Hambantota :Form is a fickle bedfellow in sport. The one moment she is with you, engulfing you, much like she has cossetted Hashim Amla of late. He only has to look at the ball for it to scoot diligently to the fence.
And then, she leaves you, as she has done to another key figure in the South African top-order. Jacques Kallis looks like a million rupees every day in the nets, but only has the one run to show for it.
After a good nut in Colombo was followed by a streaky shot in Kandy, the all-rounder is now under scrutiny and, subsequently, real pressure to perform in tomorrow’s final clash of the series against Sri Lanka.
None of the pressure, though, is coming from within the Proteas camp. In the squad, they are adamant that it is only a matter of time before he comes right.
“Jacques is a quality player. All players go through periods where they don’t get runs, and he has gone through two games now,” coach Russell Domingo observed.
“But there is no question of his pedigree or his quality. For us it’s a matter of time before he makes an impact with the bat,” Domingo added.
AB de Villiers was just as adamant that Kallis’s enduring class would shine through sooner rather than later. But these are questions that the Proteas could have done without.
“Jacques is good enough to play as a specialist batter, but we need him to bowl for us as well. He has a few niggles in his back at the moment, so we won’t risk him bowling now, because that will affect his batting,” Domingo said.
These are questions that Domingo and De Villiers wouldn’t have banked on having to deal with on this trip, but the lean patch that Kallis has endured, as well as a premium on places forspecialist batsmen in one-day cricket, has put the microscope on South Africa’s most experienced campaigner.
They cannot wish away the speculation, nor can they hurry up the rehabilitation of a back that is creaking after two decades of service. Kallis will certainly not bowl tomorrow, but Domingo remains hopeful that he will do so in the near future.
“We have picked him as an all-rounder, and we need him to bowl. Right now, I don’t think Jacques not bowling affects the balance of the team. We know what we will get from a guy like Jacques,” he maintained.
“It (Kallis’s injury) also gives a guy like Ryan McLaren a great opportunity to cement his place in the World Cup squad, with the kind of performances that he has been putting up in the last few games. We also know what the next line of players can do, and they will be given chances to play in the next 20-25 ODI matches.”
Curiously, Hambantota has become a place of rebirth for several Proteas players. T20 skipper Faf du Plessis could not buy a run in the one-day series, but ended the T20 series with a relieving half-century.
Imran Tahir also bounced back from the bruising in Adelaide to be the spark of the Proteas’ limited-overs unit, a role he is still playing out with aplomb a year later.
Everyone in the Proteas camp will be hoping that Kallis drinks a bit of whatever Tahir and Du Plessis were on last year. For the sake of the team, he needs to find his mojo. For the sake of the selection panel, he needs to play the reassuring hand that a statesman should.
But mostly, for his own sake, Kallis needs to find that familiar rhythm of old, and fast. Preferably tomorrow, in fact.
As local survivors of the tsunami of 2004 will tell you, the waves of change come quietly, but violently. - Cape Argus