Jacques Kallis announced his retirement and out popped the Neanderthal system of measuring cricketers’ abilities with tallies and averages yet again.

Dravid’s runs tally + Zaheer’s wickets tally = Jacques Kallis is what some said in varying degrees. The equation put him second only to Garry Sobers in the estimation of some; others even took him above Sobers for no particular reason (which is how most cross-era analysis happens amongst cricket romantics who sadly run most of the cricket media as well).

The minor matter of match context or value of performance to team or most significantly, how much it affected the series scoreline, dismissed as mere quibbling. The impact of the four great all-rounders of the 1980s piffle. That’s what tally stats in cricket do – make one feel an elephant’s body-parts blindfolded and describe them through amused tickling.

At the moment, it does seem that Impact Index is the only entity that accounts for context in cricket analysis across eras – its findings are all easily verifiable through manual checking, though for those who place a higher stock on context in both match and series, it may not even need that. Its construct is elementary when it comes to cricket logic – there aren’t exactly multiple options possible in this. Taking Kallis’ numbers through Impact Index in all 3 formats (including fielding and for others, captaincy), this is what we found.

He is the 8th highest impact all-rounder in Test cricket (minimum matches 50 in all Test readings).

The 22nd highest impact Test cricketer ever and the 4th highest impact South African.

The 6th highest impact batsman in the last 20 years.

The 16th highest impact cricketer in all of ODI history.

The 10th highest impact batsman in T20Is. And well, the 14th highest impact batsman in IPL history.

Two qualities distinguish him from his peers and predecessors alike – his ability to absorb pressure (of falling wickets) and the ability to build partnerships – he has been outstanding in these two things in all 3 formats of the game.

Of course he is a true giant of the game – but it is a game that has been played by some great players over the years, across the world. Hopefully, in this analysis on Kallis, we honour them all.

TEST CRICKET

Since this is the format that still determines a player’s greatness, we thought wed begin here (our Test automation still has 2-3% errors which is being sorted but we thought it is still worth doing this exercise with that our first with this version).

test all-rounders 1

Bowlers are the highest impact players in Test cricket – the old adage that bowlers win matches is overwhelmingly apparent in a system like this. Given that, it should not be surprising that most of the players with a higher impact than Kallis are bowling all-rounders (that is, their bowling impact is higher than their batting impact ).

Except Garry Sobers, who is the only batting all-rounder above Kallis. But Sir Garry was from another planet (much like Bradman was) – both his batting and bowling impact are higher than Kallis. The batting impact of Tony Greig, Keith Miller and Chris Cairns runs their own bowling impact reasonably close.

Interestingly, Kallis’ 18% failure rate (when he could not muster up an impact of even 1 in a match) is the highest on this list, suggesting that he was the most inconsistent amongst these great players (an 18% failure, especially for a batting all-rounder, is remarkable otherwise). Ian Botham’s 9% failure rate is quite simply insane, especially when you consider that it was 33% in his last 10 Tests.

The Series-Defining performance (a performance of over 4 impact against a level one side), which records a performance that affected the series-scoreline, is the true legacy of a player. Kallis has 5, 3rd-highest in this august company, but his ratio of 1 every 33 Tests is lower than every player ahead of him on this list. Amongst South Africans, he was second only to Shaun Pollock but equalled his tally in his last Test match, with just the bat! It is very rare to end your Test career with a series-defining performance (as rare as beginning one’s Test career with an SD as Jonathan Trott did in 2009).

Kallis is the 4th highest impact South African Test cricketer of all time – after Shaun Pollock, Dale Steyn and Allan Donald (the edge to the higher impact bowlers) and the highest impact South African batsman (min 50 Tests) just overtaking his team-mates Amla and Smith with his last SD against India in his last match (that is the value of an SD performance). Given the number of contemporary players mentioned here, it is not hard to see why this South African team has reached the heights it has – which is another interesting story for some other time.

NOTE: Interestingly, Shaun Pollock, though higher impact than Kallis, does not qualify as an all-rounder on our scales as his batting impact does not cross 0.9 (the idea is that an all-rounder has an impact of at least 1 in two disciplines but we keep it at 0.9 to allow for slight skews, just like umpire’s call in DRS) – not evident from his batting average of 32, camouflaged by more than a fair share of not-outs.

It is necessary to acknowledge Kallis longevity here – for him to maintain such standards through 160-plus Tests is truly remarkable, for an all-rounder particularly. The kind of fitness and appetite for the game this suggests is beyond human.

As a Test batsman, consistency has been Kallis’ hallmark. He is the most consistent batsman in South Africa’s Test history and the 11th most consistent ever in Test cricket’s 136 year-old history. Moreover, he has the highest Partnership-Building impact amongst all South Africans in Tests (and 5th highest overall, after Bradman, Sutcliff, Amla and Hutton). After Jonty Rhodes, Kallis also absorbed the most pressure by a South African batsman.

In the last 20 years, Kallis is 6th on a list of highest impact batsmen (he may have crossed Dravid in terms of runs tally but not in impact), with the likes of Tendulkar, Steve Waugh and Chanderpaul behind him in terms of batting impact . (And yes, Daryll Cullinan, since you asked, Kallis has been a better number 4 than Sachin – though your stats people don’t really have the tools to conclude this in any way.)

ONE DAY CRICKET

Interestingly, Kallis is an even greater player in One-Dayers (and that career is not yet over). Besides being the highest impact South African in their ODI history (minimum ODI matches: 100), he is the 16th highest impact player ever, most of those above him are all-rounders (the most valuable commodity in ODI cricket, as bowlers are in Tests.)

odi all-rounders

Like Sobers in Test cricket, the only batting all-rounder overwhelmingly ahead of Kallis is another West Indian – Viv Richards. Shane Watson is a batting all-rounder and the best one playing today in that format. Carl Hooper and Shakib Al Hasan are marginally higher impact batsmen than bowlers (and just marginally higher impact than Kallis), whereas Cronje (a highly underrated ODI player) is ahead of Kallis only if matches for Africa XI and ICC World XI are accounted for but not for South Africa (the table above includes those).

Currently, Kallis is 22nd on a list of highest impact ODI batsmen, and fourth highest for South Africans (after Amla, Gary Kirsten and interestingly, Dippenaar). His consistency rate is second only to Shaun Pollock’s as is his SD tally of 6 (Pollock has 8), even though Kallis is higher impact than Pollock in this format.

The familiar strengths still very much there – he has absorbed the second-highest pressure for a South African batsman (after Justin Kemp) and has the second-highest Partnership-Building impact too (after Amla). In fact, when it comes to pressure (of falling wickets), he came under it 160 times in his career and he absorbed it 51% of the time (82 times) which is the second-highest in ODI cricket ever – after Ricky Ponting (an indication that strong teams come under pressure often enough but their hallmark is that they get out of those situations much more often than not).

Kallis has been outstanding at chasing at well; in fact, after Virat Kohli and Viv Richards, he is the third-highest impact chaser in the history of ODI cricket, and easily the highest impact South African in this regard.

Moreover, amongst South Africans who have played more than 100 ODIs, Kallis is the 6th highest impact bowler as well, after Donald, Pollock, Ntini, Klusener and Hall.

Dizzying? Well, his value as a player is still not done.

TWENTY20

As can be expected, T20 cricket is not likely to be the natural habitat for a cricketer with his particular skills (strike rate is a distinct problem), but despite that, Kallis has had a considerable impact in this format too.

In T20Is, he is amongst the 10 highest impact batsmen in its relatively short history, but by no means is it inconsiderable. He is the second highest impact South African T20I batsman (after Faf du Plessis).

His familiar strengths are carried forward in this format too -his Partnership-Building Impact has the second highest impact in T20I history. And he has the second-highest Chasing Impact amongst South Africans.

He has just about been an all-rounder in the IPL ( Bowling Impact 0.95) but as a batsman, he has been hugely valuable – being the 14th highest impact batsman in six years of IPL is not quite a joke, given the number of players from around the world who play in the IPL, many younger, and more suited to this format with the attendant hussle. Together, it does make him the third-highest impact all-rounder in IPL after Shane Watson and Kieron Pollard – a pretty staggering fact. Most significantly, he has a tournament-defining performance too – the 2012 final, when KKR won the title.

Truly, the only achievement missing for Jacques Kallis is the ODI World Cup – small wonder he has decided to play just for that now. Given how narrow his focus will be, who is to lay odds against South Africa making it in 2015? His contribution in South Africa winning the mini World Cup in 1998 is not yet from a past life.

Highest impact performances

TESTS: 16 & 87 and 2-18 & 1-25 vs Sri Lanka, Kandy 2000

After conceding a first-innings lead of 55 in a low scoring match, South Africa were 10-1 when Kallis walked in and 50-3 eighty minutes later. He kept one end safe as wickets feel regularly at the other end and departed only at 186 as the eighth wicket to fall; second highest innings score was 33. His familiar strengths of absorbing pressure and building partnerships were in ample display here. In an exciting fourth innings chase, Sri Lanka were all out for 169, falling short by 7 runs, with Kallis picking out Sangakkara’s wicket. What makes it so high impact is that South Africa drew the series 1-1 due to this performance, which remained the final series scoreline.

Even though Kallis performance in the mini-World Cup final in 1998 was his highest impact ODI performance in a tournament context, his highest impact performance in a big match came when the ODI series in New Zealand was at 2-2 and this proved to be the deciding game of the series.

ODIs: 100 and 1-31 in 7 overs vs New Zealand, Auckland 1999

Batting first, Kallis walked out at 12-2 and stabilised the innings with first, Kirsten, then Cullinan and kept the innings going without getting into strike rate problems. He was 4th out at 269 with 2 overs to go (SA finished with 290). Thereafter, New Zealand were steamrolled for 147 with opening bowler Kallis keeping things under control and picking out a wicket.

T20s: 1-34 in 4 overs and 69 off 49 vs CSK, Chennai 2012

A big occasion for Kallis’ franchise Kolkata Knight Riders as they played the IPL final against 2-time champions Chennai Super Kings. CSK hammered 190-3 on an easy-paced pitch, and KKR were in the doldrums at 3-1 with their most consistent batsman of the tournament and captain Gambhir gone. Kallis walked out and just kept one end going – characteristically absorbing pressure and building partnerships. He was 5th out at 175 with 7 balls left but his team won it from there.

If there was a fourth format, Jacques Kallis would have probably aced that too.

 

Jaideep Varma & Soham Sarkhel