the same player achieving both feats and you get an idea of how Kallis is actually two players rolled into one. Despite being one of the most under-rated international cricketers around, he has a chance to go on to become maybe the greatest Test players of all time.

A perfect all-round record

A brief summary of his complete international career leads to astonishing figures: He has close to 25,000 runs, more than 500 wickets and more than 300 catches to boot.

While ODI teams went ahead with their 7-batsman theory, South Africa is the only team in the world which can talk of a 7-batsman 5-bowler Test theory if it wants to. Kallis is a full- time batsman along with being a full-time bowler.

Indeed, apart from his 12,000 odd Test runs, Kallis has also sent down close to 19,000 Test balls in his career. That’s a perfect all-round record.

His fast-medium swing has been a regular feature of South Africa for many years now even as many fast bowlers have come and gone for the Proteas. Like Dravid, he too is a master of the No. 3 batting position.

A befitting honour for the Sobers of our generation

He is has 42 Test centuries and if he plays for around 2 more years, then he could well touch the 50 mark like Sachin Tendulkar.

He also has many records like scoring a Test century in five consecutive matches.

As far as exclusive clubs go, he is the only Test player in the world to score more than 10,000 runs and take more than 250 wickets.

A Wall for India

His Test average is close to 57, which is the highest among all his contemporaries. Indian conditions have been the undoing of many great overseas batsmen. The Australians, South Africans and Englishmen play finely all over the world but perish when they come on Indian shores.

Not Kallis. In India, that average marginally goes up to 58. Overall with India he averages an astonishing 72. Take a look at the Test series results between India and South Africa from 2001 to 2010: 1-1, 1-1, 1-2, 1-0, 0-1.

India was the No. 1 Test team for 20 months and despite its many achievements just couldn’t shut out South Africa. The biggest thorn in the side has always been Kallis. In fact when we suffered a rare 0-2 defeat on home soil in 2000, Kallis was the man of the series.

While VVS Laxman's rivalry with Australia is legendary, one could say the same for Kallis and India.

Kallis was also part of the Test team that finally beat Australia in Australia in 2008. In the Perth match where South Africa chased a record target of 414 for victory, Kallis contributed well with two half-centuries and a 3-wicket haul.

A hit in ODIs too...

South Africa have never ever won the World Cup. But they did win the ICC KnockOut Trophy in 1998, which is as big an achievement as the WC. That is also thanks to Kallis. Kallis emerged as the leading wicket-taker in the tournament and also was declared man-of- the-series.

His man of the match winning 5-wicket haul in the final ensured that South Africa won their greatest tournament quite comfortably.

He can also play fast and once belted an ODI half-century in 24 balls. He has hit the most number of sixes by a South African batsman.

Kallis has received many awards throughout his career from the likes of ICC and Wisden. He features regularly at the top of the all-rounder rankings. English cricketer Kevin Pietersen once also called him the greatest cricketer to have played the game. Indian great captain Sourav Ganguly once called him the "most effective" player in Tests.

So if you are wondering why India and South Africa are playing a one-off Twenty20 in honour of Kallis, then don't.

Kallis deserves every bit of respect he gets.

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

He blogs at

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