Jacques Kallis’ unlimited talent

Why Kallis’ place in limited overs cricket is underrated

By Jaideep Varma and Jatin Thakkar


As India and South Africa square off to play a lone T20 match, criticised for being out-of-context, it may be useful to examine the impact of the player this match is dedicated to.

Though Jacques Kallis is widely seen as an outstanding Test match player, no-one appears to have actually examined his impact more closely in limited overs cricket. Since conventional stats (averages, century tallies etc) give a very blurred picture in these formats, his unspectacular strike-rate has given way to the notion that he is one of those grafters who is a misfit in limited-overs cricket, especially T20. After all, wasn’t he one of the players in the first IPL season for whom Dravid had famously said – we’ll show them what a Test team can do (in response to criticism that Bangalore had put together a team of Test players likely to be ineffective in this format)?


Kallis is actually Royalty when it comes to limited overs cricket. He is the 9th-highest impact ODI player of all time (minimum 75 matches) - after fellow-giants Viv Richards, Shaun Pollock, Wasim Akram, Sanath Jayasuriya, Dean Jones, Brett Lee, Shane Warne and Glen McGrath.

This makes him the third-highest impact all-rounder in ODI cricket – and this is an interesting observation coming from the Impact numbers – neither Shaun Pollock nor Wasim Akram were actually all-rounders on a career level as they did not cross an IMPACT of 1 when it came to batting (they were great bowlers who could bat very convincingly sometimes). Conversely, Viv Richards was an all-rounder because he (just) crossed 1 when it came to bowling.

Even purely as a batsman, Kallis is the 11-highest impact ODI batsman of all time, after Viv Richards, Dean Jones, Gordon Greenidge, Sachin Tendulkar, Mark Waugh, Matthew Hayden, Geoff Marsh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Bevan and Sanath Jayasuriya. Despite the widely-held notion about his problems with strike-rate actually being borne out somewhat (he has the 4th lowest Strike Rate IMPACT amongst the 20-highest impact batsmen in ODI cricket – only Mark Taylor, Geoff Marsh and Desmond Haynes are below him), what no-one has quite measured so far is his ability to play under pressure (and the two, for obvious reasons, are connected).

In all of ODI history, only 4 batsmen have absorbed more pressure than Kallis (namely Roger Twose, Jeremy Coney, Michael Bevan and Andy Flower). Interestingly, Kallis has faced pressure 159 of the 319 times he has come out to bat in ODIs, a neat 50% of the time (like Bevan for Australia, this is a key role that contributed a great deal to make South Africa the force it has been in ODI cricket) – only 3 batsmen in ODI cricket history came under pressure more often than him (Mohammed Yousuf, Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting) – which is really a comment on their respective teams and a pointer to the roles they played for them. Kallis absorbed this pressure successfully a high 50% of the time (Yousuf and Dravid absorbed it 38 and 39% of the time respectively, while Ponting did so 53% of the time, a pointer to Ponting’s significance to his team).

The above is not incongruous with Kallis’ outstanding impact while chasing (as pressure is often a by-product of that) – he is the fifth-highest impact batsman while chasing (after Virat Kohli, Martin Crowe, Shane Watson and Gautam Gambhir). 

Kallis also built more partnerships in ODI cricket than any South African – not a surprising attribute for those who have followed his career – internationally, he has the sixth-highest impact in this, after Geoff Marsh, Dean Jones, Viv Richards, Md Yousuf and Javed Miandad.

Given that as a pure bowler, Kallis is the 88th highest impact bowler of all time in ODIs – it makes him quite prominently a batting all-rounder, but a genuine all-rounder nevertheless.

He has also been one of the big performers on a match level – with the third-highest tally of IMPACT 5 (registering 5 or more on the IMPACT scale) performances in his career, 54 in all, only after Tendulkar and Jayasuriya.

On top of all this, he has been a big occasion player with 8 series/tournament-defining performances in his career – the seventh-highest in ODI history, after Jayasuriya (12), Akram (11), Tendulkar (10), Pollock (10), Richards (9) and McGrath (8, in lesser matches).

Only Shaun Pollock comes near him as a great amongst South Africans in ODI cricket (Klusener, Cronje, Smith, Donald, Ntini, G Kirsten, Symcox, Boucher and AB DeVillers follow).


One reason why Kallis’ contributions are often missed is that he is frequently a very solid support performer (especially with the ball) and it is his consistency that is his hallmark rather than stupendously big performances, especially in the big matches. Here are his 3 highest impact performances – all of which are series/tournament-defining.

1) 83 off 95 and 3 for 30 in 5 overs v Pakistan in Dubai, 2010 – Match IMPACT 7.65

Series Defining performance - Series locked at 2-2, South Africa bat first, it is 37-1 when Kallis walks out. For the next 34 overs, he anchors the innings and produces an innings that builds a foundation for the hitters later-on to strut their stuff (which they do). With Pakistan starting their chase of 318 well – at 82 for no loss in 12-odd overs, Kallis takes two quick wickets to push them back – decisively as it would prove later. South Africa win by 57 runs.

2) 5 for 30 in 7.3 overs and 37 off 51 v West Indies in Dhaka, 1998 (Wills International Cup Final) – Match IMPACT 6.87

A famous match – the final of the first ICC Knockout Trophy (now called Champions Trophy). At 193-4 in about 37 overs, West Indies were looking ominous when 23-year-old Kallis began a steady spell that would turn the match on its head – as he got 5 for 30 and reduced West Indies to 245. Later, walking out at 60-2, he anchored the innings with a stable 37 before being caught-and-bowled. Captain Cronje safely steered South Africa home, as they won their first major world title since their post-Apartheid return and Kallis was Man-of-the-Tournament.

3) 86 off 130 and 0 for 15 in 3 overs v Pakistan in Lahore, 2007 – Match IMPACT 5.13

Series Defining performance - Series deadlocked at 2-2. It is 7 for 1 when Kallis walks out. 226 for 7 when he walks out. During the 48 overs in between, he has anchored the innings (absorbing pressure, building partnerships – quintessential Kallis traits) and taken South Africa to a clearly defendable score of 233 (for 9) on this pitch. It would prove to be enough as Morkel and Ntini between them get most of the Pakistan batsmen out – Kallis does not need to do much with the ball.


When it comes to T20 cricket (Internationals and domestic, with a 20% higher weightage to Internationals), the first interesting fact is that Kallis does not cross an IMPACT of 1 as a bowler – so, strictly speaking, he is not an all-rounder in this format (though capable of great-bowler-like feats every once in a while – as the list below demonstrates).

However, as a batsman, he will disappoint those looking for a reason to pronounce him an unworthy T20 exponent. He is the 16th highest impact batsman (combined T20 internationals and domestics) and more significantly perhaps - the second-highest impact batsman in T20 Internationals, only after Kevin Pietersen (who is the Viv Richards of T20 batting, as it were) – with the highest Runs Tally IMPACT amongst all batsmen in T20Is (this means he has made the highest proportion of runs in a match context throughout his career – though sample sizes are not big here). Interestingly, and this is particularly true for his combined T20 record (because of the much higher sample size of matches), the attributes on which he stands out as a T20 batsman are exactly the same at which he excels in ODIs – chasing, building partnerships and absorbing pressure (came under pressure 32% of the times he batted, absorbed in 57% of the time).


Kallis has just one series/tournament-defining performance in T20 cricket (in a domestic tournament – the final of Standard Bank Pro20 Series in South Africa) and his was a support performance there, so it narrowly misses this list. Hence, all three performances here are high impact performances that registered 5 on a career level. Most interestingly, despite not having the impact of a genuine all-rounder in combined T20 cricket, all three of these performances are emphatic all-round feats.

1) 3 for 20 in 3 overs and 57 not out off 49 v England in Nottingham, 2009  – Match IMPACT 10.24

Fittingly, it is a T20I which features as Kallis’ highest impact T20 match – England knocked out for 111 with Kallis chipping in with 2 middle-order wickets at an important stage (78-3 in the 13th over). Then, opening the batting, withstanding a score of 17-1, and then taking South Africa comfortably through.

2) 3 for 16 in 4 overs and 43 not out v Guyana in Centurion, 2010 (Champions League T20 2010-11) – Match IMPACT 15.35

A match that eventually qualifies as an “easy chase”, therefore doubling the impact for bowlers of the winning team – and halving the impact of its batsmen. No worries for Kallis, as he is peerless in both functions – as he takes the most wickets and bowls the only maiden for South Africa, then comes out and blasts 43 off 32, going against his average strike rate norm too.

3) 73 not out off 59 and 3 for 18 in 4 overs v Otago in Bangalore, 2009 (Champions League T20 2009-10) – Match IMPACT 12.21

All in a day’s work. Face half the balls of the innings and help take your team to an ostensibly unassailable score of 188. Then knock out the first 3 wickets of the opposition as they barely touch 30. Allow the other bowlers then to justify their salaries – and bask in an 80-run win in a 40-over match.
BOTTOMLINE – Kallis’ status in limited overs cricket is second-to-none amongst South Africans, if both ODIs and T20 matches are considered. Internationally, he is one of the all-time greats. He is not just a great Test player. Today is a good day to remember this.

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