Ask any cricket lover over the age of 40 who is the greatest player of all time and chances are the name Sir Garfield Sobers will fly off their lips, quickly followed by the words ‘definitely’ or ‘no question about it’. ‘.
Don’t get me wrong, Sir Garfield Sobers certainly was worthy of greatness. During a career of 20 years, 93 match tests batting primarily at six, he scored 8032 runs at an average of 57.78 in 160 innings, including 30 fifty-26 hundreds and took 235 wickets at 34.03 with the extraordinary 2.22 run economy rate for more in just under 3600 overs. As a hitter, he was supremely graceful, owning every shot and ruthlessly punishing anything loose, especially offside. With the ball in hand, he launched an incredibly versatile left arm combination of seam up, orthodox, and wrist twist, all with equal aplomb. Add in his brilliant fielding, 109 catches from close range and the fact that he once had the world’s highest Test batting score of 365 not out and it’s easy to see why Wisden listed him as one of his 5 Cricketers of the Century. .
However, if the true test of an all-rounder is his ability to break into the trial squad simply as a hitter and pitcher, then I think another candidate should be seriously considered. I give you Jacques Kallis.
Compared to Sobers, just in stats, Kallis is toe to toe with him. To date, in a career that has spanned 15 years and 140 Tests, Kallis has scored 11,126 runs at an average of 55.07 batting largely at all three. In that time he has also scored an incredible 53 fifty and 35 hundreds. As an efficient first-change pitcher, he has caught 266 victims at a 31.59 average and has had 159 sacks, mostly on slide. Given that he faced some of the best bowlers from Ambrose, Walsh, McGrath, Warne, Akram, Younis and Muralitharan and ruled out legends like Lara, Tendulkar, Ponting, Hayden, Inzamam and Pietersen, then I have no doubt. that Kallis deserves to be categorized in the same group as Sobers. Especially when you consider the sheer volume of cricket that Jacques Kallis has to play. In twenty years, Sobers played fewer than 4.5 Test matches a year on average. Kallis, on the other hand, in five years less, plays twice as much. And that’s not taking into account all of the ODIs and 20/20s that are now on the show and the energy-draining journey said show demands.
Given his career stats, you have to feel sorry for Jacques Kallis because, despite his wonderful record, he barely gets a mention in any discussion of the greatest in all aspects of the game. Perhaps this could change when he retires because players always seem to improve once they hang up their boots. But while he keeps playing, you have to wonder why Jacques Kallis doesn’t really get the superstar status his performances deserve. I think the answer is simply one of charisma, or more specifically his lack of it.
Let’s face it, Jacques Kallis is not the life of the party. In fact, compared to Sobers, Botham, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Andy Flintoff, and even Richard Hadlee, he comes across as a pretty grim guy. But there again they say that actions speak louder than words. And Jacques Kallis, through consistently impressive performances of his own, certainly does.
If records are made to be broken, opinions are formed to be changed. So if Sir Garfield Sobers is still currently recognized as the greatest off-roader in all of gaming history, then perhaps one day Jacques Kallis will be as well. For my part, I certainly wouldn’t envy him if this were the case.