New age dawns

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or so the old expression says. Yet the new season of international cricket would appear to be starting off on a very different note to many of the last decade, and it’s thanks to a couple of the ‘old-timers’ in the Proteas squad.

It’s a well-known fact that year after year of international cricket, for all the wonder, pride and excitement, also produces a weariness and emotional fatigue so deep that it’s often hard to escape. Rediscovering the joy and determination, over a decade after it began, is beyond the vast majority of international cricketers. Not that many ever make it to a decade!

So the sight of Jacques Kallis and his old mate, Mark Boucher, flogging their bodies this winter in the company of a personal trainer has raised more than a few eyebrows.

Professional sportsmen are understandably defensive about their bodies. After all, only they know what is required and how much it hurts. So when people started making vinegary comments about the apparently increasing comfort zone of Kallis’ torso, it was only natural that he should maintain a dignified silence. Others who were similarly challenged, were less polite.

In the last six weeks, Kallis has shed an astonishing seven kilogrammes. He and Boucher have hired a personal trainer and have been doing gym work in the morning and road-running in the evening. With a little golf in between! It would be wrong to suggest they are as keen as they were as teenagers because, quite honestly, they appear more motivated than they were in the 1990s.

And it’s not a selfish drive, either. Several years ago they bought an investment property at Fancourt but instead of arranging winter golfing weekends for buddies this time, they have coordinated a four-day fitness ‘seminar’ with newly appointed Proteas trainer Rob Walter in attendance. The Morkel brothers will attend, as will national captain Graeme Smith.

Just under two years ago I asked both Kallis and Boucher what they wanted to achieve in the game. Clearly, they had discussed the subject before. Their answers were identical. To win Test series in England and Australia, and to win the World Cup.

“Two out of three ain’t bad”, says Meatloaf, but that would appear to be the last thing on ‘Jakes’ and ‘Bouch’s minds. They appear to have realised that true greatness beckons. They are both already ‘great’ – and world record holders – but they are beginning to understand how history judges sportsmen and they are hell-bent on removing as many ‘buts’ as possible from their career records as possible. It is two years until the next World Cup. And they still have the pressing matter of revenge on their minds following the deeply painful loss to England on their last tour to these shores.

So don’t be too surprised or distracted by their physical appearance when they emerge again for the ICC Champions Trophy in September. It’s what’s going on in their heads that should really excite SA cricket supporters.

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