The term ‘Most Valuable Player’ or ‘MVP’ is generally a term that we associate with American sports. It can seem to give too much credence to an individual in a team sport, and as such not seem a natural fit with cricket. However, with the plethora of ICC lists of best cricketers of all time, or best cricketers in their given field of expertise, I thought it might be a good time to look at who are the five most valuable players across all three forms of international cricket right now.
#1 Jacques Kallis
Well, here we are. The number one slot in my list of the most valuable players in cricket right now. Perhaps it’s is no surprise that all-rounders will have made up two of my top three, particularly given the way the game has changed and now requires players to be all things. Many will and have argued that Jacques Kallis is a selfish player, but if I didn’t need to worry about his future, and I just had to pick one player right now for one game, it’d be the broad chested South African each time. Here’s why…
Perhaps it’s the curse of the all-rounder that because you have skill in different areas, you don’t really get rated properly in each of your disciplines. However, if you were to rate Kallis as purely a test batsman, his 12,000 runs at 57 would place him in the highest echelons of batsman to have played the game. Kallis has compiled no less than 40 centuries, has a top score of 201* and has been the rock of South Africa’s middle order since he started way back in 1995. But, the real genius of Kallis is that he combines this with a bowling record that is also world class.
In his 147 test matches, Kallis has been South Africa’s ever-reliable second change bowler. In a time when the art of swing bowling is on the wane, Kallis always manages to shape the ball away, and has done so to great effect. 271 wickets at 32 is a fine record, and suggests that if he were purely a bowler he probably would have got a lot more. I really do rate his bowling, he just always seems to get something out of a pitch, and South Africa have been able to pick incredibly balanced teams for over 15 years now purely because of the ability to rely on Jacques. I should also mention that he has 169 catches at test level, and is one of the safer slips fieldsmen I have seen, probably up there with Mark Waugh and Rahul Dravid.
Kallis’ bowling record in ODI cricket is probably even more impressive, given he has 267 wickets at 31, and his bowling does seem to suit the white ball. He has matched that with over 11,000 runs at 45 and again has over 100 catches. I guess the stain on his ODI career will always be his teams inability to really deliver on their promise in the World Cup. In fact, Kallis has always been accused of playing for himself rather than the team, and that is perhaps reflective of South Africa’s problem at big tournaments, where you really need the team to ‘gel’. If anything, Kallis is merely a product of his system, where individuals are strong and believe they must lead themselves, which can have its merits but also its problems. That said, I don’t think Kallis is too selfish in his play, and there is no way the Proteas would ever have got in those positions to win without him.
Perhaps one of the most surprising elements of Kallis’ career has been his success at T20 cricket. For someone who has often been accused of batting too slowly, Kallis does seem to excel in the shortest format. He averages a whopping 36 at international level with a strike rate of over 114, and, much to everyone’s surprise, he has been one of the outstanding players in the IPL. His feats for the Royal Challengers Bangalore have been astonishing, and what I love about his play is that he plays ‘proper’ cricket shots. I’d be confident in saying that his lofted cover drive is one of the best in the game’s history.
So, that is it! I know that I’ve chosen quite a few older players, but as I mentioned, I’m not picking them for the next five years. This was purely based on who I would pick RIGHT NOW. Since we started, Viru Sehwag has blown us away again, Dale Steyn was crucial in bowling Australia out for almost their lowest total, Shane Watson has shown his magnificent skill (and his propensity to get injured), Sachin has looked a little weak but I’m sure is ready to feast on Australia’s young bowlers, and Jacques has done what he does…just make runs and take key wickets.
I challenge anyone to come up with others who they think I’ve missed, and also suggest who might be in this list in a year or two. Maybe Kieron Pollard? James Pattinson? Jonathan Trott? There are many possibilities. But for now, I’ll take my top five any day of the week.
Number 2:Sachin Tendulkar
Number 3: Shane Watson
Number 4: Dale Steyn
Number 5: Virender Sehwag
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