There’s just one day to go before hostilities between England and South Africa resume at The Oval. Jacques Kallis might not have a good record in England, but he’s raring to go. ANT SIMS reports from London.
If media training means ‘good with the media’ in the traditional sense, then it means boring as hell for English cricketers. As the anticipation ahead of the first Test series started to build and the press contingent crawled out of the woodwork from all corners of the world, players shoved onto a mini stage with a microphone and prepared to answer questions.
James Anderson was England’s man for the day, and to say he gave little away would be courteous. There were plenty of questions about preparations, bowling attacks, comparisons and the number one Test ranking, but Anderson simply nodded, smiled and gave short and obtuse answers, sometimes sighing with frustration at the probing questions from the media.
In contrast, Jacques Kallis was bullish, confident and a bit more bubbly. What was clear, though, was that both players just wanted the series to get started, and both sides knew just how tough it would be to test themselves against some of the best players in the world.
Kallis believes it will all come down to the mini battles which will rear their heads during the Test series. Win those and you set yourself up for winning the match and eventually the series, he reckons. Kallis will be a crucial part of those key moments, but his record in England is terrible. He averages just 29.30 in the country – compared to his overall average of 56.78. South Africa has also never won a Test match at the Oval, but the Proteas’ star all-rounder insists that this is not playing on his mind.
“The past is in the past. I’m focused on going forward and doing well here and now. I also don’t think there is a reason why we haven’t played well here (at The Oval),” Kallis said.
“It’s a bit of a different side to the one which was here the last time out. We’re focused on preparing and playing cricket and not so much on the opposition or the ground we’re playing at. We want to be on top of our game and make sure that we don’t give away soft wickets.”
The series is being billed as the Clash of The Titans, and with big clashes come buckets of hostility. Kallis is hoping to see the series live up to expectations.
“I hope to see good hard cricket; that’s why we play Test cricket to see how we manage against the best teams and the best players in the world,” Kallis said.
“I have no doubt there will be plenty of hard battles, but I also know that the series will be played in good spirit – the way cricket should be played. Both teams will certainly play hard and go hard at each other, but we’ll keep it in the right spirit.”
The 36-year old has been in good form lately. He scored 113 against New Zealand in Dunedin in March and hit a mammoth 224 against Sri Lanka in Cape Town at the start of the year, right after a slight slump in form where many questioned whether it was time for him to hang up his boots. He insists, though, that he has no desire to retire, and will carry on as long as he keeps enjoying the game, and as his body and mind allow.
“I’m hitting the ball as well as I’ve ever hit it in the last couple of years. I’m looking forward to a good series, I’ve put in the hard work and I’m hoping that pays off.
“It’s almost like studying for an exam. I’ve covered all the bases and now I want to go out there and enjoy myself,” Kallis said. DM
Photo: South Africa's Jacques Kallis celebrates scoring a century during the second day of the third cricket test match against India in Cape Town, January 3, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings