Jacques Kallis, one of the last multi-skilled legends, says quality all-rounders have become a scarcity in modern-day cricket, especially in Test cricket, because of “too much cricket across formats”. While Sir Garfield Sobers (8032 runs and 235 wickets) is considered ‘greatest of ’em all’ across generations, Kallis (25,000-plus runs and nearly 600 wickets in three formats) is inarguably one of the legendary all-rounders the modern era has seen. In the 1980s, there were four great all-rounders in Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, Ian Botham and Kapil Dev while the new millennium saw emergence of Kallis and Andrew Flintoff. But with advent of T20 cricket and mushrooming leagues across the globe with new rules have actually discouraged development of multi-skilled cricketers.
“It is a tough question to answer, all-rounders don’t come around every day. There aren’t many throughout the history. Lot of things, amount of cricket that is played certainly plays a role,” Kallis told PTI during an exclusive interview.
The former Proteas captain is in India to play the Legends League Cricket.
While he didn’t name Indian Premier League but the former KKR coach isn’t a great fan of ‘Impact Player’ rule where a team can change one player during its batting or bowling innings as per need.
“A few T20 competitions have substitutes (IPL) and I am not a big fan of that as it takes away the all-rounder out of your team. The teams that do not have good all-rounders are now playing with 12 men. I am not a huge fan of that.
“There are lot of little things that add up on to why there aren’t too many all-rounders at the moment, as it is surprising as they add so much value to the game. But it’s a whole lot of little things coming together,” Kallis said.
The Indian team would be embarking on a tough away tour of South Africa, the only major Test playing nation where it hasn’t won a single Test series in 31 years.
The focus will be on the two Test matches, which is a part of World Test Championship (WTC) cycle even as ODIs and T20s are part of the full tour.
The stars from both sides (Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Kagiso Rabada) will only be playing the traditional format during the series.
“This is a good Indian team but South Africa is tough to beat in South Africa. Centurion will probably suit South Africa and Newlands will probably suit India. It will be a good series and it will come down to one or two sessions that one team might play better than the other. It would be a closely-fought contest,” said Kallis.
he Indian team’s average age is in mid-30s. Skipper Rohit is 36 and main batter Virat Kohli is 35. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are 37 and 35 respectively while Mohammed Shami 33.
There would be a transition sooner or later in another couple of years and Kallis feels that if talented youngsters are groomed by keeping them with senior team, the handing of baton becomes easier.
“Older players obviously have got the knowledge and you would combine that with younger players. That’s the job of coaches and selectors to make sure so that even if younger players might not be playing, they are in that environment where they can learn from the older players,” said Kallis, who scored 45 Test hundreds in his illustrious 18-year career in which he played 166 Tests.
It is imperative that youngsters are travelling to unfamiliar territories and soaking in all knowledge available watching those who have been there and done that.
“(They should) travel to these parts of the world that they are probably not used to and learn from sitting on the side, try to pick up as much knowledge as possible and play those warm-up games where big players are resting for. Picking up knowledge helps a lot and transition when a few players are retiring, it becomes little bit easier,” he elaborated.
Having started his career in mid-90s just when players like Kepler Wessels, Peter Kirsten, Andrew Hudson had all retired or were on verge of retirement, Kallis felt that back in the day, Proteas had a good system of changeover in place.
“Certainly, when I started, South Africa were very good at transitioning younger players into good international players and that obviously needs to be done when senior players retire.
A part of the South African side that had to bear the label of “chokers” for not winning big-ticket events, Kallis understands the pain of the current Indian team that has now lost nine semi-finals or finals at marquee ICC competitions.
“You need a little bit of luck in these tournaments to go your way. You could end up being at the wrong end of the toss or bad end of the conditions, you need little bit of luck as players certainly don’t go out there to lose.
“From that point of view, you can get beaten by a better team on the day and you have got to put your hand up and accept it. Try to learn from those things,” he said.