The Third Man

Sachin Tendulkar

The Sydney Cricket Ground gave itself every opportunity to write itself into the history books, with the 100th Test at the iconic venue playing host to a man chasing an elusive milestone.

In both innings, Sachin Tendulkar came to the crease with the match in a precarious situation; the scene was set for the Little Master, the cricketer who stares adversity in the eye.

However not for the first time this summer, Tendulkar had a touch of the ‘yips’ about him and was unable to capitalise on the platform he had built for himself. While Tendulkar had that platform to build, his Indian teammates were stuck figuring how to piece together their foundations.

Meanwhile, Jacques Kallis, free from the burden of expectation, was chalking up his second double century, this time against Sri Lanka.

Kallis was brought to my attention during the coverage of the second test in Sydney. When discussing who the best modern-day cricketer was, they gave a nice plug to Ricky Ponting, Tendulkar and Brian Lara, with Mark Taylor only briefly mentioning Kallis at the close of the conversation.

Unjust is the first word that springs to mind, because surely it’s Jacques Kallis who is the finest modern-day cricketer?

Statistically, Kallis has the wood over Tendulkar in many facets of the game. In 150 tests, Kallis averages 57.02 with the bat, compared with Tendulkar’s 186 Tests for an average of 56.03. This, of course, is a fairly raw statistic, but below are some more detailed numbers that may be illuminating.

Kallis’ batting averages by opposition
72.05 versus India
66 versus Pakistan
73 versus West Indies
67.90 versus New Zealand
40 versus Australia
45 versus England
Total against these teams: 60

Tendulkar’s batting averages by opposition
42 against South Africa
42 against Pakistan
55 versus West Indies
49 versus New Zealand
60 versus Australia
56 versus England
Total against these teams: 50.6

Tendulkar has scored 51 test centuries, 33 of which have come on flat subcontinent wickets. Kallis has scored 22 of his 41 Test centuries in South Africa.

South African wickets give a lot more assistance to bowlers with swing evident, and tall quicks of the past have found decks that produce good bounce and carry. Batting in South Africa is traditionally a lot more difficult than in India.

Kallis’ stats with the ball speak for themselves. 272 wickets, an average of 30, with five five-wicket hauls.

By no means am I downplaying the magnitude of the success reached by Tendulkar. In fact, I’ve developed a better understanding and level of respect for him after visiting India a few years ago.

It was while walking through the streets of Delhi that I began to appreciate Tendulkar’s impact on the people of India.

For years Kallis has shouldered a higher workload than most cricketers of the modern era. His reputation precedes him, not only is he recognised as a distinguished batman, but as a feared bowler and handy slip fielder.

There is nothing flamboyant about Kallis. He is an elegant, textbook cricketer with a front-foot drive that has been the envy of many batsmen over his career.

I had the pleasure of watching Kallis at his finest against India in 2010, when he notched his maiden Test double-century in one of the finest innings I have witnessed. Kallis dispatched the ball to all ends of the park, from clipping the ball off his pads for one of five sixes, to slashing a square cut to the boundary.

If I had to find something to disrespect Kallis, the only thing I could say is that hair transplants are better left to Doug Bollinger. Apart from that, Jacques Kallis has the honour of being my nomination for greatest cricketer of the modern era.

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