The Roar
The Roar


Jacques Kallis' career has been overrated

South African cricketing great Jacques Kallis was the last great all-rounder. (Image: AAP/Dave Hunt)
Roar Pro
18th December, 2015
3349 Reads

Jacques Kallis is without doubt one of the best cricketers of his generation.

When he was in his prime, which seemed to last forever, he never looked like getting out, bowled dangerous swing and took catches galore in the slips.

Please do not tell me, though, that Kallis is the player of his generation. And don’t tell me he was as good as Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara or Ricky Ponting.

While he was clearly exceptional, in my mind his bowling offered minimal advantage and he was too defensive a batsman to be classed among the very best of the past 20 years.

When people talk about Kallis they talk about how his batting average (56) was better than all the modern greats. Fair enough. He also took almost 300 wickets at an average of 32, which is roughly equivalent to Brett Lee (310 wickets at an average of 31). They say Kallis is like Ponting and Lee in one.

Statistics over a career as long as Kallis’ do not lie. He is obviously elite. However, people need to consider other factors though when assessing; some easier to quantify than others.

First, let’s look at his bowling. To me, Kallis’ bowling was of minimal value. For his entire career he was the fifth bowler. He was an excellent fifth bowler, but what was he adding?

Were South Africa really better off giving Kallis 10 overs a day instead of giving a combination of Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Makhaya Ntini three to four more overs a day? They all had better averages than Kallis.


The argument is that Kallis’ 10 overs a day allowed the strike bowlers to freshen up and make them more effective. Maybe. We can’t quantify how much better the strike bowlers were by bowling fewer overs a day but to me it’s counter-intuitive.

I like it when my team’s best bowlers are bowling, not resting. I daresay most batsmen who faced Kallis in Test cricket were pretty happy they were not facing one of the specialist quicks. South Africa may have actually bowled sides out quicker and for fewer runs if Kallis couldn’t bowl.

Now to Kallis’ batting. His average, one of the highest in history, demonstrates that he was (and still is) a freak.

The criticism from some has been his strike rate. Kallis’ strike rate is 45, while Lara’s and Ponting’s is more like 60. I think strike rate is an important factor. The obvious reason is that it allows the bowlers more time to take 20 wickets if you score your runs quickly.

There are other factors too though. If you score quickly there is minimal pressure on your partner to score. The bowlers also feel more flustered if runs are flowing. The fielding team likes dot balls because it creates pressure and often leads to wickets.

Again, though, I can’t think of a way to quantify how damaging Kallis’ laid back approach to batting affected South Africa. Did it lead to his partner playing more rash shots? Did it lead to South Africa getting more draws than it could have?

I suspect so but, again, Kallis’ batting as a whole is hard to criticise. I would argue that he is more in Rahul Dravid or Alastair Cook’s class than Lara or Tendulkar’s though. The latter don’t have any question marks. The former were and are sometimes called too slow.


Finally, Kallis’ slip fielding was exceptional and a tremendous asset to the team. This should not be ignored. His fielding was probably worth more than his bowling. Of the elite batsmen of his generation only Dravid, AB de Villiers, Ponting and Matthew Hayden were his equal when it came to fielding.

Kallis is one of the best players I have seen and his raw, measurable statistics are as impressive as they come. People who know a lot more about cricket than I say he is the best since Bradman and the best all-rounder of all time.

My preference though is for more aggressive batsmen and that is why I rate Lara, Tendulkar and Ponting higher. I also believe his 10 overs a day were of minimal use.