With Jacques Kallis’ retirement from Test Cricket, there is an apparent air of panic surrounding the Proteas as we seek to find a replacement for perhaps the greatest cricketer of all time.
A similar scenario plagued the English cricket side of the 90s after the legendary Sir Ian Botham called it quits. The Poms searched high and low, obsessing over finding a Botham clone who could bat in the lower middle order and be a front line seamer. Who were the Poms to think they could replace Sir Beefy?
It became a massive problem for them as they churned out many mediocre performances over the decade, not once winning an Ashes series. The one positive was the humour provided to neutral fans who watch a variety of Sunday League Diet Coke cricketers like Ronnie Irani get shoved into the mantle of Beefy’s replacement.
You can’t clone players of Botham and Kallis’ calibre and whilst players can aspire to be like them and model their games around theirs, you simply cannot replicate their level of success. The only solution is to find the next best player to fit into the Test line-up in a way that you will have a balanced side that will still be competitive. The Proteas need to get their house in order ‘ASAP Rocky’ with the convicts from across the Indian Ocean making their way to our shores in a month’s time with their tails up like a warthog on the trot.
If the answer is bringing in a keeper like Thami Tsolekile or Quinton de Kock to allow AB to bat at 4, then so be it. In my opinion the best solution is to bring Ryan McLaren in at 7 to provide cover with both bat and ball as we unfortunately can’t always quite depend on four bowlers due to our spinners not being effective enough on our surfaces. However, we must put Kallis out of our minds, he does not exist as far as Test Cricket is concerned and we need to move on from our lost loved one. When your dog dies and your parents buy you a new puppy to replace it it’s just not the same is it? But don’t look at the puppy like it’s the old one, appreciate him for what he is and what he can do.
A similar thing happened to the Poms when Shane Warne came onto the scene and they tried desperately to find spinners with ‘mystery balls’ and variations. Instead, they should’ve backed Phil Tufnell and appreciated him for his regular left-arm spin and superb control. He wasn’t spectacular, but he was good enough and the English selectors and public should have appreciated him for what he was instead of what he wasn’t. In his book Tuffers’ Cricket Tales he makes mention of this saying that people used to say “We need a legspinner or we’ll have to keep Tufnell in the team”. This is not the way for us to go about replacing Kallis.
McLaren is the best bet, let’s stick him in at number 7, let him bowl second change. He is a valuable player in the ODI side and has proven himself on both the English County scene and our own domestic circuit. We can no longer play seven frontline batsmen in our side, but with McLaren, Peterson and Philander coming in at 7, 8 and 9, we have a decent line-up.
South Africa are the number one Test team in the world and they need to remember that when they take on the arrogant mustache wielding muppets wearing baggy green caps. They will put a spin on the fact that Kallis is missing and we need to fill the void, but we need to look past that and simply put our best XI on the field to get the job done.
Let’s get the “Kallis’ replacement” mantra out our heads and out of the headlines and get behind the boys. If we get caught in the Beefy Trap we will find ourselves slipping into an empty pit of despair that will never be filled.