Jacques Kallis: Second only to Bradman?

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South African cricketing great Jacques Kallis. (Image: AAP/Dave Hunt)

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In the lead-up to the opening Test in Brisbane, Mickey Arthur, the coach of the Australian team said he believed that Jacques Kallis was second only to Sir Donald Bradman when it comes to the greatest players to have graced the field.

A huge call, but one coming from a man who saw plenty of Kallis up close during his time as South African coach.

As if to add further to Arthur’s claim, Kallis peeled off an innings of 147 at the Gabba, his 44th Test ton, second overall to Sachin Tendulkar’s career tally of 51 centuries.

He has now passed 50 in Test matches on 99 occasions.

So just where does Kallis sit in the pantheon of cricket greats?

His numbers are phenomenal. In the history of the sport, no player has had a greater direct involvement in the game.

The current Test is his 156th, in addition to which he has played 321 one-day internationals and 25 Twenty20 internationals.

During that time he has faced 56,044 deliveries and sent down 30,256.

That adds up to an incredible total of 86,300 deliveries in which he has been directly involved in the contest, more than any other player can boast.

Kallis’ resilience given the incredible workload his body has had to endure is another hallmark of his game.

The bulk of his career has seen him occupy the number four spot in the batting order.

The current Test is his 100th at second-drop, during which time he has averaged a staggering 65.2 and scored 34 centuries, a rate better than one every three matches.

His aggregate of 12,788 runs places him fourth all-time behind Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid.

As a batsman his career average (57.3) exceeds those of the men who are bracketed as the three pre-eminent players of his era – Tendulkar (55.1), Brian Lara (52.9) and Ponting (52.5).

Kallis never seems to be mentioned in the same breath as that trio, thanks in the main to the way he compiles his runs.

He lacks the dash and aggression of Tendulkar, Lara, or Ponting, yet his way of amassing runs has proved to be incredibly effective.

In many ways Kallis is looked upon more in the Dravid mould – an accumulator of runs rather than a rapid scoring aggressor who plays the more memorable and eye-catching knocks.

But one thing where Kallis has all of the above covered is the fact that he is a genuine all-rounder.

During the bulk of his career, he has been in South African teams that have boasted outstanding pace bowlers – Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Dale Steyn to name just three.

In lesser quality teams he would have been called upon to bowl even more.

But, as it is, he has captured 280 scalps at an average of 32.6.

Broad of shoulder, Kallis bowls what nowadays is referred to as a ‘heavy ball’.

Off a moderate run-up he can generate considerable pace and has often ventured past 140km/h.

His two catches to date in Australia’s first innings in Brisbane takes his career tally to 189; third place overall behind the retired Dravid (210) and the still active Ponting (194).

When it comes to ticking the boxes as an all-rounder he scores highly in each facet of the game.

When mentioning all-rounders, Sir Garfield Sobers is almost unanimously placed at the top of the tree and the great West Indian is often seen as the number two to Bradman as the game’s greatest player.

It is fascinating however when you compare the raw statistics of Sobers and Kallis.

The most effective way to do so is by averages given that Sobers played 93 Tests, 63 fewer than Kallis’ current total.

In the batting department Sobers averaged 57.8 to Kallis’ 57.3; Sobers a century every 6.1 innings and Kallis a ratio of one every 6.0; Sobers averaged 34.0 with the ball and Kallis 32.6; in the field, Sobers averaged 0.63 catches per innings and Kallis 0.64.

Sobers had the freakish ability to bowl every style – pace, finger spin and wrist spin.

Aside from that though, on a comparison of their raw statistics, little separates the pair.

Once again, many people would lean toward Sobers especially for the cavalier and swashbuckling way he batted.

But what of Kallis against the mighty quartet of all-rounders that graced the cricketing world of the 1980s – Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev and Sir Richard Hadlee?

It can easily be argued that each was a superior bowler to Kallis a but in the batting stakes it is the South African all the way for none of the four averaged in excess of 38.

Yet again though, he is nowhere near as free scoring or aggressive of those four.

So just where does Kallis sit in the pecking order of history?

It is as much a subjective analysis as it is objective.

And how much is Kallis ‘penalized’ by the way he goes about scoring his runs?

Bradman is a nonpareil given the sheer domination he displayed with the willow.

Then perhaps Sobers.

And then … well Kallis is hard to top.

After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.