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GaryWatson
 
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If not Kallis...then who?

04 January 2013, 12:03

If Kallis isn't the greatest cricketer of all time.  Then who can make a better claim?

Now, now…set the emotional nostalgia aside.  We all have our favourites.  We all like to exaggerate their accomplishments.  So drawing on ESPN’s Cricket Stats, I’m going to ask you to do two things.  Consider the facts.  And think like a selector. 

About the facts,  where one draws conclusions from numbers, you need to make sure the amount of data is large enough to draw meaningful conclusions.  Kallis has played 159 Test matches; in other words his records are a large enough sample size from which to draw meaningful conclusions…  Consider all time Test runs scored:

CAREER TEST RUNS

Player

Span

Mat

Inns

NO

Runs

HS

Ave

SR Tendulkar (India)

1989-2012

194

320

32

15645

248*

54.32

RT Ponting (Aus)

1995-2012

168

287

29

13378

257

51.85

R Dravid (India)

1996-2012

164

286

32

13288

270

52.31

JH Kallis (SA)

1995-2013

159*

269

40

13040

224

56.94

BC Lara (WI)

1990-2006

131

232

6

11953

400*

52.88

AR Border (Aus)

1978-1994

156

265

44

11174

205

50.56

SR Waugh (Aus)

1985-2004

168

260

46

10927

200

51.06

·         Kallis averages 56.94, higher than anyone bar Garfield Sobers (58) – but Sobers never batted at 3 or 4; and anyone who knows cricket knows the difference between batting at 3/4 rather than Sober’s preferred 5 or 6.

·         Kallis built his average of 57 by making 13,000 test runs in less Test’s than anyone in history – ok there’s only been 3 before him.  Only Tendulkar did it in less innings – 266 vs. Kallis’ 269.  That’s 3 innings less than Tendulkar for God’s sake.  Yet for some reason, Tendulkar is considered a cricketing God and Kallis not.  I have even heard misguided Poms say things like ‘I’d rather have Beefy in my team’ – too much booze and sitting in the sun the whole day does that to a man.  Beefy doesn’t even get an invite to this party I’m afraid – a test average of 33.5 isn’t quite good enough at this level of the game. 

·         Brian Lara – regarded by many as “the best batsman they ever saw” – scored 11,953 Test runs.  Yet how many people consider Kallis to be as good a batsman as Lara.  After one sees through the emotional feel-good haze of watching a swashbuckling Lara score 400 & 375 in two separate innings; and looks at the cold-hard facts – Kallis is a better Test batsman than Lara.  In fact he is a much better batsman.  He averages 4 more per innings than Lara – which after 200+ innings is a HUGE difference.  In fact it is 7.5% better if you want to break it down to math.  Lara’s two massive innings (375 + 400 = 775) make up 6.5% of the total Test runs he ever scored!  And the 400 was not out –a huge boost in Lara’s average.  In statistics it’s called an outlier.  So the standard deviation around Lara’s mean will be high.  Exciting to watch?  You bet.  As good as Kallis?  No chance.  Here’s why…

o   Kallis has only scored more than 200 twice, and got out both times which means both innings count towards his average.  (IOW added to the denominator, when you're ‘not out’ it the runs are added to your total, but the denominator doesn’t change, which mathematically inflates your average more than it should –especially when you you’re scoring outside the 99% confidence interval i.e. 400 not out ala Lara).  In stats we speak of the variance around the mean; or standard deviation; which really is a measure of how consistently a player scores his batting average.  The lower the SD, the better for a Test cricket batsman at least.  Lara has a few big scores, yet a lower average than Kallis, which suggests Kallis is much more likely to score his average of 57 in any given Test than Lara is to score his average of 52.88. 

o   Now if you want to win a Test do you declare if the opposition has a chance of chasing you down with a day and a half left?  Of course you don’t.  Test cricket is conservative.  So if you were a selector and you had to choose a batsman for a Test, who would you choose?  Kallis who averages close 57 every time he goes out there, or Lara - who if he comes off will score big but if he doesn’t will back in pavilion for 20-odd?   Only someone who doesn’t understand odds (and cricket) would pick Lara over Kallis.   Selectors pick teams to win matches, not provide entertainment.  Once you set emotion aside, there’s no choice really….  Lara is great fun to watch, but he simply isn’t as reliable a Test batsman as Kallis is.  And as the averages show, Kallis will score more runs than Lara will on any given day.     

o   In addition, let’s consider the most Test centuries. Tendulkar has scored 51, Kallis 44, Ponting 41, Dravid 36, Gavaskar 34 and Lara 34.  Yet some jokers would try argue that Kallis ‘isn’t as good as…….(you fill the blank)’.   Kallis has scored the second highest number of Test centuries in the history of the game…  Sobers scored 26 yet myth and legend have fogged many into thinking that Kallis isn’t as good as Sobers?  What nonsense!  If you measure a cricketer by runs scored, centuries knocked, wickets taken …you know, the stuff that wins games; then the real question is “Who is as good as Kallis?”.  If you want measure cricketers on ‘feel-good nostalgia and warm fuzzy feelings’ then maybe Sobers is better than Kallis.  

o   Interestingly Atherton scored 16 and Desmond Haynes scored 18 – Kallis has scored almost triple what Atherton did, and more than twice what Haynes did.  Yet some feel Kallis isn’t quite ‘up there’.  My response to that is ‘You’re not quite compos mentis’.

·         Let’s take a look at some of the modern game’s greatest bowlers…..

ALL TIME WICKET TAKERS

Player

Span

Mat

Inns

Balls

Runs

Wkts

BBI

BBM

Ave

Econ

SR

5

10

M Muralitharan (ICC/SL)

1992-2010

133

230

44039

18180

800

9/51

16/220

22.72

2.47

55.0

67

22

SK Warne (Aus)

1992-2007

145

273

40705

17995

708

8/71

12/128

25.41

2.65

57.4

37

10

A Kumble (India)

1990-2008

132

236

40850

18355

619

10/74

14/149

29.65

2.69

65.9

35

8

GD McGrath (Aus)

1993-2007

124

243

29248

12186

563

8/24

10/27

21.64

2.49

51.9

29

3

CA Walsh (WI)

1984-2001

132

242

30019

12688

519

7/37

13/55

24.44

2.53

57.8

22

3

N Kapil Dev (India)

1978-1994

131

227

27740

12867

434

9/83

11/146

29.64

2.78

63.9

23

2

Sir RJ Hadlee (NZ)

1973-1990

86

150

21918

9611

431

9/52

15/123

22.29

2.63

50.8

36

9

SM Pollock (SA)

1995-2008

108

202

24353

9733

421

7/87

10/147

23.11

2.39

57.8

16

1

Wasim Akram (Pak)

1985-2002

104

181

22627

9779

414

7/119

11/110

23.62

2.59

54.6

25

5

Harbhajan Singh (India)

1998-2012

99

182

27789

13168

408

8/84

15/217

32.27

2.84

68.1

25

5

CEL Ambrose (WI)

1988-2000

98

179

22103

8501

405

8/45

11/84

20.99

2.30

54.5

22

3

M Ntini (SA)

1998-2009

101

190

20834

11242

390

7/37

13/132

28.82

3.23

53.4

18

4

·         Now Kallis has been playing since 1995….that means he built his 159-match Test average of 57 against:

o   Muralitharan

o   Warne

o   Kumble

o   McGrath

o   Walsh

o   Akram

o   Singh

o   Ambrose

That’s not a bunch of medium pace overweight part-timers trotting up to the crease – facing any of those bowlers means facing an attack as good as any there has ever been in the history of the game.  Amassing 13,000 Test runs against such spinners & legendary pace men of that ilk isn’t a feat to be pooh-poohed at.

While on the subject of Test wickets – imagine you’re the captain of a Test team.  Any Test team in history.  Pick one.   Now you get to toss the ball to your second change bowler who already has 281 Test wickets!   Name a Test captain in history that wouldn’t want to be tossing the ball to a second change bowler with 281 test wickets? 

·         So what’s 281 Test wickets you may ask?  Well that depends on the company you keep…..  Would you consider Holding & Garner as reasonably good bowlers?  What about Gough – a front liner for England for many years?  What about Flintoff?  Or Sobers?  All good bowlers – yet for too long Kallis wasn’t mentioned in this esteemed company despite taking more wickets then all of them…..  

Player

Wickets

Average

Holding

249

23.68

Garner

259

20.97

Sobers

235

34.03

Gough

229

28.39

Flintoff

226

32.78

o   Is Kallis as good a bowler as Holding or Garner was – no he’s not.  He never was.  They were fearsome front line West Indian pace men; yet Kallis has taken more wickets then both of them.  Sure he played more Tests, but taking more wickets than such legendary bowlers must count for something on Judgement Day …. And Kallis never opened the bowling. 

Now you’re a Test selector….you have one of the all-time greatest batsman in your team, who can take the ball after Steyn (who is just as good as Holding and Garner ever were - having reached the 4th fastest 300 Test wicket haul in history yesterday); This great bat, who is just 19 wickets shy of 300 Test wickets himself; and try to argue with a straight face that you’d rather pick someone else in your Test line up?  Maybe that’s why you ain’t a selector (don’t worry I’m not either). 

Forget your emotional attachment to myth and legend; and pick your team on fact.  As a selector it is your duty and responsibility to pick a team with the highest chance of winning.  If you agree that, then you pick the player that gives you the highest chance of winning first.  Tendulkar?  Maybe?  But his average is lower than Kallis’ after a 20-year career (before you wee in your pants I’m not saying Kallis is better than Sachin with the bat but he’s right up there).  Steyn?  Nice to have… Clarke or Cooke on current form would be great picks but before Kallis?  Not in month of monkeys.  If you want to pick the best Test team in the world, hell the best Test team ever because you want to win the Test match, you pick the best player first and build the rest of the team around him.  Kallis first?  Yes. Boring?  Maybe…. Greatest chance of winning?   Let the numbers do the talking.   If you picked Kallis first every time, you would never lose your job as a selector. 

By the way….if you’re still not convinced; and that could only be because you believe in cricket fairies and Father Christmas - consider the list of all-time Test career catches.    

ALL TIME TEST CRICKET CATCHES

Player

Ct

R Dravid (India)

210

RT Ponting (Aus)

196

DPMD Jayawardene (SL)

193

JH Kallis (SA)

192

ME Waugh (Aus)

181

SP Fleming (NZ)

171

BC Lara (WI)

164

MA Taylor (Aus)

157

AR Border (Aus)

156

What did my high school coach tell me again? Ah yes, ‘Catches win Matches’!  Batsmen usually field in the slips, so Ponting, Dravid and Kallis are expected to take a few; but Kallis will probably end up topping the all-time catches list with South Africa’s current pace attack….. just four more puts him in 2nd place. Ever.  Topping a list of all-time greats….Again?  This is too much.

Ok, ok, I know this getting a little boring already…… so let’s not go into Kallis’ ODI stats; suffice to say that he has scored over 11,000 runs at an average of 45+ and taken more than 250 wickets.  I know it’s all getting a bit yawn isn’t it?

So let’s keep it real.   Time for some real honesty now.  Enough is enough….  This Kallis chap is the greatest cricket player of our generation.  Once you are replace romantic nostalgia with the cold light of day; and have acknowledged the past greats for their greatness; paid respect where respect is due; then I want you to stop and consider this:  Writing in BD Live, Gareth van Olselen recently postulated, that if Kallis has another 19 Test wickets in him; and perhaps another 2000 Test runs (another 35 innings at his current average; and still 25 Tests less than Sachin has already played, i.e. entirely doable) – he’d lay claim to “300 Test wickets and 15,000 Test runs”.  And then my friends, he would “breathe air so rarefied that even the cricket gods themselves would gasp”.  

Stop and think about that for second.  One man. 15,000 Test runs.  300 Test wickets. 

Kallis is the only player, the only one, who can become that man.  Even if he never gets there, though I believe he will, just the mere fact that he is the only one that ever could, must make him the greatest there ever was.  I mean if that doesn’t; then pray tell what does? 

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