Slim-line Kallis has ‘lived life’

Jacques Kallis (Gallo Images)
Jacques Kallis (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Returning Proteas all-rounder legend Jacques Kallis hopes the benefits of taking a complete break from the international treadmill will stand him in good stead for a successful comeback Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates next month.

Kallis told Sport24 at the local launch of Ali Bacher and David Williams’s new book “Jacques Kallis and 12 Other Great South African All-rounders” on Thursday that the longest voluntary rest he has ever taken in his top-flight career had “felt so necessary” as he badly needed a mental break (after playing more or less non-stop for South Africa since December 1995).

“I needed to completely get away from the game a bit, and actually to live life. That’s made it an unbelievable couple of months; I haven’t watched any cricket, followed any cricket.

“I’ve got away and done other things I loved; recharged the batteries. It’s the best thing I could ever have done, I think. It was a tough decision, especially missing the Champions Trophy, but I felt it was in my best interests moving forward at this stage of my career.”

For those critical of his hiatus - he has not played any form of the game since his last match in the Indian Premier League for Kolkata Knight Riders on May 19 - it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that at his age, turning 38 next month, many other cricketers have called it a day, whereas the often indispensible Kallis has re-committed to extending his Test shelf-life for South Africa, particularly, and also returning to some one-day international combat.

He admitted that having been on the increasingly jam-packed international roster for so many years, he might be able to feel as if every new game he plays for the Proteas now is more of a boutique occasion.

“Yes, I suppose it is that. Coming to the end of my career, it makes you appreciate more every game you do play. Each one could be the last – I’ve always said the day I wake up knowing I’m not enjoying cricket any more, I will quit.

“It’s also nice to see the enthusiasm of some youngsters who come in during your (absence); a reminder of just what it means to play for your country. Not that you forget yourself! I’ve had the break, and can feel my own enthusiasm back again.”

Back from his relative hibernation, Kallis certainly looks lean and energised, and concurred that time out of actual playing can be beneficial for conditioning needs.

“I have put in a lot of time in the gym to try to get through the next year and a half ... I believe that if I don’t make it to the next World Cup (in 2015) it will be more from a mental than bodily point of view, and I have at least had that mental time out now with a view to sustaining myself on both fronts.”

Of course he has also indulged himself in his other great sporting passion, golf.

“Ja, my game’s actually started to get quite decent! I’ve got the Dunhill Links coming up shortly, so looking forward to that, and I’ve spent a lot of time with some golf pros and played nice courses. I’ve been at Leopard Creek playing the club champs, so it’s all been very pleasurable on that front.”

He is ready to do his bit with both bat and ball in the two-Test series against the Pakistanis, with the UAE pitches expected to be spin-friendly and require the faster men to bend their backs and sometimes be patient for scalps - it is possible there will an occasion or two when Kallis has to serve as third seamer, depending on the balance of the side.

“I have no doubt it’s going to spin, and that there will be a good chance we go in with two specialist spinners (the Proteas have included both Robin Peterson and Imran Tahir in their Test squad - Sport24).

“So I am prepared for putting in the overs. I’ve put in the work; time with the ball and in the gym. I think it will still be a case of me delivering not more than 10 or 15 overs a day if required, and you can work around that, especially in those conditions, so there’s every possibility I can do that, yes.”

Kallis says he is “disappointed” that the Proteas, despite being No 1-ranked, are currently struggling to play Test series comprising more than two or three fixtures, a situation aggravated by the bilateral dispute around the scheduled Indian tour of South Africa this summer.

“It is sad ... Test cricket is still the main format guys want to play and be judged on. So the more Test cricket we can play the better, especially being top-ranked.

“It is a shame what’s happening with the Indian tour, but I know the administrators are trying to sort it out, and they realise the importance of playing more Tests against the top nations.”

*”Jacques Kallis and 12 Other Great South African All-rounders”, by Ali Bacher and David Williams, is published by Penguin and available at leading bookstores countrywide (R230). The other SA-born all-rounders spotlighted in the book are Lance Klusener, Shaun Pollock, Brian McMillan, Tony Greig, Clive Rice, Mike Procter, Basil D’Oliveira, Tiger Lance, Eddie Barlow, Trevor Goddard, Aubrey Faulkner and Jimmy Sinclair.
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