At the end of a Test series I always enjoy looking at the marks out of ten and the performance summaries given to individual players by Cricinfo. In my experience they're usually pretty hard to disagree with but they can be thought-provoking.
Earlier in the week Andrew McGlashan's assessment of the players on show in the South Africa-Pakistan series caught my eye. I didn't see much of the series and I hadn't taken in quite how important Jacques Kallis had been to South Africa. But then, I thought, Jacques Kallis is always important to South Africa. How could a player that good be anything else?
Which, in turn, sent my mind spinning on one of those rollercoaster journeys through the years, taking in the time I tried to shield myself from the vicious Cape Town sun as Kallis bowled for the first time in Test cricket, that ODI innings at the Oval just after he'd lost his father, bowling out England at Headingley in 2003, and piling on the runs during England's last tour of South Africa but being criticized for being too slow and one-dimensional.
The stats say it all.
8,400 Test runs at 55 with 24 centuries, 213 wickets and 105 catches. The figures of a truly great player, and, in South African terms, one fit to sit just behind Pollock and Richards as a batsman and Procter as an all-rounder.
In the wider world I don't think Kallis has yet received the praise his skills and achievements deserve; batsmen who place efficiency and purity of method above more ostentatious qualities rarely do, and he's taken the ball so irregularly in recent years that many have forgotten how well he can bowl when the muse is with him and conditions are right. But purely as a batsman I think he's just about the most perfect technician I've ever seen; perhaps even more accomplished than Gavaskar, Dravid or Martin Crowe.
To see some of his straight-drives on the last day at Newlands, his spiritual home since he was a teenager, was to witness a player at the peak of his powers, confident of his capabilities and at one with his environment.
Never flashy and not too stylish.
Just very, very good.
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