Jacques Kallis’ retirement will hurt the Proteas more than we think

2013-12-28 00:00

SINCE we first saw him as a 20-year-old making his debut against the English at Kingsmead in 1995, Jacques Kallis has never done anything loudly.

And so it was when he announced that the Boxing Day Test would be his last just hours before taking to the field. With South Africans gathered at Christmas functions with their loved ones, Kallis’s announcement was about as low-key as they come.

Of course, such news is devastating enough to cricket lovers in this country that it naturally commands attention and debate. But Kallis’s departure in front of a modest Kingsmead crowd doesn’t even begin to compare to the royal escapade that was the recent retirement of Sachin Tendulkar. One could argue that South Africa’s greatest cricketer of all time deserves more, but there is a feeling that Kallis prefers being out of the spotlight.

He doesn’t need any elaborate ceremonies — the numbers say it all. Kallis’s Test average of 55,12 betters those of Sachin Tendulkar (53,78), Rahul Dravid (52,31), Ricky Ponting (51,85) and Brian Lara (52,88). That’s not bad company, and when one considers that Tendulkar and Dravid have played half of their cricket on the concrete strips of India, then Kallis’s stats appear even more impressive.

There was a time when he was criticised for scoring too slowly in cricket’s shorter format — which was still the 50- over game at the time. But Kallis adapted, and there has been a steady increase in his scoring rate over the past few years. That remains the only criticism in what seems an otherwise flawless career, and it was hardly a criticism of great substance. Kallis has become a valuable T20 player in the IPL for the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Royal Challengers Bangalore.

His Test form of late has been questionable and he has made one 50 in his last 10 digs, but his place in the side was never in any doubt. Dropping Jacques Kallis is simply not an option.

The good news is that Kallis is still available in the 50-over game — ironic given his perceived inability to score quickly. At 38, the quiet conqueror has done just about all there is to do in cricket except win a World Cup, and that is what he is looking to do now.

It can only be a good thing to have Kallis available as the Proteas look to 2015, but whether or not he manages to stay fit enough and good enough between now and then remains to be seen.

Kallis still bowls consistently at over 130 km/h, and his ability to hold up an end and break the odd partnership will be missed. That is what his role as a bowler has become as he has gotten older, but Kallis in his prime was as dangerous as any with the ball in hand — a beautiful shape that moved slightly away from the batsman while coming at serious pace.

In Kallis the Proteas have had one of the greatest batsmen to ever play the game and a more than effective swing bowler in one package, and there isn’t anybody else in the country with those credentials. Replacing Kallis is an impossible task, and the Proteas will surely know that. Adapting to life without Jacques Kallis sounds far more realistic than finding another Jacques Kallis.

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