The South African team management and selectors are finding themselves in a big quandary at present. One of their all-time greats, all-rounded Jacques Kallis is coming to the end of a fantastic international career. While he retired from Tests last year, following a typical century against one of his favourite opponents India, he still harbours hope of playing the 2015 World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand. Which is precisely why he is featuring in the ongoing ODI series against Sri Lanka. Kallis has been a great servant of South African cricket for nearly two decades, but following his failures in one-day series in Sri Lanka, the question is bound to arise -- is it time to look beyond the great man?
There are a number of reasons why question marks are being raised about Kallis' place in the one-day team. While as an all-rounder he is invaluable to the team, Kallis couldn't bowl in the series against Sri Lanka at all owing to nagging injury issues. With the bat as well, Kallis failed to contribute in all three matches, and even as a fielder he is no longer sharp, owing to his age. At the risk of sounding extremely unfair, it has to be stated that Kallis is looking as a bit of a liability on the team.
One can easily understand why Kallis is so keen on making it to the 2015 World Cup. In a bejewelled career spanning close to two decades, the all-rounder has achieved almost everything possible in the game. As a batsman, he has stood up to the best in the world, and as a bowler, he has been lion-hearted while not always being lucky. His figures as an all-rounder are on par with all-time greats like Sobers, Hadlee, Imran, Kapil and Botham, in some cases even better. He has contributed massively in taking the Test team to the numero uno spot. He was even instrumental in South Africa winning the Champions Trophy back in 1998. As such, the World Cup seems to be the only trophy missing in his cabinet.
While the sentiments are completely understandable, given that Kallis has given so much to the South African side over the years, irrespective of the format, conditions or match situations, the fact is that a Word Cup is less than a year away now, and the time has come to finalise the players who will be part of that sojourn in Australia and New Zealand. One is not ruling out Kallis as yet; it is too early in the day to say so. However, how Kallis performs from here is extremely significant both for him as an individual, and the team as a whole. It could go a long way in deciding whether or not Kallis fits into the scheme of things for the upcoming World Cup.
Apart from whether or not Kallis is scoring runs, there are a few other factors that would decide the fate of Kallis for next year's mega tournament. While Kallis is good enough to earn a place in any side based on his batting prowess, it is as an all-rounder that the Proteas would need him more. There are many talented batsmen like Faf du Plessis, who can stake claim for his batting spot. But, as an all-rounder, he has few challengers. This is why it would be imperative to see whether he can bowl consistently, and effectively. Fitness is another area where Kallis will be observed closely. Whatever decision is taken on Kallis will be a tough one without doubt, but the right stand should be taken, keeping sentiment aside.
--By A Cricket Analyst