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Stats Corner: The Kallis renaissance

By Thaleel Bhai
January 6 2005

Plenty of players hit what are known as "purple patches" in their career, or points where they suddenly strike a superb vein of form and pile on the runs. VVS Laxman came into one during his tour of Australia a year ago, with a pair of glorious test hundreds, and three one-day centuries soon after; Michael Vaughan lit up the 2002 Ashes campaign with a glorious performance in the tests; and in 1994, when he played his world record innings of 375 and 501*, Lara hit a massive one. However, the signs of some of the truly great players are that they are able to extend those patches into exceptionally long strings of high scores.

One only needs a look at some of the current or very recent great batsmen - Steve Waugh for one - to see this kind of consistency. In a three year period between 1993 and 96, Waugh enjoyed a run of superb knocks, marred only by the odd failure here or there - but enough to see him score over 3000 test runs in that time, with an average of 71.25, with big scores against strong West Indian, Pakistani and South African attacks. Eight hundreds were scored in that period, and a telling fact is the way his scores also impacted his side's results, with the senior Waugh becoming a major fulcrum in the batting. Only one game out of the eight where those centuries were scored were drawn - and conversely, every game in which Waugh scored one of his four ducks in the 3 year period was lost by Australia.

Sachin Tendulkar and his famous purple patch in 1998/98 is another well known example of how true greats can extend these runs of form and produce the maximum for themselves and their side during the time. In a two year period, Tendulkar smashed 1647 runs in just 17 tests, scoring 7 hundreds and averaging a little over 68 in tests. In one-dayers, a form of the game that's more hit-or-miss, he was even more profilic. In just 1998, Tendulkar battered opposition bowling to the tune of almost 1900 runs in a single year in pyjamas, averaging a staggering 65.31 with 9 hundreds and 7 fifties. What's more, India enjoyed a superb record during that time - winning 23 out of 34 ODIs in that golden year.

And of course, Don Bradman's career seemed to be a massive purple patch with 29 test hundreds in just 52 games, and the famous average of 99.94. These are the sorts of numbers that only have ended up on the resumés of the truly great cricketers, and it begs the question with one man's current form - could Jacques Kallis soon be classified among the batting greats? Kallis wasn't automatically considered among the top batsmen in the world; among the likes of Rahul Dravid, Tendulkar, Lara and company - but he's recently made a case for himself.

On the 1st December 2003, Kallis had a test average of 48.22, with 11 hundreds and 26 fifties - enough to prove that he was a quality player; but not something that would rank him among the batting greats, particularly with a poor conversion rate. However, things changed for him drastically since that date. In five consecutive tests, Kallis had the following run of scores: 158, 44, 177, 73, 130 not out, 130 not out again, 92, and 150 not out - a staggering run of scores, and an average of 190.8 in that one period. It seemed like one of those sudden purple patches so many batsmen hit. After all, Graeme Smith had enjoyed an extraordinary run of form in the first two tests against England two years ago, but failed to carry on, and many expected something similar here.

Instead, Kallis continued his form, first scoring two half centuries in a dismal Sri Lanka tour, and then scoring a stellar hundred in Eden Gardens in India. A duck followed against England at Port Elizabeth, but Kallis did more than to make up for it - following with two half centuries, and two more big hundreds, including an epic 162 on a tough batting surface. Since December 2003, and the beginning of the test series against the West Indies, Kallis now has 1882 runs in his last 14 tests - and a stunning average of 89.62, on par - if not better - with some of those glorious runs that the likes of Tendulkar and Waugh have enjoyed. With eight hundreds and as many fifties in just a span of 14 tests, bowlers around the world will be hoping for a drop in form, and soon.

Kallis in the last 13 months has seen his average shoot up from the aforementioned 48.22 to a staggering 55.46 - just a couple of points below the likes of Tendulkar and Dravid - and if this sort of form continues any longer, they might soon be overtaken. And then, it might not be long before the view of Kallis changes quickly from a highly talented all rounder, to a good bowler - and one of the all time great batsmen of his era.

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