Jacques Kallis: The player I loved to hate

If you happen to be a kid born in the 90s and a fan of Indian cricket — an ardent one at that — there is a great possibility of your hatred for a certain somebody from South Africa. Often regarded as the greatest all-rounders of all time, Jacques Kallis was the kind of cricketer they do not quite make these days.

The 1999 Cricket World Cup was a time when the interest in the game was getting steadier by the minute. While Indian cricket was in about to turn to shambles soon after, scenes were ecstatic during the matches as television had just recently become a reality in an average household. The match against South Africa where Kallis bagged the man of the match award for his stellar knock of 96 was the one that must have been the first instance of your hatred for this man.

In the semi finals of the same tournament, however, the blame could easily be put upon the young lad for throwing his wicket away after a gutsy knock of 53. If not for his dismissal, and of course Alan Donald’s infamous brain freeze run-out, South Africa might just have gotten over the line to beat the eventual champions. Furthermore, his figures of 1-27 off his full quota of ten overs only go on to show the kind of impact he had had, though in this case, in a losing cause.

Even when South Africa was losing to India, he was scoring. He was scoring when his team won, and when his team lost — he made the opposition feel at ease when he batted, and when the final overs come through, he left them bemused with the eventual outcome. It was almost like listening to a loop of something that you love, and after a while, forgetting that the song is even being played. Jacques Kallis made batting look easy, and often times frustrating if you were a spectator supporting the opposition.

With his bowling, Kallis gave that rare cushion to the team where it felt like they had one extra player on the field, and the numbers only added up when de Villiers donned the gloves. It was surprising; therefore, that South Africa never quite dominated the international era like the Australians could.

With a pace battery that consisted of the likes of Ntini, Pollock and Steyn, it became important for the opposition to see off the new ball and go after the first change bowlers. And that is exactly where Kallis cashed in, with his consistency in line and length. He bowled heavy deliveries; the ones that look 130 but rush into you before you have had the time to react, making him effective in all conditions.

Jacques Kallis had always had a fondness to score while playing against the Indian team. In that famous New Year’s Day test where the series was leveled at 1-1 and India were all set to win their first test series in South Africa, a century in both innings from Kallis saved the day for the hosts as India found themselves saving the test match from a precarious position of winning it.

Jacques Kallis, Oh you boring player!

If there is one reason why a lot of youngsters like Andrew Freddie Flintoff more than Jacques Kallis, it was probably because the former was an entertainer. It was Flintoff who had started the controversy that led to a bare-chested Sourav Ganguly waving his shirt at the Mecca of cricket. It was Freddie who piqued Yuvraj’s anger on that fateful day in Durban where Broad became the unfortunate victim. Could you possibly associate anything remotely similar to the name of Jacques Kallis?

As an ardent fan of the Indian cricket team, it was hard not to hate the man. If it wasn’t for him, India could have run away with a ton of wins in their kitty and so the hatred was only consequential to his success as a cricketer. How often do you associate the word hate with admiration?

Jacques Kallis could do that to you.

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