Sunday, January 16, 2011

credit asked for

there's a school of thought that says comments by certain people should be ignored because the ground from which they speak is wonky at best. Mark Boucher could be said to be one of those people, in particular as just about everyone i knew thought of him when recent revelations indicated what a lot of us knew - that some people were in the SA national side more for who they knew and were connected to rather than their form and talent.

however, with apparently nothing else on in the world at the moment, certain media outlets here have decided to "go big" with Boucher's allegation that his old mate, Jacques Kallis, "doesn't get as much recognition as he should". my initial reaction would be that this was just Boucher filling air, for he was short of something intelligent to say, but as so many seem to have picked up on this, let's run with it.





one thing that has to be made very, very clear up front is that the facts on paper do not lie. looking at his record alone, Kallis has been one of the single greatest players the game has ever known. in respect of figures for batting, bowling and in the field there are few that can come close to his numbers, either in their own right or as a collective of an all-rounder. to this extent, his old school named their cricket oval after him, and you rarely, if ever, hear a word spoken against him by his fellow professionals.





however, in giving some creedence to Boucher's comment (without, and i cannot stress this enough, particularly agreeing with it), you rarely hear many words spoken about Kallis from his contemporaries. when pressed in interviews, all you shall usually get from his opponents (and in some cases team mates) is that he's "very difficult to get out" or that he's "technically gifted".





one of the big question marks raised about Kallis is the price of those fantastic statistics. for all the earned praise he has been given for his abilities, i have yet to hear him called the one thing all cricketers crave to be declared. that is, he has never been named as a "match winner". sure, he has given performances which have helped his side win, but he's never gone out, by default or design, to grab a game by the scruff of its neck and turned it around.

this is something illustrated in the odd low-ish rate for a national side often not very far off the top spot in world rankings. the SA win rate under the current captain is "only" around 50%, which is rather low for a team ranked so high. how many possible wins have been turned into draws, how many losses have come from draws that could have been by the unusual indulgence of allowing Kallis to bat in a way that seems more for the benefit of his record than the team's cause is a matter which has received more than a bit of attention from those who dare speak up about him.





outside of a fanatical but limited following, one doesn't really hear Kallis being celebrated across the board like other greats with somewhat lesser records. a lot of this is to do with the business-like, apparently stats-chasing approach he brings with him to the field. Kallis is technically gifted, sure, but hardly brings any flair or entertainment to his playing style. being boring, if you wish to be blunt, shouldn't count against the status of a cricketer - Boycott, for example, is usually heralded as one of the most boring batsmen you could ever have hoped to watch, but at least he had (and indeed has) an abundance of personality which he brought to the game.

in this sense, however, it has to be said that Kallis represents the entire SA cricket side. the whole team, in particular the very little liked captain, shows little or no personality at all, either on the pitch or off it. for most of the time he has been captain Smith has rarely shown any appreciation or thanks to any of the crowds who have followed his team, and he has a reputation for being abusive beyond all normal lines to his opponents.

considering their attempts at having a personality, however, they are perhaps better off remaining boring. in one of the most comical and cringeworthy incidents the game has ever seen, for some reason they decided to let it be known that the much mocked bowler, Andre Nel (and in much mocked i refer to the fact that the State TV broadcaster used him as an example of why you should rather listen to cricket on the radio instead of watching it), became an alter ego, "Gunther", when he took to the field. that's right, the players are so lacking in any sort of entertaining skills themselves that they are happy to admit to pretending to be someone else in order to seem interesting.





when addressing the complaint about "not getting enough credit", it says it all that the man with the easiest job in radio (wouldn't you just love a 10 hour week where just over 50% of those hours are done by someone else? where your holidays are measured in months rather than weeks?) called in a statistician to prove how "celebrated" Kallis is. any other cricketer would have had a fellow professional called in to speak on their behalf, but apparently none were available to rebuff the claim.

so then, it's not that Kallis "doesn't get enough credit", it's more that he simply gets just the credit he has sought for his career. sorry, but as great as his figures are, he just doesn't excite the crowds as much as those who do get the kind of credit and celebration Boucher apparently expects for his chum.
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