Thursday, 29 December 2011

Axe Kallis? No, just give him a kick up the bum. And recognise the need for #axekallis

On Tuesday, when South Africa's 36-year-old all-rounder Jacques Kallis was out for a duck at Kingsmead, I cheekily tweeted: "Some all-rounder. Can't bat, can't bowl, sluggish in the field."
It was, as Cricket South Africa's general manager Niels Momberg so quickly spotted, an effort to stir debate rather than the death knell for a legend.
Sheez. The abuse I got. Had to go down to the beach on holiday here in Stil Baai to cool off.
Many of the Kallis fans were, rightly, indignant. He's had a great career, has the man from Pinelands in Cape Town. The sixteen years since his Test debut against England in December 1995 have featured a record 147 Tests with just over 12,000 runs at an average of nearly 57, plus the small matter of 317 ODI's with 11,000 runs at 45. A recored forty Test tons topped by that long-awaited double century against India at Centurion last year.
With the ball, he's taken well over 500 wickets in all formats, averaging just over 30. He has dominated the world's best all-rounder rankings for a decade, laughing at the efforts of England's over-hyped and over-the-hill Andrew Flintoff, a full year younger and long since retired to Dubai.
King Kalllis is not for the axe, tweeted the Rainbow Nation. South Africa's highest-scoring ODI and Test batsman must be left alone. And of course, they have a right to defend their talisman.
But sadly, he was born on 16 October 1975. That means he will be nearly 40 at the next cricket World Cup. Too old. Like the wobbling wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, 35.
So the subject has to be raised. Is Kallis, worrying floored by a nasty bouncer in the first Test against Sri Lanka at Centurion, losing it?
Tuesday's duck was followed by a wicketless bowling spell on Wednesday. Mention that and they come back with all sorts of stats about the pace he still musters with that creaking body. In two innings in Durban, Kallis bowled nine overs, 0-24 and 11 over 0-41.
But today, as South Africa battled to survive chasing a nonsensical 450 to win at cursed Kingsmead, he ducked out again. A first ever Test pair. Twenty unthreatening overs of seam-up dobblers. I crept back to the #axekallis trend. Kallis and Boucher have kept the all-rounder and wicketkeeper berths their own for so long, nobody can remember when they were challenged.
Like too many of the current Proteas, they are comfortable, complacent. No critisism in the press, no successors being groomed in the wings. It used to be like this in England. Then along came the critical former Test stars, the tabloid hacks, the harsh criticism, the penchant for using the ODI and T20 side to blood youngsters... and they're top of the pile now, the Souties.
Nobody is safe in English cricket. Ask Owais Shah, the talented all-rounder currently helping the Cobras win ever domestic trophy in South Africa. Or pace bowler Graeme Onions, who twice saved England from defeat as a tail-ender on tour here two years ago. Gone. Axed in their prime for being just short of the mark.
That's the point I was trying to make. But back come the insults, many of them unprintable here.
A fairly new factor in the life of the dedicated sports journalist is this personal abuse on twitter. That much is part of the job description now. You learn to take it, pretend it doesn't matter.
You dedicate your life to writing about sport, you take risks to stimulate debate, you know you're going to get it in the neck with today's social networks allowing everyone to wield an electronic pen that is mightier than the old hand-written swords.
Sometimes you're wrong. Kallis might have got a second innings ton. Boucher might have made more than seven. As I write, Dale Steyn may yet bat on for another day and a bit. I may even have to run naked along the beach if the Proteas do the unthinkable and win. You expect the odd embarrassment if you're a real sports journalist.
What you don't expect is to get abuse from your fellow hacks, comfortably drinking the former sponsor's product in the press box and writing about their freebies, their friends, their life rather than exploring the options, shaking things up.
Their response to the original suggestion that Kallis may soon be for the axe was as vitroilic as the Protea fans. One, who shall remain nameless, wrote: "**** rubbish. Kallis can play for South Africa for as long as he wants. He's a legend."
And really, that's what this blog is all about. The problem with cricket in this country may well be the cricket writers. No, Kallis can't carry on forever. No, he can't just expect to be picked until he's 104.
These are old-fashioned sycophants. Old-school South Africans who stick to cricket and rugby, ridicule local soccer. Scared to have a go at captain Graeme Smith last year when he failed to go for the throat against India. They all get on with Biff and his dad, don't want to upset the great man. Not too keen on replacing Mark Boucher, Kallis's next-door neighbour, in case they upset the applecart.
I've been there. Toured this wonderful country with England three times. It's tempting to take the easy option, to choose your allies and stick with them come what may.
But this lot go too far. Yes, they'll all have a go at Gerald Majola, the Cricket South Africa CEO, for his R1.9m bonus after the IPL - but nobody really minds if former boss Ali Bacher took R5m for his "retirement fund" after the 2003 World Cup. Not a word from the big papers when that little nugget emerged. And Bacher was the man who led the Proteas through the Hansie Cronje scandal without drawing a questioning glance. Who happily went from running rebel tours under Apartheid to running the show when South Africa returned to the international fold in 1991.
And these are the same guys who called for black armbands when cricket writer Peter Roebuck threw himself out of the window in Cape Town when confronted, finally, with policemen bringing charges of sexual abuse.
When I dared to warn one particular writer against eulogising a man with criminal convictions against three South African teenagers, it was ignored. So I wrote the truth. The abuse was rich and varied on that occasion too. Just have a look further down the blogs.
There are times as a sports journalist you have to stick your neck out, be the first to spot the fading talents of a superstar, to write about the grime when others prefer the lazy path of the status quo.
Like their cricket side, some of these cricketing hacks have been around too long. Complacent, lazy, unreconstructed, they have never broken a story, started a trend, in case they offend the legends of the game.
Legends? They can't even beat a Sri Lanka side struggling for their wages and without the sublime unorthodox genius of Muttiah Muralitharan or Lasith Malinga.
New Proteas coach Gary Kirsten, a World Cup winner with India earlier this year after the current South African legends collapsed against New Zealand, will doubtless do his work before the New Year Test, make the changes and kick the bottoms. He may even bring back the sensational Vernon Philander - who can bat a bit - to play with the dynamic debutant Marchant de Lange, opting to let AB De Villiers take the gloves at Newlands.
Or he may find out what happened to Ryan Canning, the Cobras wicketkeeper batsman now playing club cricket somewhere near Cape Town at the tender age of 26.
I don't expect Kallis to be axed. But I do expect a frank exchange between coach and King Kallis. And a few younger all-rounders to be checked out.
And less thoughtless invective when the right questions are asked. #axekallis. It had to be said.



  1. Boucher and Prince need to be axed, and Kallis, Smith and De Villiers (the chosen ones) need a kic up the backside

  2. Kallis should forget his bowling, and concentrate on his batting. Boucher should be dropped for a bowler and AB should keep wicket. South Africa will be unstoppable.

  3. It is too early to axe Kallis but I get the point of what you are trying to say with this article. The issue for me is that who do you replace him with? Axe Rudolph for Petersen, Prince for Elgar/Duminy, but where do we find a top order batsman who can fill the fourth seamer role? That has been the beauty of Kallis down the years, that he has performed both functions so well. What I would be tempted to do is ask him to concentrate on batting only, but that then presents a problem with the balance of the side as you need to find another bowler. Boucher is much more at risk, in modern test cricket you need a keeper who can average 35+ and Boucher has not been doing that over the past two years. Daryn Smit could be ready for a run. Handing the gloves to a AB could be problematic for his batting.

    Nick Said

  4. Thanks for comments guys, particularly you Nick! Be writing a bit for Scoop next Sunday!

  5. hey...never thought the day would come when I read that. Get your point of the article, but would have said it differently - I think it is always positive to have healthy debate and thought provoking discussions. I would agree with the points Nick made, and let Kallis just bat. You can never replace a kallis type cricketer - he is once in a generation but we have to at least start thinking about a succession plan. No matter how kallis goes he will be remembered as a great player and has made a huge contribution to our cricket.

  6. Rumours tonight that Graeme Smith is eager to quit captaincy after eight years and a recent spate of home series failures... emanating from a single twitter from SABC commentator Neil Manthorp. Suggestion is the commentary box is awash with speculation over Biff's future. Manthorp backtracking since, but people are picking up on it...

  7. Neal, As i said earlier Kallis needs to concentrate on his batting, and forget bowling. If AB does the glove duties, than Boucher can be dropped for an all-rounder and Kallis's bowling wont be missed.

    AB batted and did wicket keeper duties quite easy for Titans in past, and Sangakarra and Stewart where amongst best batsmen in the world whilst doing wicketkeeper duties

  8. What a wonderful rumour, if only it was true. The south african public are sick to the bone of hearing of Smith's Cliches and politics in the team. His brainless and boring captaincy worsens when he doesnt score well.

    Why is Manthorp backtracking?? Why are journalists so scared to talk the truth in South Africa?

  9. ystery, JP Duminy is more then capable to fill in for Prince. Bouch had a good run, bt we need to look fwd, AB must wear the gloves, Wayne Parnell can then be included, his a great all-rounder to take over from Kallis, ppl forget that Parnell was chosen for SA u-19 as a batting allrounder, bt as to not upset the apple-cart, they chose him for NT as bowling allrounder. And yes that made his bowling improve in strides, so that's the best option to take over from Kallis and keep the balance in the team--- @Labo_goon on twitter

  10. Kallis just out for 224. Wonderful knock against suspiciously poor bowling from Sri Lanka, who don't look like the same side they were in Durban. Almost like there's a plan! Happy to take the abuse, but stand by what I've written above. Gary Kirsten has to have a look at a new all-rounder (Wayne Parnell is a bowler who grew up batting like Stuart Broad of England) and a new wicket-keeper if he won't give AB the Test gloves. Change must come. But as Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey proved in Sydney overnight, you're not over the hill at 35/36. Just headed there.

  11. dont think he should replace kallis as yet but definately boucher has already crossed the hill and i always have the doubt that he will ever give AB the gloves maybe he can try out tsolekile and morne van wyk behind the stamps,its not like boucher scoring lots of runs anyway,a new all round search should begin but i dont think parnell will be the answer to that