I wrote this week, in my “Keo’s corner” column for IOL Sport, that there is so much negativity in the sporting world and there is so much uncertainty, but that this week there was only positivity and certainty with Jacques Kallis’s induction into the ICC Cricket’s Hall of Fame.
Kallis is the fourth South African acknowledged in such a way, with Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards and Allan Donald making up the quartet.
Since the ICC launched the Hall of Fame in recognition for only the very best to have every played the game, just 93 players have been inducted. A player can only be inducted five years after retirement.
Kallis is 44 years-old, but such was his authority with the bat that there is no doubt he could actually still be playing.
South Africa historically have produced some of the finest batsmen, bowlers and fielders and have consistently had individual batsmen and bowlers leading the way internationally.
Yet, no player in South Africa has ever commanded the international stage for his complete skill set as Kallis did. England’s New Zealand-born allrounder Ben Stokes has in the past few seasons started to produce Kallis-like contributions to a match but Kallis stands alone in an international career that has him as the only player to score 10 000 runs and take at least 250 wickets in Test and ODI cricket respectively.
Cricket South Africa, in complimenting Kallis, described him as the ‘jewel in their crown’ and it’s a jewel that must always be polished.
There is a tendency in South African sport, among the media and supporters, to only focus on the current and there is also a default mode that zones in on what isn’t right in our sport.
Kallis’s award allows for us to take a look back into the past and see everything that was right about the most gifted cricketer to play the game.
Sir Garfield Sobers, pre Kallis, has always been anointed as the game’s greatest batting allrounder. Sobers didn’t bat in the top four, though, and Kallis, always coming in at No 3 or No 4, will always get my vote as being without comparison because of the demands on him as an international batsman, frontline bowler and slip fielder.
There was never respite for Kallis from the moment he went out to bat and when fielding he was always in the game, be it taking those 200 Test catches or influencing the match through his bowling.
Sachin Tendulkar is considered the greatest batsman of the past 20 years and his teammate Zaheer Khan is the most successful fast bowler in Indian Test history. Tendulkar scored 15 921 Test runs at an average of 53.78 and Khan took 311 Test wickets at a bowling average of 32.95. Kallis scored 13 289 Test runs at an average of 55.37 and took 292 Test wickets at a bowling average of 32.65.
In Kallis, you got the world’s best batsman and one of the game’s best fast bowlers in one.
Cricket South Africa’s leadership, in applauding Kallis’s induction, said in a statement that ‘most important of all is the outstanding example he has set for the highest standards of sportsmanship and the traditions of the game to inspire not just aspiring young cricketers but the youth of the entire country’.
It is crucial that this was said because Kallis’s statistics alone did not define his contribution to South African and world cricket.
Tendulkar, in praising Kallis, wrote on Twitter: ‘Sport can unite the world beyond boundaries and you have done your bit and more by being a wonderful ambassador of our beautiful game.’
Kallis started his Test career against England in Durban in December 1995 and scored just one run. He would play his final Test innings in December in Durban 18 years later and score 115, in what was his 45th Test century.
His combined Test and ODI runs were 24 868 and he backed that up with 565 Test and ODI wickets.
These are statistics that are unlikely to ever be bettered.
Kallis was the complete cricketer and he is one of ours.
This week in sport, like he was for so many weeks in an 18-year international career, Jacques Kallis is the good news story