Of all the new faces involved when it comes to 2020 after the annus horribilis that was South African cricket in 2019 the most important is going to be Jacques Kallis..
Kallis doesn’t need the money offered by Cricket SA as they try to make amends for a car crash of a tenure under suspended CEO Thabang Moroe. The 44-year-old was brought on board by new director of cricket Graeme Smith as a batting consultant and joins best mate Mark Boucher’s coaching staff. Kallis is said to be worth R1 billion, has a cosy life and a talent for golf that allows him to play to the degree that he recently made a hole-in-one on the second hole at Durbanville, a 293m par four, hitting driver.
Kallis is a cricketing legend, the greatest all-rounder the game has seen, but also one of the finest batsmen of all time, even if you were to somehow turn a blind eye to his bowling and catching feats. In 166 Test matches, Kallis batted 280 times, scoring 13,289 runs at an average of 55.37 and hitting 45 hundreds. Included in that, he had two Test golden ducks, both at the Wanderers, one of them against England in 2005.
In his first match as batting consultant in Test cricket for South Africa, Kallis watched as Dean Elgar was dismissed first ball, gloving a James Anderson loosener down the leg side. They always say it’s a desperately unlucky manner in which to lose one’s wicket, and it is, but it was also one of a number of soft dismissals offered by the hosts, despite losing the toss and being asked to bat first.
Faf du Plessis admitted he would have batted first had he won the toss and after reaching 277-9 at the close, the general consensus would be that honours were even. I’d suggest South Africa have the runs on the board on a pitch that won’t be easy to bat on come days four and five and pegged 250 as a fair score the minute after Elgar’s first-baller.
Back to Kallis. One of his first jobs will be preaching patience and the value of a Test wicket. Elgar started his Test career with a pair (of ducks) against Australia in Perth, before he returned to South Africa and scored 23 and an unbeaten 103 against New Zealand in his next two Test innings. He then earned the title of a ‘fighter’, someone who ‘gutsed’ it out.
Elgar’s been heroic for South Africa in recent years, 12 hundreds coming in 103 innings, but despite all the love he gets, out of his last 13 knocks, in nine of them he’s failed to reach double figures. Sure, he’s has that 160, 48 and 16, all in India, showing his ability against spin on slow and turning pitches, and a 35 against Sri Lanka in Durban, but his other nine innings have been 5, 5, 0, 6, 2, 2, 6, 0 and now 0 again. Kallis has work to do.
Elgar’s opening partner on day one at Centurion was Aiden Markram, who will become Kallis’ biggest project. Himself coming off a pair of ducks against India in Pune – after the last one he punched a dressing-room wall and fractured a bone – he looked a million dollars, reaching 20 off 41 balls before chipping the impressive left-arm swinger Sam Curran to mid-wicket. How many times has Markram looked supreme one ball, ordinary the next? The answer, too many for a man of his undoubted class.
Zubayr Hamza will benefit from Kallis’ mentorship and I’ll say it again – here’s the man who will fill Hashim Amla’s shoes at No 3, not to suggest Hamza is another Amla, but he’ll get his Test hundreds.
Those three batsmen is where Kallis’ job starts. South Africa were saved by the aggression of Quinton de Kock – in the latest SA Cricket magazine on the shelf, he’s the cover feature in which I argue he should bat at No 4 in Test cricket – and if one is honest, England were unlucky to not bowl the hosts out on day one.
De Kock benefited from his aggressive shots landing in vacant areas and ironically the No 6 batsman was out for 95 when he, for the first time, went into more of a defensive mode as he eyed his sixth Test hundred. Here again, there is no doubt that time spent with Kallis, both in and out of the nets, will reap dividends.
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