Jacques Kallis: Second only to Bradman?

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert


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    South African cricketing great Jacques Kallis was the last great all-rounder. (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.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    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.

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    The Crowd Says (51)

    • November 12th 2012 @ 7:40am
      KombiPhil said | November 12th 2012 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      I suppose it’s a little tricky to compare raw statistics from one era to another, as so much has changed. Covered pitches, more powerful bats, roped fields and smaller boundaries, many more Tests including those against ‘minnow’ sides that weren’t around in the ’50s and ’60s. Even so, Kallis’ statistics are extraordinary.

      No doubt that Bradman was the greatest batsman ever. However that is not the same as being the best cricketer.

      Ian Chappell and Mike Procter debated the ‘best allrounder ever’ during the tea break yesterday. Imran Khan, Kapil Dev and Ian Botham were in their final five, with Mike also selecting Richard Hadlee and Ian chose the great Keith Miller as his fifth. Both of them placed Kallis as #2. The ‘best’ was based on more than just raw statistics – it was how they went about their game, the effect on the opposition and their team mates, and their ability to change a match.

      Both of them, having known and played with Gary Sobers, chose him as number one – no contest.

      • November 12th 2012 @ 6:02pm
        I am DRS said | November 12th 2012 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

        Why is it when players of different eras are compared the ‘covered wickets, bigger bats, roped fields and smaller boundaries’ factors are only considered when comparing batsmen? Would it not then be reasonable to conclude these aspects also make it more difficult to takes wickets cheaply in modern cricket? I would say so. Ipso facto Kallis is a much better bowler than Sobers

        • November 12th 2012 @ 6:13pm
          Jason said | November 12th 2012 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

          Sobers bowled about 40 overs a test. Kallis bowls about half that.

          • November 12th 2012 @ 7:39pm
            I am DRS said | November 12th 2012 @ 7:39pm | ! Report

            That’s right, because Sobers took a wicket every 90 balls compared with Kallis’ 69… and to think that Sobers was bowling on uncovered wickets, against smaller bats, unroped fields and with bigger boundaries

    • November 12th 2012 @ 8:06am
      Bill Larkin said | November 12th 2012 @ 8:06am | ! Report

      Sobers didn’t have Zimbabwe or Bangladesh to toy with. Of Kallis’ four centuries against the minnows, three were big and three were not out. This is where a raw comparison of averages breaks down.

      That said, he is a great cricketer and will go down as the number two all rounder for me. Sobers is well ahead.

      • November 12th 2012 @ 4:36pm
        bob said | November 12th 2012 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

        Its all very well to say diminith his achievments by talking about Bangladeth and Zimbabwe. Thats pretty harsh on developing countries.
        It is fair to say however that SA was not playing test cricket while some of these other records were racked up.
        One could say by exstension that some of these records were in fact “soft”. Would they have scored so “freely” against Peter Pollock, Eddie Barlow and Mike Proctor…? And the bowlers against Barry Richards, Graeme Pollock, Clive Rice ?
        To really get a guage of the value ask yourself which team ever in the history of the game would not have chosen him to play for them ?

      • November 12th 2012 @ 8:12pm
        Neuen said | November 12th 2012 @ 8:12pm | ! Report

        Yoy are totally correct. Kallis had only Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Heath Streak, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Shane Warne, Darren Gough, Anderson, Finn, Cadick, Malinga, Abdul Razzaq, Vettori, Bichel, Ambrose, Muralitharan, Allot, and many more. Appoligies to those I haven’t mentioned but I think it is fair to say he faced the best in business in his time and have not been a minnow basher. All respect to Banglasdesh and Zimbabwe.

        You want to use that argument in a discussion that involves the name Bradman who avg over 217 against SA. Please name me a great SA or Pakstani bowler from Bradmans era? With that I will open a new can of worms and you will note all countries exception of Australia and England were minnows at one stage. I bet you will disagree with me if we apply those same criteria to Bradman. Or that when Bradman batted against SA the wicket was a perfectly batsman wicket and in the SA innings it rained and SA had to play on a wet wicket. That is statistics. You can turn it anyway and use it as proof in a discussion but it does not make it fact. You might be able to fool the avg cricket fan with them but people who love watching cricket and appreciate the finer details of it you will eventually be proven totally wrong.

        I am not saying or disputing Bradmans avg and I concur he was the best. Not because of his avg but any who guy who practice with a cricket wicket and a golf ball of a water tower and who played part in changing the game forever due to his ability alone is alright in my books.

        If you have watched cricket without going to look up stats you would not that Kallis scored only 1 century and 1 50 against Bangladesh and 3 hundreds and 3 fifties against Zimbabwe. We are talking about a guy here who scored 44 hundreds and 44 fifties here.

        Also we cannot compare him with Sobers because the stats do not show us things like the situations around the matches, conditions, rules during period, match situations etc etc. And we are not even considering that Kallis had to deal with the new ball numerous times.

        Also out of the 156 matches he has played he was only out for a duck 14 times.

        For 2nd behind Bradman will not say that. I think Graeme Pollock is 2nd behind Bradman. At 39 years of age Pollock faced Franklin Stevenson. Yes he wasn’t a Windies regular but doesn’t mean he was bad considering the era he played in. He was quick and aggressive and he bowled Pollock against the head. Pollock went off came a hour back with his eye bank stitch up and smacked Stevenson for 5 fours and a 6 in one over. That was a man already past his best. Even Bradman touted him as the best left hander he has seen. He got that avg facing the worlds best and he at a age of 19 he scored a double hundred against a Cavalier touring side for his province.

      • November 13th 2012 @ 1:24am
        JVGO said | November 13th 2012 @ 1:24am | ! Report

        Sobers innings for the World at the MCG in 1970 was the most memorable innings I have ever seen. Also touched him on the arm as a ten year old at the SCG when you could run on the ground at stumps. The guy could bowl spin and medium, hit six sixes in an over and had the world record score. Surely no 2 for Kallis is pretty acceptable.

      • November 15th 2012 @ 9:53am
        James said | November 15th 2012 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        And Sobers did not have to face his own great fast bowlers and Sobers batted down in the order unlike Kallis who usually found himself in the openers role as wickets tumbled about him. And so on. Face the written facts. Kallis is arguably the greatest all round cricketer in the history of the game.And he could have been classed as a genuine fast bowler in the first half of his career averaging a steady 135 to 140 plus km/hour. Same as McGrath. And most of his wickets were top order – only 38% of his victims were the tail. And we can go on forever.

    • November 12th 2012 @ 8:08am
      Farmerj said | November 12th 2012 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      Sobers also held the highest individual test score for about a squillion years. And is it possible to seperate the best all rounder from the greatest match winner? For me, Kallis is a greater all rounder than Botham but Botham was the greater match winner.

      Sobers has to be the greatest all arounder ever but unfortunately, with the modern age, people forget all to quickly the older generation.
      Viv Richards is an example of a batsman who seems to be forgotten about

    • November 12th 2012 @ 8:08am
      Farmerj said | November 12th 2012 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      Sobers also held the highest individual test score for about a squillion years. And is it possible to seperate the best all rounder from the greatest match winner? For me, Kallis is a greater all rounder than Botham but Botham was the greater match winner.

      Sobers has to be the greatest all arounder ever but unfortunately, with the modern age, people forget all to quickly the older generation.
      Viv Richards is an example of a batsman who seems to be forgotten about

    • Roar Guru

      November 12th 2012 @ 8:51am
      sheek said | November 12th 2012 @ 8:51am | ! Report


      Very even-handed & informative approach, thank you.

      A further comparison is found via Harold Sutcliffe, who averaged 60.73 batting in tests, just behind George Headley (60.83) & Graeme Pollock (60.97).

      The Jamaican Headley was referred to as the “Black Bradman” while none other than Bradman himself declared Pollock the greatest left-handed batsman in the history of the game on Pollock’s retirement (& Polloock was a contemporary of Sobers).

      Yet while the names of both Headley & Pollock are regularly thrown up whenever all-time XIs are considered, Sutcliffe’s name rarely gets a mention, despite the fact he was the long-time opening batting partner of Jack Hobbs, whom he overshadowed in test results.

      Hobbs himself is usually the first player named in any all-time world XI. But rarely Sutcliffe.

      The problem was/is that Sutcliffe, like Kallis, was a slow scoring, stodgy batsman, not the cavaliar, rattling rapier like Headley, Pollock, Sobers & Bradman.

      If you picked the best 22 players to ever grace the game over 135 years of Test cricket, Sobers & Kallis could not be on the same team for reasons of structure. That would be crazy.

      But imagine Sobers in one XI with 10 other greats & Kallis in the other XI with another 10 greats. In the hallowed halls of Valhalla or on the glorious Elysian fields, that would be something to see!

      • Roar Guru

        November 12th 2012 @ 12:33pm
        Andy_Roo said | November 12th 2012 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

        Sheek if you were trying to pick the best 22 players and balance the teams to play against each other then Kallis and Sobers would be on opposite sides.
        But if you were pickking the best 11 to make up the all time greatest team they would both be in my team and i’m sure yours too.

        • November 12th 2012 @ 12:38pm
          Jason said | November 12th 2012 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

          They wouldn’t both be in mine.

          In an ATG team you don’t need Kallis’ bowling and he isn’t in the 2 best remaining middle order batsmen that aren’t called Bradman or Sobers.

          • Roar Guru

            November 12th 2012 @ 8:43pm
            sheek said | November 12th 2012 @ 8:43pm | ! Report


            I agree with Jason, it’s simply a bit of ‘over-kill’ to have both of them in the one team.

            And as I argued above, Kallis suffers from the same problem as Sutcliffe, his batting is generally too slow.

            • Roar Rookie

              November 12th 2012 @ 10:46pm
              Neuen said | November 12th 2012 @ 10:46pm | ! Report

              The question is would you pick Gary Sobers for a one 50 over game?

              • November 13th 2012 @ 12:21am
                Jason said | November 13th 2012 @ 12:21am | ! Report


      • November 12th 2012 @ 5:34pm
        bob said | November 12th 2012 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

        Good comment mate. Kallis may be a great cricketer but hopeless umpire I reckon …

    • November 12th 2012 @ 8:55am
      Tony Tea said | November 12th 2012 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      I would put Warne ahead of Kallis because Warnie is the greatest matchwinner in the history of the caper.

      • November 12th 2012 @ 5:27pm
        bob said | November 12th 2012 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

        Yes but Warnie was a drug cheat and was suspended. Oh and also was caught out dealing with bookmakers.
        Maybe not so great.

        • November 13th 2012 @ 12:47am
          Heff said | November 13th 2012 @ 12:47am | ! Report

          Yep, Warnie is the first 15 kilo overweight, smoking, pizza eating drug cheat. If he wasn’t playing cricket he most certainly would have been on the US Postal Cycling team. If Warne didn’t have that diuretic he clearly would have been a rubbish bowler…..Sorry Bob, if you’re going to make stupid comments, expect stupid replies.

          • Roar Guru

            November 13th 2012 @ 2:36am
            dasilva said | November 13th 2012 @ 2:36am | ! Report

            Although I don’t think that Shane Warne doped

            The suspicion behind his diuretic used is that Warne had a shoulder injury after an ODI against England and he recovered remarkably quick from that injury to be declared fit for the world cup and I remember people commenting with surprised on that quick recovery even before the positive test

            One of the benefits of anabolic steroids (at least theoretical benefits although there is debate amongst its efficacy) is the increase and speed up recovery from injury (although in all honesty I don’t even believe it should be illegal to used it for injury recovery if that benefit is proven in clinical trials) and diuretics helped clear steroids from the system so it will become undetectable in a drug test and that’s why it is a prohibited substance for athletes. If warne had steroids in his system he probably would have been banned for 2 years (really CA banned him for only one year for the diuretic use which was less than what WADA recommended) and his public reputation would have been completely destroyed.

            It’s theoretically possible for an athlete to take an anabolic steroids and then used diuretics to cleared it from the system to avoid detection in a drug test.

            I’m not saying warne did that but that’s the reason why he was banned for a year because of that potential misused.

            Still it doesn’t really effect how I judge him as a bowler