Jacques Kallis’s Big Bash T20 debut in Australia showed him to be an even better cricketer than his remarkable career statistics.
Kallis scored an unbeaten 97 off 55 balls at a strike rate of 176.36, clean bowled Brisbane Heat’s opening batsman Dan Christian and completed his man of the match performance with a fine catch.
The Australians were quick to acknowledge the brilliance of the performance, especially because it came from a cricketer who is 39 years-old.
Who said T20 is a young man’s game?
Kallis and another 39 year old veteran (Mike Hussey) shared a 160 run opening partnership in 17 overs. Hussey got 96.
‘I’ve played against him my entire career. It was finally good to be on his side,’ said Hussey. ‘He’s one of the greatest to have ever played the game.’
Kallis statistically can claim to be the greatest cricketer, given his career statistics as a batsman, bowler and fielder.
But he has never been given universal acknowledgement because of a slanted view that he lacked potency, explosiveness and an ability to accelerate as a frontline batsman.
Put that down to the timing of Kallis’s early Test career in a Proteas side that was still an infant after international isolation. Invariably he was the rock around which a tail had to bat after the top order crumbled.
Kallis played the situation for the Proteas his entire career – and that situation demanded more composure than cavalier.
A young Kallis in today’s Proteas top order would play with greater freedom, aggression and attack.
This was evident in how he destroyed the Heat’s attack.
On Sunday he played the situation and showed he could do it as good, if not better, than anyone currently playing T20.
He did it playing some of the finest cricket shots. He stood tall at the crease and hit the ball miles.
It was a treat to watch and the kind of innings that showcased all of Kallis’s genius with the bat.
It was fitting he did it in Australia because it was also there where he scored his first Test century as a youngster. The fairytale would have been a first T20 hundred as an ‘old man’.
The greats may suffer in hand/eye co-ordination once the years pass 35, but the natural hitting ability never goes away. I remember a 42-year-old Graeme Pollock hammering 142 against the Australian rebels.
He scored more than a hundred of those runs in boundaries.
Kallis was equally ruthless in his T20 approach.
The anti-Kallis lobby always said he wasn’t suited to T20 cricket. They’d have been embarrassed by their ignorance watching Kallis on the charge in Australia.
Former Australian international Tom Moody, after Hussey’s effort, asked Hussey (in a tweet) what he was doing in February and March, 2015.
Moody rightly tweeted the Australian T20 team could do with Hussey.
The Proteas selectors should be tweeting Kallis with a similar question.
Kallis produced an all-round T20 masterclass performance at a time when the Proteas selectors are unsuccessfully searching for a Kallis clone to give the World Cup starting XI the necessary balance to win the tournament.
Kallis showed, that even at 39, he should be a headline act for the Proteas at the T20 World Cup.
It won’t happen, but Sunday was a reminder that age should never be a factor in selection and that good enough should always be old enough.