Cricket World Cup: Minor steps, then a major leap

The All-Rounder: Jacques Kallis of South Africa
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THE FIRST TIME I heard of Jacques Kallis was when he was selected for South Africa to make his debut against England in the Third Test at Durban in December, 1995. He came into the team accompanied by a fanfare. He was highly regarded and big things were expected immediately.

But, as with so many players, gifted or not, his start was modest. He made only a single in that first match, was left out for the Fourth Test and when recalled for the Fifth, scored seven. The fanfare receded. South Africa omitted him for several months after that but they were merely being patient. They had identified a talented player and they would stick by him.

Perhaps Middlesex played a significant part in his final development as an international. Kallis was a slightly surprising choice as overseas player when he came over in the spring of 1997. He was still only 21, his breakthrough at Test level had not arrived and indeed he had played only three more unsuccessful Tests against Australia early that year.

But he was to make a vital all-round contribution. Opening the batting, he made 1,000 Championship runs at 47 and took 32 wickets at 20. He was also a quite brilliant slip catcher. He looked a special cricketer and he grew in stature and composure as the months went by.

There were many outstanding moments throughout that summer. If he was enlisted primarily as an exciting, shot-playing batsman, spoken of in glowing terms by sound judges such as Desmond Haynes, it was his bowling which made the initial impact.

Derbyshire were chasing 231 to win against Middlesex at Lord's in the second match of the season. Kallis came on first change at the Nursery End and took 3 for 26 in 10 overs. Derbyshire were simply blown away. Mike Gatting commented that he had previously stood as far back at slip only for Wayne Daniel. Jacques bowled with genuine pace and hostility, swinging the ball away from right-handers.

He had a fairly slow start with his batting. The pitches were different from those in Cape Town but being at the other end one could see he had time to play, the sure sign of a class batsman. I remember an especially outstanding moment, a hooked six into the Lord's grandstand off Alan Mullally, and the graceful power of his cover driving in making 96 at Cardiff. Perhaps one of his best innings was in a NatWest Trophy match at Uxbridge against Gloucestershire. Middlesex needed 278 to win and Kallis was pacing his innings nicely when the off-spinner, Martin Ball, who gained considerable turn, stemmed the runs flow. To break free from enforced defence Kallis improvised - with two extraordinary reverse sweeps for six over cover point. He won the man of the match award for his century.

In August and September of that year he truly flourished as a batsman, scoring hundreds against Hampshire, Worcestershire and Somerset in the space of five matches. All were liberally sprinkled with handsome strokes and his high defensive skill shone through at Taunton where he combated Mushtaq Ahmed on a turning pitch. He gained valuable preparation for South Africa's forthcoming tour of Pakistan, on which he made his first Test fifty.

Middlesex enjoyed the company of Jacques Kallis and I think the feeling was mutual. He is an extremely relaxed, quiet guy who mixed well in a team in transition. He always had time and words of encouragement for the young players, even though he himself was only 21. It was hard to believe that such a wise head was perched on such young shoulders.

Don Bennett, then the Middlesex coach, a man with 40 years of experience in the first-class game who is not given to making extravagant statements, proffered lavish praise. Mid-way through that summer he said Kallis would be, one day, the best all-rounder in the world. I for one believe this now to be true. Kallis finally revealed his ability as a Test batsman in the winter of 1997 in his seventh match, his first since leaving Middlesex. I managed to watch some of his innings at Melbourne as he made his maiden Test hundred. It was an astonishingly mature innings played over almost six hours under pressure (not to mention sledging) against the world champions. Kallis scored 101 and enabled South Africa to draw the match.

Since then he has gained in reputation and achievement. Against England last summer he played a significant role in winning the Second Test at Lord's with his bowling (knowledge of the slope doubtless helped). At Old Trafford he scored a century in a long second-wicket partnership with Gary Kirsten.

Kallis was equally consistent in the thumping 5-0 Test series win against West Indies in the winter. He was his side's leading scorer with 485 runs in the five matches, adding a third century at Cape Town, which he followed with a second-innings 88. But he also took 17 wickets at 17 each, including his first five-wicket haul, and seven catches.

There were, too, some handy, if not spectacular performances in the one- day series which followed. His one-day batting average is above 40 after 63 matches, his bowling average is 30 and his economy rate is below five and diminishing. At 23 years old he is a pivotal member of the South African team. So what next for Jacques Kallis? It may be a World Cup winners' medal.

THE TEAM: THE VETERANS XI

Tom Moody (Aus) 33, first played in 1987 competition, third World Cup

Phil Simmons (WI) 36, 1987, third WC

Aravinda De Silva (SL) 33, 1987, fourth WC

Salim Malik (Pak) 36, 1987, fourth WC

Steve Waugh (Aus) 33, 1987, fourth WC

Mohammad Azharuddin (Ind) 36, 1987, fourth WC

Arjuna Ranatunga (SL) 35, 1983, fifth WC

Roshan Mahanama (SL) 32, 1987, fourth WC

Wasim Akram (Pak) 32, 1987, fourth WC

Eddo Brandes (Zim) 36, 1987, fourth WC

Courtney Walsh (WI) 36, 1987, fourth WC

WELL I DECLARE

BOWLERS had their worst match at Melbourne in 1992 when only two wickets fell between West Indies and Pakistan. Both were playing their first match and Pakistan made 220 for 2 with Ramiz Raja scoring 102 no. Benjamin and Harper took the wickets. Windies won by 10 wickets with 3.1 overs left. Brian Lara retired hurt on 88, Wasim Akram extracting bowlers' revenge by hitting him on the foot.

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