Kallis is koning

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Jacques Kallis, take a bow

He has been South Africa’s go-to man for several years, and the stats reveal that he has hardly ever let the team down

S Rajesh

January 7, 2011

  Jacques Kallis added some key runs with the tail, South Africa v India, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 2nd day, January 3, 2011

Jacques Kallis is the only batsman to average more than 60 in Tests over the last 12 years © AFP
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Players/Officials: Jacques Kallis
Series/Tournaments: India tour of South Africa

“We couldn’t out Gavaskar at all”, wrote Lord Relator after the India opener tormented West Indies throughout the four Tests in 1970-71. Four decades later, the Indians might want to pen something similar to honour Jacques Kallis after a phenomenal series from the South African. In three Tests, Kallis scored all of 498 runs and was dismissed a mere three times in 870 deliveries. Of those three dismissals, one was a freak run out, and another was the result of arguably the best ball of the series. It was a phenomenal series for a batsman who is a legend, and yet, perhaps, hasn’t received the sort of recognition he deserves.

Kallis’ series average of 166 is the sixth time he has averaged more than 100 in a series, and that excludes a couple of series – against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe – when he wasn’t dismissed even once in a series and hence didn’t have an average.

Kallis has been so consistent through most of his career that his runs have almost been taken for granted, which is perhaps the biggest compliment one can pay him. Only in the first three years of his Test career did he struggle a bit, with his average barely touching 30 in his first 22 Tests. Thereafter, his career took off spectacularly, with his average in the last 12 years exceeding 62. In these 12 years, his annual average has topped 60 seven times. On the other hand, his only lean year during this period was in 2008, when he scored one century in 23 innings and averaged 31.66. Many questions were asked about him then, but over the last couple of years, Kallis has, much like Sachin Tendulkar, answered all those queries quite emphatically. He is 35 now, but there’s no reason not to expect this run to continue over the next three to four years. (Click here for Kallis’ batting career summary.)

Jacques Kallis in Tests
Period Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Till Dec 1998 22 1019 30.87 2/ 5
Jan 1999 onwards 123 10,928 62.44 38/ 49
Career 145 11,947 57.43 40/ 54

Kallis’ stats over the last 12 years are incredible, and they’re good enough to make him the most successful batsman during this period – he’s the only one to average more than 60. He has also scored the most hundreds – 38, to Ricky Ponting’s 37 and Tendulkar’s 34. Often, the debate over who is the best batsman in the world has been restricted to Tendulkar, Ponting and Brian Lara. Shouldn’t Kallis be in the mix too?

Best Test averages since Jan 1999 (Qual: 5000 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Jacques Kallis 123 10,928 62.44 38/ 49
Sachin Tendulkar 114 9932 58.08 34/ 40
Kumar Sangakkara 94 8244 57.25 24/ 34
Ricky Ponting 130 11,154 56.33 37/ 49
Brian Lara 74 7212 54.63 24/ 23
Inzamam-ul-Haq 69 5670 54.51 19/ 25
Mahela Jayawardene 110 9129 54.33 27/ 35
Virender Sehwag 87 7694 53.43 22/ 27
Mohammad Yousuf 83 7082 53.24 23/ 29
Matthew Hayden 96 8364 52.93 29/ 29

And for those who believe Kallis’ average has been inflated by matches against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, here’s an eye-opener: even when those matches are excluded, Kallis’ average over the last 12 years is the best, almost four runs clear of the second-placed Ponting.

Admittedly, Kallis plundered those weaker attacks to get his share of runs, averaging 169.75 against Zimbabwe and 79.25 against Bangladesh, but his stats against the better teams are outstanding too. He started slowly against Australia early in his career, but in his last 12 years he averages 46.93 in 18 Tests against them, and 50.57 in nine Tests in Australia. (Click here for Kallis’ career summary since January 1999.)

Best Test averages v all teams except B’desh and Zim since Jan 1999 (Qual: 5000 runs)
Batsman Tests Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Jacques Kallis 111 9932 59.47 34/ 45
Ricky Ponting 122 10,504 55.57 35/ 45
Kumar Sangakkara 78 6832 54.22 20/ 28
Brian Lara 70 6817 54.10 22/ 22
Virender Sehwag 80 7342 53.98 22/ 24
Inzamam-ul-Haq 61 5104 53.16 16/ 25
Mahela Jayawardene 91 7849 53.03 22/ 31
Sachin Tendulkar 101 8299 52.85 26/ 38
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 86 6604 52.41 19/ 37
Younis Khan 60 5187 51.35 16/ 20

A closer look at the contributions of Kallis and Tendulkar reveal remarkable similarities: both have scored a little more than 16% of their team’s runs through careers that have extended beyond 140 Tests. The percentage of their teams’ centuries scored by them are also almost exactly the same: Tendulkar’s 146 in the first innings in Cape Town was the 200th century by India in the Tests that Tendulkar has played, of which his contribution is 51. Kallis, meanwhile, has made 40 out of South Africa’s 160 centuries in the matches he has played.

The stats are slightly different for Ponting, which shows the relative support that the three batsmen have got from the rest of the line-up. While India and South Africa have relied a lot on Tendulkar and Kallis, Australia have had others to contribute the runs and centuries.

Hundreds by player and team
Batsman Runs Team runs Percentage 100s 100s by team Percentage
Sachin Tendulkar 14,690 89,657 16.38 51 200 25.50
Jacques Kallis 11,947 72,268 16.53 40 160 25.00
Ricky Ponting 12,363 84,606 14.61 39 214 18.22

VVS Laxman’s exploits in the second innings have deservedly won him plenty of praise over the last year, but overall, Kallis’ second-innings numbers are better than anyone else’s: in 101 attempts, he has scored ten centuries and averages 60.51, which is more than five runs better than the next-best. In fact, Kallis’ first century against Australia was in the fourth innings, in the MCG Boxing Day Test way back in 1997. Faced with a target of 381 and around four sessions to bat, Kallis led the way with a dogged 101 off 279 balls, as South Africa batted 122 overs and saved the Test. His next second-innings hundred didn’t come till the beginning of 2004, though he almost got one again at the MCG in the Boxing Day Test in 2001, getting run out for 99 in an innings when the second-highest score was 23. Till around 2001, Kallis’ second-innings average was in the mid-40s, but since then it has soared, thanks to six centuries in the last four years.

Highest averages in the second innings in Tests (Qual: 2500 runs)
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Jacques Kallis 101 4357 60.51 10/ 26
Garry Sobers 67 2923 55.15 8/ 15
Allan Border 111 4371 54.63 11/ 24
Kumar Sangakkara 63 2899 52.70 9/ 12
Matthew Hayden 81 3472 51.82 11/ 13
Sunil Gavaskar 90 3963 51.46 11/ 22
VVS Laxman 78 3072 51.20 5/ 19
Geoff Boycott 85 3319 51.06 9/ 17
Desmond Haynes 86 3030 48.87 9/ 12
Graham Thorpe 79 2659 47.48 4/ 18

Kallis’ technical excellence is such that pace and spin come alike to him. Since the beginning of 2002, he averages more than 50 against both, with only a couple of bowlers getting the better of him: Mitchell Johnson has dismissed him five times at an average of 16, and James Anderson has nailed him six times at an average of 24.16.

Against spin, though, Kallis has been unstoppable, averaging more than 95. Harbhajan Singh has dismissed him six times in Tests since 2002, but Kallis averages 57.16 against him; against Shane Warne, who has got his wicket four times during this period, Kallis averages 38.80. Whichever way you look at it, there are very few holes you can pick in Kallis’ Test career.

Kallis against pace and spin in Tests since Jan 2002
Bowling type Runs Dismissals Average Run rate
Pace 4750 90 52.77 2.83
Spin 3333 35 95.22 3.20

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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