Cape Town – Certainly in statistical terms,
long-time South African Test colleagues Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith have an
ever-strengthening case for suggesting they are the best slip combination in
Proteas captain Smith ended the three-Test
conquest of Australia recently as the leading catcher on either side with 10,
even bettering both wicketkeepers, compatriot AB de Villiers and the Aussies’
Matthew Wade, who got nine dismissals each (eight catches and one stumping
By pouching five catches in the
series-deciding Australian second innings of the Perth Test, “Biff” also broke
into a hitherto five-strong elite club of fielders (glovemen excluded) to
achieve that figure in a single opposition knock.
Those before him to achieve the feat were
Victor Richardson (Australia) in 1936, Yajurvindra Singh (India) in 1977,
Mohammad Azharhuddin (India) in 1989, Kris Srikkanth (India) in 1992 and the
most recent, New Zealand’s Stephen Fleming against Zimbabwe at Harare in 1997
-- still all of 15 years ago.
Of course slips do not always man that
particular post all day and one of Smith’s catches on series-ending day four at
the WACA was a smart one at short midwicket to dispose of Wade off Robin
But both he and Kallis, hefty yet sharp-reflex
units with apparent buckets for hands, are especially renowned for their
phenomenal reliability when standing next to each other in the “cordon”
alongside the ‘keeper.
It is efforts at slip that have accounted
for the great majority of each player’s catches, and they go a long way to explaining
why both Cape Town-based national team-mates and friends find themselves among
the top 10 for most catches worldwide in a Test career.
Obviously helped by South Africa’s often
lively home conditions and near-eternal strength in the pace and seam bowling
department, which ensures a steady stream of nicks, Kallis (192) and Smith
(147) have 339 Test catches between them.
Their careers have almost always
dovetailed, considering that when Smith first broke into Test cricket in 2002,
Kallis was already a seven-year stalwart at that level.
The last-named player lies third on the
all-time list for catches, and considering his continued stellar level of
overall performance aged 37, must have a good shout at going past the all-time
top catcher, Rahul Dravid (210) and second-placed Ricky Ponting (196) – both
those players retired during 2012.
Smith is currently 10th on the
list. Apart from Dravid, Ponting and Kallis in the three leading positions,
also above him at present are Mahela Jayawardene, Mark Waugh, Fleming, Brian
Lara, Mark Taylor and Allan Border.
Considering that he is only 31, however,
the potential for Smith to climb that ladder in a very meaningful way is
Apart from his lofty achievements with bat
and ball and rock-solid pair of hands in Tests, Kallis (125) also lies eighth
on the list of players with most catches in one-day internationals, headed at
the moment by Sri Lanka’s Jayawardene (194).
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing