Champions League T20

Wonder, warts from Kallis

2009-10-13 13:17
Jacques Kallis (File)
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - It was vintage, so typical “Jacques Kallis”, really.

A monumental all-round performance from the veteran ensured Royal Challengers Bangalore of their passage to the next round of the Champions League Twenty20 as they breezed past the Group C challenge of Otago on Monday.

The very fact that the near 34-year-old opened the batting, stayed there throughout the innings for 73 not out, and then opened the bowling also to claim figures of 4-1-18-3 tells you all you need to know about his screamingly sole claims to the player-of-the-match mantle.

“Make his a double,” you might have been tempted to request, as if propping up a bar counter, when he was bestowed the award.

Here was precisely the sort of solo performance to underline why the Proteas star does, indeed, warrant a shoo-in presence for country, club and whoever in all three major formats of the game.

It was not always thus, of course, as we recall his infamous omission from the South African squad for the inaugural World Twenty20 in his own habitat in the spring of 2007.

It is something that still rankles with him, even if he keeps his feelings on it reasonably muzzled.

The Indian organisers of the Champions League will be feeling especially indebted to Kallis, as the trio of home franchises have rather stuttered in the group phase – the Deccan Chargers are still flirting dangerously with elimination – and their ongoing presence is vital to retaining the tournament’s thus far acceptably strong pulse.

Kallis’s batting effort, especially, provided ample evidence of his rich value when the “plan comes together” for a team at T20 level.

By occupying the crease for the full 20 overs, and firing at a tick-the-Ray-Jennings-box personal strike rate of 123.72, Kallis freed up various team-mates to express themselves in crowd-pleasing cameos – notably Ross Taylor, who lashed Kiwi compatriots to the tune of 32 not out off a mere 11 balls at the “death” stage of the innings.

George Binoy, in Cricinfo’s match bulletin, said Kallis’s knock was “the bedrock of a destructive batting exhibition”, while his three-wicket opening spell “knocked the stuffing out the opposition’s chase”.

He also enthused over the all-rounder’s “clever and frequent changes of pace” on a ponderous track – clearly an attribute closely connected to the South African international’s humungous experience.

It is difficult not to wonder whether Kallis’s utterly commanding outing was in any way a response, possibly just subconsciously, to Ian Chappell’s ringing endorsement this week for the promise of JP Duminy.

Among other things, the former Aussie captain suggested Duminy is suited to elevation (he did stress “eventually”, mind) to No 3 in one-day internationals for the Proteas: it is the beat presently policed by Kallis, although the strategy is not universally endorsed by critics because of a perception that the latter is overly “one-paced”.

Yet if Kallis can operate with such upper-order aplomb in the T20 environment, his supporters will doubtless freshly enthuse about his suitability to an “anchoring” role in the 50-over format as well – not to mention the priceless team balancing he brings with his ever-effective seam fare.

Monday was another in a burgeoning list of match-day celebrations of JH Kallis’s talent and enormity of value.

It is a pity, then, that he continues to convey so noticeably, apparently stubborn a public image as the Chairman of the Bland, if you like.

Cricinfo reported further: “At the end of the game Kallis shook hands with his captain Anil Kumble, walked away quietly, mumbled a few words during the post-match ceremony and didn’t even come to the press conference.”

It is difficult to escape a suspicion, even if only to a moderate extent, that Kallis feels much of what he does on a cricket field is somehow a middle finger to a world that is against him.

In the event that he did believe that, it would be a significant shame, because the cricketing planet deserves every opportunity to warm to a remarkable player and engagingly humble man for whom some things, in earlier life, came rather tougher than his rat-a-tat of runs and wickets against Otago at the Chinnaswamy Stadium …


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