It is difficult, if not impossible, to compare players from different eras, however there is no denying that Sir Garry Sobers and Jacques Kallis are the greatest all-rounders of their respective eras. Depending on whom you ask the question, you will get many different opinions as to who is the greatest of all time. One thing we can however compare are their career stats in Test cricket, and see how they stack up against each other’s.
Sobers played 93 Tests (retiring at 37), Kallis played 166 (retiring at 38).
Sobers scored 8032 runs, Kallis scored 13289 runs. If Sobers played 166 Tests, hypothetically by extrapolation, he would have had 14337 runs at the rate he was scoring per Test played. Although very speculative, it’s the best comparison we have statistically.
The same can be done for other stats in their careers and it makes for interesting reading and great food for thought.
Sobers had 26 centuries, Kallis made 45. Interestingly if Sobers played 166 Tests he would have had 46. However Sobers highest Test score was 365* compared to Kallis 224. Sobers’ batting average was 57.78, Kallis’ batting average ended at 55.37, both extremely high.
Sobers had 235 Test wickets, while Kallis has 292. Sobers at 166 Tests would have had 419 wickets based on his career wickets/match ratio. One interesting fact is that Sobers bowled more deliveries in 93 Tests than Kallis did in 166 Tests. Sobers’ strike rate was 91.6 (a wicket approximately every 15 overs), while Kallis’ is 69.2 (a wicket every 11 1/2 overs). Sobers bowled fast medium and left arm orthodox spin as well, an amazing fact. Kallis bowls a brisk fast medium. One might argue that Kallis had a stronger supporting cast of bowlers around him than Sobers did throughout his career, again speculative and difficult to prove.
Sobers had six 5-wicket hauls, Kallis has five. Sobers’ average per wicket was 34.03, Kallis’ average was 32.65. These stats make for excellent reading but are difficult to compare, one thing is clear, Sobers bowled a lot more than Kallis during his career. Although Sobers had an inferior strike rate to Kallis, he was by a long way a much more economical bowler than Kallis (2.22/over versus 2.82/over). Sobers’ best bowling return was 6/73 in an innings, while Kallis’ best was 6/54. In terms of catches they were very similar, Kallis had 200, Sobers 109, which extrapolates to 195 for Sobers if he played 166 Tests.
Based on these numbers, arguments can be made for either one. If you ask a West Indian, you know what the answer will be, similarly if you asked a Protean the response would be predictable as well. Whatever the case, most sides in World cricket would have been happy to have either of these amazing cricketers on their side.
Dr Nigel Camacho