Johannesburg – Any top order batsmen averaging just 17.77 in his last nine Test innings can expect to be firmly under the microscope when next he goes to the crease.
That player’s future in the side would be under threat, and the selectors’ perseverance with him would be questioned. Jacques Kallis is a special case though.
A slump in form and a run of low scores can be tolerated from one whose standing in the game, particularly in South Africa, is unrivalled. However as Kallis heads into the first Test against India at the Wanderers this week, doubts over his future in the side are justified. This has been a poor year for the 38-year-old all-rounder. With the bat, he has contributed only 160 runs in nine innings, making just two half-centuries.
The last of those fifties came in the first Test against Pakistan, at the Wanderers in February and since then he has scored: 7, 2, 21, 5, 0 and 7. His last Test century was in Brisbane last November.
Andrew Hudson and his selection panel certainly don’t want to be tasked with axing Kallis, but if he fails to make an impact at the Wanderers and Kingsmead in the next fortnight, they would be left with little room to justify keeping him in the side for the three Tests against Australia in March. Kallis needs a substantial contribution against India.
Since returning to the one-day side last month, he has made just the one-half century – in the opening match of the short series against Pakistan. Thereafter he made a total of 26 runs in three more innings and there is already a school of thought that feels that despite his desire to get to the next World Cup, he may be surplus to South Africa’s requirements in the 50-over format.
In Test cricket, he needs to show in the two Tests against India that that is not the case yet. He still provides critical balance to the starting XI. While India ponder whether to use Ajinkye Rahane at No6 or play another all-rounder in the form of Ravindra Jadeja, South Africa have no such qualms. If Kallis plays, he provides the fourth seamer option, which means there’s little question about including a spinner – unless the Wanderers’ pitch is as green as the adjacent golf course.
Kallis’ run of low scores can’t be attributed to a failure of technique – there have been a couple of lapses in concentration, and both dismissals against New Zealand came as a result of him being too attacking.
However Kallis is no longer the most important batsmen in the South African line-up. His record demands respect, obviously, but the likes of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers are now the most valued wickets for the opposition.
Kallis’ bowling remains crucial, and especially at the Wanderers where he should get plenty of assistance out of the surface, he will be a key part of Graeme Smith’s plans. His spell against the Pakistanis at the ground earlier this year recalled memories of the days when he was seriously considered as an option with the new ball. Even in the short burst he had in the first ODI 10 days ago, the ball he produced to dismiss Jadeja showed just how skilful an operator he remained with the ball.
Is that enough to keep him in the side however, if he’s not scoring runs?
Hudson and Co. will not want to answer that question, so they’ll be hoping Kallis doesn’t force them to, yet.
KALLIS BY NUMBERS
Batting: Runs – 13140. Highest Score – 224. Average – 55.44. 100s – 44. 50s – 58
Bowling: Wickets – 288. Best Bowling (inns) – 6/54. Average – 32.61. Five-Fers – 5.
Fielding: Catches – 198
Batting: Runs – 1585. HS – 201*. Average 72.05. 100s – 4
Bowling: Wickets – 18. BB – 3/30. Average 42.66
Fielding: Catches – 21
At The Wanderers
Batting: Runs – 1114. HS – 186. Average 41.24. 100s – 2
Bowling: Wickets – 33. BB – 3/22. Average 33.72
Fielding: Catches – 23