Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
'Niggle' fired up Kallis
Johannesburg – Veteran Proteas all-rounder Jacques Kallis admits that the tetchiness which sometimes accompanied their Test series success in the West Indies played a role in his re-awakening as a genuine “head-hunter” with the ball.
Flashpoints were not in short supply in the three-Test series, culminating in disciplinary action against Dale Steyn and Sulieman Benn after the final encounter in Barbados and also a verbal altercation between Kallis and Kemar Roach.
Speaking exclusively to Sport24 after this week’s SA Cricket Awards 2010 banquet here, Kallis admitted the various aspects of “niggle” had helped fire him up.
“Yes, they did. I don’t deny I enjoy a bit of spice in a game: I’ve felt over the years the game has increasingly lost that with (the advent of) match referees and so on.
“I’m all for playing the game in the correct spirit, within certain boundaries, and always have been. But I also feel cricket’s lost a little edge because you don’t have that niggle any more.
“So it’s nice to play one or two games where is some obvious (semblance) of that, while within the laws.”
Kallis turns 35 in mid-October, yet in the Caribbean he reminded many observers of his formative first-class days with Western Province, where he was considered one of the fastest and most hostile bowlers on the domestic scene – sometimes even being given new-ball duty.
There were occasions in the West Indies where he bowled some fearsome bouncers, despite the mostly benign tracks, and sometimes also nudged the 150km/h mark in speed-gun terms.
“Generally my role in recent years has been to hold up an end and dry up the runs while others do the (striking),” Kallis explained.
“And when you’re not being as attacking, sometimes the quicker you try to bowl the harder it is to have good control.
“But more recently my role has altered a bit, allowing me to get a bit more aggressive and attacking again – especially so in the last Test at Bridgetown where we played two spinners and I was first-change seamer.
“The bouncers and stuff were also a tactical thing, and not just motivated by the (heat in the middle) … there were times when Graeme (Smith) wanted me to attack at a certain time.
“So it all comes down to role definition. I guess also you see some light at the end-of-season tunnel and kind of go full blast and give it all you’ve got, knowing that a couple of months break lies ahead so don’t have to (preserve) yourself too much.
“It’s a bit more dangerous when you have a whole campaign ahead of you. It’s about learning to manage yourself.”
Kallis says he has never really altered one of his core cricketing philosophies. “I’m a batsman when I’m batting and a bowler when I’m bowling.
“I’m probably playing some of the best cricket of my life in both respects, so the one rubs off a bit on the other.
“I’ve never been a rhythm bowler; more a ‘strength’ bowler, and I’ve been lucky not to be too hassled by injuries in recent months.”
Could there be residual “issues” when West Indies next visit South African shores?
“I think largely any differences were settled by the time we left the Caribbean. Obviously they were disappointed with the way the results went throughout our tour there and also in the cricket they’ve played for a while.
“But certainly we are a side who play the game hard, shakes hands afterwards, and then nothing further gets mentioned after that.
We’d like to believe that’s how we left it, and how they saw it as well, but you never know.”
Kallis added, however, that the traditionally provocative Benn, in particular, could receive a fiery welcome.
“Ja, I think a few of our spectators are keen to see him lining up at the crease to face our premium fast bowlers. Dale (Steyn) is certainly keen to have a crack at him and a couple of other West Indian players who (wound him up) a bit on our harder, faster wickets.
“A few of their batsmen and lower-order guys could be in for a torrid time when they next come here and Dale and Morne Morkel are running in.”
Kallis unusually did not visit the podium at the 2010 awards, but a signal of his amazing consistency was his nomination as a finalist in four major categories: Standard Bank international Pro20 Cricketer of the Year, ODI Cricketer of the Year, CSA Test Cricketer of the Year and the overall SA Cricketer of the Year.