Jacques Kallis has absolutely no thoughts about imminent retirement from the game. But he has plenty of thoughts of retirement, and has had them for many years.
At the age of 35 (although he looks more like 25 now with his recent hair refurbishment) South Africa’s greatest all rounder sees no reason to contemplate leaving the job at which he has excelled for so long. “I still enjoy bowling and batting in equal measure and I would be very sad if the day ever came when I had to choose between them,” Kallis said after his career-changing double century on day three of the first Test against India.
There is little doubt that he will step down from frontline ODI duty after the World Cup next year but, such is his passion and commitment to the national cause, he might be reluctant to formally ‘retire’ in case a role is identified for him and requested by the new coach and management team. Sachin Tendulkar, two years older than Kallis, is routinely rested from the 50-over game and blossoms on his return as a result. Kallis could perform a similar role for the Proteas if afforded even a fraction of the respect given to Tendulkar but manufactured by Gary Kirsten.
One day, perhaps, Kirsten will be afforded the opportunity to employ his unique coaching style with his countrymen. But, whereas the BCCI saw opportunity and potential in his appointment, and were prepared to take the risk, the fear and probability remains that CSA will be hamstrung by bureaucracy, red-tape and ‘procedure’ if they ever even agreed that Kirsten was the right man for the job.
Kallis, meanwhile, is enjoying his cricket more now than ever before. And the results are there for all to see. His first 100 runs were the quickest he had scored in Test cricket (130 deliveries) and his second 100 required just 10 more. He has had the ability to score at that rate for his entire career, but only now does he have the confidence and belief in his ability to belt the opposition. Now, finally, in the autumn of his career, with Smith, Amla, de Villiers and even Prince to follow, he has the licence to be who – and what – he knows he can be.
For the last five years Kallis has overseen the growth of his own academy, sponsoring five teenagers every year with cricket potential through the process of matriculation and, hopefully, varsity education. It has sustained him through the twilight years of his own career and, very probably, enhanced his own performance levels. He refers often to the “joy in the future” of “watching guys play who I’ve had the pleasure of helping.”
One day, Kallis will finally step aside and start doing the things he loves (marginally less than cricket.) Top of the list will be the JK Scholarship Foundation, but a very close second will be his passion for golf. No wonder that he was so excited about Johann Rupert’s promise of life-membership to Leopard Creek if he scored a double-century! “I was probably more excited about that than the 200, to be honest! Maybe not…it was a very, very big monkey that I needed to get off my back. Thank God it’s gone now…”
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