Now that Jacques Kallis has decided to retire from Test cricket, South Africa will need to find two players to do what he has done over the years. He will be missed and he should be missed. But we cannot afford to lick our wounds and wait for five years. We need to have a plan and we need to find a way by either finding an all-rounder or hope that Vernon Philander and the others in the lower order get some additional runs.
I have known Jacques for many years and he hardly spoke. He was always in a bubble and it was good for the team when he was in that bubble. And so when he spoke, we all listened.
I remember that 438 game (at Johannesburg where South Africa created a world record in ODIs by chasing down Australia’s 434). The dressing room was quiet at the break and Jacques walked in and said, “Come on guys, the bowlers did their job and they missed it (450) by just about 10 runs and now it’s our turn to go out there and get that.” The entire team burst out laughing and it lightened the mood.
Jacques has a good sense of humour. If someone hit a four and the ball hit the rubbish bin, he’d say, “That’s a rubbish shot.” If the ball hit the tree, he’d say, “Oh, tree-mendous shot!”
People say he never got the accolades that he deserved and I have thought about it. Yes, we have had Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid. Kallis was in that bracket but, in a way, he was just like Dravid. Both did their job in a quiet way, they did what their team wanted.
We have got to accept that Kallis has batted on some difficult pitches here in South Africa and made batting look very easy. Maybe if he had played a lot more on sub-continental pitches, he may have got more runs.
But in that case, he would have got lesser wickets so we cannot really speculate about where he is placed in that list (of batting greats).
Jacques was great in the slips too. It was always reassuring to look up and see his face. He has a very safe pair of hands and held about 95 per cent of the catches. We South Africans are proud about our fielding and he was very good.
A bowler with a never-say-die attitude, he used to get those three to four wickets consistently and maybe that is why he never made a splash like what a five-for would do. He always bowled at 130 kph-plus all through his career. And yes, in that 1999 World Cup match against Sri Lanka, he bowled at the speed of light. He could crank it up to 140 kph at times. He gave it everything.
After his retirement, Jacques is likely to spend a lot of time on the golf course. He could also be a good batting consultant.
His knowledge about the technical aspect of the game is very deep. Whatever he does, I am sure he will do well. Good luck to him!