Successful people are often hard to like. Sure there’s human nature at work – one would have to be a saint not to feel a touch of envy, a frisson of anger, an overpowering sense of injustice at the way the genetic dice fell their way and not ours, giving them the potential to excel. And that’s before you ogle their homes, their cars and their WAG. Yep – thanks very much MTV Cribs. But it’s not all our fault – very successful people need a iron will, vaulting ambition and a disdain for the easy option of being merely good enough. In short, us plebs don’t much care for the greats on a personal level and they (though often they doth protest too much) don’t care too much for us. The oft-cited advice never to meet one’s heroes is grounded in reason.
There are few more successful cricketers than Jacques Kallis and, well let’s be honest, isn’t he hard to like? Aside from the points above which apply more or less generally, the hilariously newly coiffured embodiment of South African anti-charisma has attracted a personal charge sheet impressive in its scope. But do the charges bear close scrutiny?
Charge 1 – He’s over-rated and hardly a great of the game like Sachin, Brian or Warnie.
According to the ICC Player Ratings, Big Jacques has been rated number one all rounder in Tests for nine years and has never been out of the top three for twelve years. His batting average exceeds his bowling average by almost 25 runs, as compared to Sobers (24), Botham (5), Imran Khan (15) and Kapil Dev (2). Just for good measure, his excess average in ODIs is an equally preposterous 14.
Charge 2 – He’s a reluctant bowler.
Kallis has over 500 Test and ODI wickets garnered from over 28,000 deliveries. That’s more international bowling than Imran Khan and Sobers and the same as the man who always wanted the ball, Ian Botham. Kallis has played more matches, but that’s still a lot of work, and shows a dedication to fitness not always apparent in his appearance.
Charge 3 – He’s boring to watch
With, even at this stage in his career, as nasty a bouncer as seen in cricket since Andy Roberts stopped glaring down the pitch, Kallis can swing the ball both ways, move it off the seam and bowl off and leg-cutters. He’s at least as good a bowler as Shaun Pollock and, with a Test economy rate under 3 and ODI rate under 5, he bowls with almost McGrathian accuracy. With the bat, he is no dasher, but if he batted a Test match session with his great friend and contemporary, Mark Boucher – who is a dasher – Kallis would only trail the hard-hitting keeper by four runs if they hit at career strike rates. One reason is that Jacques likes a six: his 84 in Tests puts him level with King Viv in fifth on the all-time list, which he backs up with 129 ODI maximums putting him just outside the top ten.
Charge 4 – He puts himself ahead of the team
If so, he has been involved in 68 wins from 142 Tests completed, victories to which he contributed an utterly preposterous excess average batting over bowling of almost 40. In ODIs, he’s won 196 of 307 with his excess average in the wins an equally preposterous 27. Fielding often tells you about a man’s team ethic, and Kallis needs just four more catches to go into the all-time top five in Tests, backing that up with twelfth slot on the ODI list.
Charge 5 – He’s a choker.
Okay – he’s been involved in a few chokes in his time, but was he amongst the most blameworthy? Probably not.
Having slain the World’s Number One ranked team for his 38th and fastest career Test ton today, we can, indeed should, point and laugh at Jacques Kallis’ hair weave, but we should venerate the record of a man who stands shoulder to shoulder with any cricketer in history as a giant of the game. Too often we don’t.
The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999 and @Fakeadil.