Is Jacques Kallis the greatest South African cricketer of all time?

Is Jacques Kallis the greatest South African cricketer of all time?

When it comes to South Africa's greatest cricketer, it's hard to look past Jacques Henry Kallis.

Born and raised in Cape Town, Kallis cut his teeth at Wynberg High School in the Southern Suburbs, where his exploits would later lead to the school's cricket oval being named after him.

At 19 years old and fresh out of school, Kallis' skills earned him a county cricket contract. He quickly proved his worth, amassing an incredible 791 runs from his 14 matches, averaging 98.87 in the English summer of 1995.

The mountain of runs earned him a call-up to the Proteas Test squad later that year. But Kallis hardly picked up where he left off, scoring just eight runs in the series against England, casting doubt on his class.

The youngster continued to struggle with the bat against Australia in the 1997 Test series, managing just 49 runs from his five innings. However, Kallis’ bowling qualities were beginning to emerge as he picked up five wickets in the series.

Selectors continued to show their faith in the technically-astute batter and their support finally paid off Down Under in December 1997. The Proteas were skittled out for just 186 in the first Test in Melbourne - and when they came out to bat in the fourth innings, the likes of Glen McGrath and Shane Warne were licking their lips.

But South Africa batted around a stoic Kallis, who made his maiden Test ton and helped his team to a memorable draw. Kallis' vigil of 101 earned him the first of many Man of the Match awards. In fact, he tops the list with 23, which equates to one in every seven Test matches he played.

Kallis also shined in the limited-overs format, helping the Proteas to the 1998 ICC Champions Trophy title while personally reaching the top of the ODI all-rounder rankings. With his form continuing in red-ball cricket, he topped the Test all-rounder rankings at the same time in 2001.

Jacques Kallis of South Africa, right, holds up his bat after making fifty runs

The right-hander was known for his calm demeanour when at the crease with the bat, creating an impenetrable bubble around himself. With the ball, his powerful frame generated considerable pace. 

Kallis also contributed in the dressing room with his dry humour. Having conceded a record 434 runs against Australia in the memorable ‘438 game’, he famously said "the bowlers have done a great job, Australia are about 15 runs short…"

The once-in-a-lifetime player racked up incredible numbers in red and white-ball cricket, becoming the first and only player in cricket history to achieve the mark of 10,000 runs and over 200 wickets in Tests and ODIs.

The number three's Test match record of 13,289 runs and 292 wickets will take some considerable beating.

And just to prove that form is temporary and class is permanent, Kallis hasn't slowed down in his twilight years. In the 2023 US Masters T10 tournament, a 47-year-old Kallis strode out to the crease for the California Knights. He quickly bludgeoned an unbeaten 64 runs off his 31 balls, playing every shot in the book with as much technique and perfection as he did in his heyday.

Long live King Kallis.