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The Case for Kallis

by Mahek

Q) What do Chris Cairns, Andrew Flintoff, Jacob Oram and Shane Watson have in common?
A) They were all touted as genuine allrounders but never lived up to that billing, either due to lack of form or due to injuries.

Q) What is the most coveted commodity in a lineup irrespective of the format?
A) An allrounder.

It would make sense then that someone who consistently scored runs and took wickets without breaking down would be more important than someone who did just one of those. Instead, we have a situation where such a player has been branded as dour, uninspirational, and sometimes even selfish. After all, all cricket experts majored in psychology and have an insight into the minds of international cricketers.

It came as no surprise when the experts at Cricinfo voted Ricky Ponting the Player of the Decade. He fit the bill in pretty much every category that has forever been considered important, even if it makes absolutely no sense. Experts have forever tried to tie in individual successes with the team's fortunes. It's a good idea on the face of it - What good is a hundred if it's in a losing cause? - But it overlooks the fact that there are ten other players on the team, and that the batsman who scored that hundred didn't do it in the knowledge that it would be in a losing cause.

Let's take a look at what the Cricinfo editor had to say:

We asked the jury to choose the Player of Decade on the basis of quality of their performances, consistency and durability, contribution to their team's overall performance, and the impact they had on the game on the whole.

To me, the choice is pretty simple. A player who performs two roles consistently well trumps one who performs a single role with the same consistency. Every international side has been looking for their Jacques Kallis, none has been able to find theirs. On the other hand, every international side has a dominant batsman - Sehwag for India, Yousuf/Younis for Pakistan, Sangakkara/Jayawardene for Sri Lanka, Smith for South Africa, Pietersen for England, Lara for West Indies. Any of these batsmen could have replaced Ponting in the Australian lineup and it would have made barely any difference to the Australian side. Can the same be said about any batsman or bowler replacing Kallis?

We can talk about how Kallis is not as dominant as Ponting. We can say his side chokes on the big stage. And yet the sight of Kallis at the crease is a lot more reassuring than that of Ponting, not to mention the yawning gap between their bowling. When you pick Kallis you're essentially picking two players irrespective of the format. He has withstood the rigours of international cricket unlike the other allrounders of his era. He could have taken the easy way out by focusing on just one discipline or retiring from a format to preserve himself and make a quick buck, and yet he's routinely accused of playing for himself.

7 comments:

raj said...

Good one Mahek.( I mean any article bashing Pricky is good but this one's a good attempt to set the right perspective(
That cricinfo article also says that Ponting stood up to bowlers when they challenged him, and mastered them. Eh, heard of a Durbhajan Singh? Someone who fires darts against even Bangladesh gets a spring in his step when he sees the Aussie captain, and the latter seems to wet his pants at the sight of his turbanned opponent, so much so that he got his team member to frame him and get him banned so he can escape from facing him.
Clearly, this is a case of decision first, justification later.

Its alright to have a weakness but 21 avg in India after 4 tours, inability to even play off spin decently, inability against the slightest competent fast bowler etc - it is a joke on Cricket that they have chosen Pricky. Even Australians will be laughing. Cricinfo should add a tagline to their site - "What a Joke!"

Tony said...

"the sight of Kallis at the crease is a lot more reassuring than that of Ponting"

That may, may, be the case now, but for the last 10 years? I think not.

Mahek said...

Tony,

There has never been a time when Kallis was less solid than Ponting. Less dominating for sure, but he was the most coveted wicket in the South African lineup throughout the decade. Also, it's just one aspect of Kallis the cricketer. He would have walked into half the world sides on the strength of his bowling alone.

Rohit said...

It seems to me an excellent case can be made for 5-6 top players. That Kallis is the best all rounder today is beyond doubt, but Ponting dealt with having to captain the side along with maintaining his prolific form. I'm not taking sides here, just pointing out that selecting the 'best' is always going to be inconclusive and subject to the perceptions of the jury.
Something I do disagree with is this talk about Ponting having 2 World Cups in his resume. If anyone deserved a WC on his batting performance alone, it was Sachin in '03. Mohammad Yousuf could have led that Australian team to the summit, 8-1 fields and whatnot....

Mahek said...

Rohit,

It's best not to talk about Ponting's captaincy as it would only earn negative points. Besides, his batting over the last three years as captain has been quite average. So average that Daniel Vettori averages more than him over this period.

Naked Cricket said...

Yeah, I thot Kallis had a good shot, but they should've given it to a bowler - McGrath. And I don't care whether he played all ten years; a batsman doesn't deserve this award, the decade was given to them anyway.

Sujan Rao said...

Very nice article Mahek !