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Ken Borland

A late summer of searching as sun sets on Kallis

Posted on February 12, 2014 by Ken

Now that the sun has finally set on the glorious Test career of Jacques Kallis, South Africa will spend the rest of the summer trying to ascertain the best way of replacing a genuine, almost unique three-in-one cricketer.

And that is going to take time. Whoever steps into the great man’s shoes today, whether that be another all-rounder like Ryan McLaren or Wayne Parnell, or an extra bowler in Rory Kleinveldt, or even an extra batsman in Dean Elgar, it should not be taken as a guarantee that that will be the way forward in the future for South Africa.

“Whether we choose the extra batsman, an all-rounder or the extra bowler depends on which one of those options is right for the conditions and for this stage of the series,” captain Graeme Smith said yesterday on the eve of the Test.

Kallis has been a key factor in South Africa reaching number one in the Test rankings, but he has retired before the Proteas can honestly say they have built a dynasty like that of the West Indies in the late 1970s-1980s or the Australians from the late 1990s-2000s.

And one of the chief stars of that great West Indian outfit, fast bowler Michael Holding, had some advice for the South African team: “Don’t look for another Jacques Kallis!”

Holding pointed to England’s experience in trying to replace Ian Botham, the great Somerset all-rounder.

West Indian great Michael Holding

“England tormented themselves for many years trying to find the new Ian Botham, choosing players like Derek Pringle and David Capel. But you cannot replace a player like that every day, you’re going to hang around and wait a long time, and the same applies to Kallis.

“If South Africa want four fast bowlers then they must just pick them. If you want four fast bowlers, then you have six batsmen and a wicketkeeper. We did it because we had enough depth in our batting with Jeffrey Dujon scoring hundreds at number seven and only one of our fast bowlers not scoring a 50 in Tests,” Holding said yesterday at a SuperSport breakfast.

The problem with South Africa just playing four frontline seamers is that they will then not have a specialist spinner in their line-up. Coach Russell Domingo has already said he does not feel JP Duminy is ready yet to bowl 20 overs in a Test, and the same surely applies to Elgar, and Smith is reluctant not to have a specialist spinner in the team.

“The forecast is for pretty warm weather and if it’s hot, you generally have a good batting surface. Then we’re certainly reluctant not to play a specialist spinner, we feel his role is crucial and I would be surprised if we don’t play one,” Smith said.

South Africa’s tactics revolve around creating pressure through strangulation and their efforts to stringently police the run-rate can be nullified by a team attacking the spinner and hitting him out of the attack, something Australian batsmen have always been most adept at doing.

Which is where the fourth seamer, performing a holding role, becomes a crucial part of the attack.

The presence of McLaren, who has a first-class batting average of 30.63, added to the usefulness of Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander and even Dale Steyn down the order, would also give South Africa plenty of batting depth if conditions are in favour of the bowlers.

While South Africa should be eternally grateful for the 13 289 runs, 292 wickets and 200 catches Kallis provided from 1995, it is time to move on and choose the best balanced XI to win Tests, not try to find someone to mimic the same role as a top-order batsman and bowler.

Notwithstanding the effort to find a solution to the Kallis conundrum, Holding fancies South Africa to have the edge over Australia in the three-Test series.

“South Africa are a very, very good side, even without Jacques Kallis, who leaves a big hole. They have more depth than this Australian team, which is not as good as previous ones.

“I think it will be a very tight series, Australia have a fair amount of confidence but South Africa are a better team and should end up in front. The better batting team will win,” Holding said.

The man known as “Whispering Death” because of his near-silent approach to the crease and the destruction he wrought at the other end, encouraged South Africa to seize the initiative.

“Michael Clarke knows in his mind that they are underdogs, he’s not just saying it. South Africa should recognise that they are the better team, but never ever be complacent.”

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