Is it time for the king to abdicate?

2014-07-11 00:00

HE’S rightly regarded as one of the world’s greatest cricketers of the modern era, perhaps the game’s greatest all-rounder, but no sportsman, regardless of what he has achieved and left behind, is immortal.

Such is the current dilemma around Jacques Kallis, King Kallis to many, as his place in the Protea One-Day team comes under scrutiny after he contributed a single run in two innings on the current Sri Lanka tour, facing a total of nine balls.

He’s occupying the vital number three position in the batting line-up and on both occasions in Sri Lanka, has left the later batsmen with repair work to complete as the opposition smelt blood.

It’s been 18 years since he made his ODI debut for the Proteas, against England at Cape Town in 1996 where, batting at seven, he scored a useful 38. Since then, he has played 327 ODIs, amassing 11 575 runs at 44,51 and, while stats don’t lie, perhaps it’s time to be brutally honest and call for the king’s abdication.

Now, at 38 years of age and approaching 39 with speed, it’s time to face facts and pose some questions on his place in the ODI team.

After stepping down from Test cricket at the end of last year, he indicated his intention to still be part of the ODI set-up, no doubt eyeing next year’s ICC World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as a last gasp effort to try and lift the only accolade missing from his cricket CV.

That tournament is in February/March, seven months away and for Kallis, it’s seven months too far. South Africa have yet to play in an ICC World Cup final, having promised so much in previous years and failing to deliver.

Recent series, the current one included, have shown the Proteas battle to win two or three games in succession and the South African cricket public is tired of hearing how the side is building toward the tournament, looking for the right combinations, experimenting with different players and selecting the best possible players.

That last statement comes under intense scrutiny when looking at Kallis. With a player like Faf du Plessis kept out the side and carrying the drinks, it turns the situation on its head and begs the question: is Kallis surviving on reputation alone?

Sport is a brutal world. A player can give half his life to a team and their cause, but the circle of life goes on and when age, reflex and reaction starts wavering, stats alone cannot warrant a player’s place in a team, no matter who that player may be.

He is one of those players who has given so much to the game and while it may be tough to go out when on top, that’s what works in the sporting world and what people remember.

Shaun Pollock made his decision to retire and stuck to it, going out as a Protea icon, lapping up tributes and crowd affection around the country; Brian Mitchell, possibly SA’s greatest boxer, called it a day as an undefeated world champion, after 12 title defences. They got it right.

The fickle South African cricket followers are ­already degrading Kallis, not noting the stats, but rather asking why he is still in the side and when he is going to step down.

Cricket is not a kind game and Kallis is finding that out. It can be related to long distance running. While it takes more stamina to run further, nobody remembers the marathon winners. It’s the sprinters who take the limelight and Kallis has long faded out of that light. He’s not even in the starting blocks any more.

The Proteas may feel secure having him in the ranks, but surely the line must be drawn somewhere. How many times does skipper AB de Villiers have to justify Kallis’s selection?

Aussie great Ricky Ponting also hung around a tad too long. Those fluent, booming cover drives and deft flicks off the legs were gone by the time he called it a day, his last few innings sad to watch as he scratched around like a bird with a broken beak.

Kallis is in that frame too. The sharpness has gone, the class is a memory and his body is rusty. He’s not bowling, he’s not scoring runs. He’s just on the field, dare it be, by reputation only.

What to do next? With what we have, put Du Plessis back in the team and elevate De Villiers to three. When the Proteas return home, perhaps blood some new talent — Stiaan van Zyl (26) from the Cobras or even the Dolphins’ Cameron Delport (25) who has a penchant for the shorter version of the game. They may still be a little wet behind the ears, but if the Proteas are going to rebuild in the next few years at One-Day level and become a serious threat at the World Cup, we need to sow new seeds and get rid of the weeds in the garden.

HAVE YOUR SAY ON THE KALLIS DEBATE!

Tell us if you agree with Dave Knowles or not and we will publish the best responses. Should Kallis stay or should he go?

David.Knowles@

witness.co.za

Kallis ODI Stats (as at 11/7/14)

Matches 327, Runs 11 575 HS 139, Avg 44,51, 100x17, 50x86, Wkts 273, Best 5-30, Avg 31,79, S/Rate 39,3, Econ 4,84

Last 10 ODI Innings

11 Jan 2012 - 72 v Sri Lanka, Paarl

14 Jan 2012 - 37 v Sri Lanka, East London

25 Feb 2012 - 13 v New Zealand, Wellington

29 Feb 2012 - 4 v New Zealand, Napier

24 Nov 2012 - 50 v Pakistan, Cape Town

27 Nov 2012 - 6 v Pakistan, Port Elizabeth

5 Dec 2012 - 10 v India, Johannesburg

8 Dec 2012 - 10 v India, Durban

6 July 2014 - 0 v Sri Lanka, Colombo

9 July 2014 - 1 v Sri Lanka, Kandy

203 runs at an average of 20,3

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