Ganguly: Kallis is the best

2012-07-09 10:47
Jacques Kallis (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The debate about the best cricket batter of all times is riddled with emotions and subjectivity. However, although Alistair Cook, AB de Villiers and Gautum Gambhir might enter the discussion in future, the serious contenders at this moment are Jacques Kallis, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

It might just be that in future cricket connoisseurs will refer to the last three decades as the golden era of the game because of their presence. It is unlikely that three batting geniuses will ever again play the game in the same era. They are a perfect triptych: three individual exponents of the art of batting but joined by the same era to show the full face of batting perfection.    

Ricky Ponting, Chivnarine Chanderpaul, Kumar Sangakkara and Kevin Pietersen all deserve a mention.

Chanderpaul’s unorthodox and unappealing; rather ugly some purists would insist, stance in the crease and his inability to play shots with the class and splendour of the rest will never earn him a permanent spot amongst the other greats. But still, given the task he performs for the Windies and the runs he produces against all oppositions, he should get an amount of credit. Anyone who averages 51 against the Proteas, 50 against Australia, 52 against England and 66 against India deserves a spot amongst the greats; and Chiv is the man.

Tough luck and circumstances probably robbed KP Pietersen from being a serious contender as the best batter ever. Initially the Proteas ignored this master batter and he had to defect to England to play test cricket. He subsequently had a late start to his career and at the age of 32 he might go on for another 5 or 6 years and extend his 6 857 career runs to 11 000; but time will probably prevent him from becoming a regular name when the purists muse over the best of the best. At best his interaction with the England and Wales Cricket Board is so foggy that the very squeaky relationship will implode sooner rather than later. But, whatever, KP’s batting royalty and superior stroke playing will keep him in the minds of cricket’s connoisseurs.  

Most people will say the icon is Tendulkar and with that the debate is done and dusted for them; finish and “klaar”.

But hey, linger a moment and look at this: Kallis has a career average of 56.78, more than a run better than Sachin’s 55.44. And, whilst comparing the three players on Star Cricket, Sourav Ganguly said: “definitely Kallis”.

Tendulkar scored buckets full of runs in the most batting friendly environment: India. Kallis averages more than 58 in India and Sachin 56.36. If Kallis played half of his cricket in India his career average would have been close to 58, even 60. The same probably applies to Chiv (54.55 in India). Sachin scored 33 of his 51 test centuries on the flat subcontinent wickets. Kallis scored 22 of his 42 test centuries in South Africa. Batting in South Africa is more difficult than in India and South African wickets give assistance to swing bowlers. In the past South African decks supported tall quicks with bounce and carry.  

However, and in all fairness not all great batters adjust to sub continental conditions and Ponting’s average of 26.48 in 16 tests in India underlines this. 

In my previous post someone said Kallis scores against lesser teams. Against New Zealand, India, West Indies and Zimbabwe he averages more than the rest. Sachin averages the highest against Australia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Dravid scores prolifically against England and Ponting against South Africa.

Based on performances against the top 6 teams there is nothing to chose between Kallis and Tendulkar.

It is true that Kallis with a career 12 379 runs is well short of Sachin’s 15 470; but it is equally factual that Sachin played in 36 more tests than Kallis. Jacques scores an average of 81.4 runs per test. If the known is extrapolated to a further 36 tests Kallis could add another 2 931 which will propel his career tally to 15 301 runs. Also on this front there is very little between Kallis and Tendulkar.

Yes Kallis has a bad track record in England but in South Africa Sachin is also far below his own average with 46.4. The so-called great master found it even more difficult in Pakistan (40.1) and Zimbabwe (40). Ponting and Chiv cannot bat in India; Sachin finds it difficult in Pakistan, Zimbabwe and South Africa and Kallis in England and Australia. It seems that every top class batter struggles somewhere on the planet. 

And then there is this bizarre argument: Kallis cannot be compared to Ponting and Tendulkar because he didn’t face the likes of Dale Steyn and Alan Donald. Well then, Ponting did not face Brett Lee, Glen McGrath and Shane Warne. And somewhere along the line Sachin missed out against Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Kapil Dev, Zaheer Khan and Venkatesh Prasad.

I do not intend to deliver the verdict although it seems fairly clear that the best is one of three: Kallis, Tendulkar or Dravid.

I will say this much; I won’t be convinced easily that either of the Indians are better than Kallis. I will leave you with some stats.

Note 1: Highest career average is Kallis, followed by Kumar, Sachin, Ponting and Dravid.

Note 2: Tendulkar is the only batter that scored more than 50 hundreds, with Kallis and Ponting both following with more than 40.

Note 3: Fifties converted into hundreds: Kumar (44.1%), Sachin (43.6%), Kallis (43.3%), KP (42.6%), Ponting (39.8), Chiv (37.9) and Dravid (36%). 

Note 4: Ability to score away from home indicates how good batters are on foreign wickets. The guy that stands out is Dravid, the only batter with a better average away from home than at home. Tendulkar and Kallis follow him. Ponting, Kumar, Chiv and KP all average less than 50 away.

I leave you with this passage from Sam Stoffelen’s brilliant and well researched article, The best modern-day cricketer is mostly ignored

“Tendulkar is a god in India. However, if Kallis were Indian, he would certainly be nipping at heals of Vishnu, Gandhi and Sachin.

For years Kallis has shouldered a higher workload than most cricketers of the modern era. His reputation precedes him, not only is he recognized as a distinguished batman, but as a feared bowler and handy slip fielder.

There is nothing flamboyant about Kallis. He is an elegant, textbook cricketer with a front-foot drive that has been the envy of many young batsmen over his career. His array of strokes incorporates immaculate precision with scintillating power derived from his big follow-through.

I had the pleasure of watching Kallis at his finest against India in 2010, when he notched his maiden Test double-century in one of the finest innings I have witnessed. Kallis dispatched the ball to all ends of the park, from clipping the ball off his pads for one of five sixes, to slashing a square cut to the boundary.

If I had to find something to disrespect Kallis, the only thing I could say is that hair transplants are better left to Doug Bollinger. Apart from that, Jacques Kallis has the honour of being my nomination for greatest cricketer of the modern era.”

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