Kallis conundrum just beginningComment on this story
Johannesburg - The Proteas have 21 One-Day International (ODI) matches remaining before the ICC Cricket World Cup in February, and the form and fitness of the Proteas best-ever allrounder Jacques Kallis is concerning.
With scores of nought and one from the first two ODIs played in the current tour of Sri Lanka, the 38-year-old had made a bad start to his campaign for World Cup selection. And, with the series tied up at 1-1 with one to play, the veteran would be under pressure to perform.
However, even if Kallis did make some runs, the slow turning pitches in Sri Lanka would be nothing like the surfaces the Proteas would encounter in Australia and New Zealand in February.
While part of the ODI squad, Faf du Plessis had not made the starting XI for either ODI. The move to select Kallis ahead of Du Plessis - who should be a key member of the Proteas World Cup squad - was clearly aimed at giving the veteran time in the middle.
Before the current series, the Proteas last played ODI cricket in December when India toured South Africa. The hosts won the three-match series 2-0 with the third contest rained out. In that series, Kallis made two scores of 10.
Bring in his two efforts in the Sri Lanka series, and there is nothing to suggest he is playing anywhere near his former ability.
In the interim, Kallis had only played T20 cricket for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League.
While T20 cricket falls into the limited-overs format, there can be little comparison with 50-over cricket, especially in the department of batting technique.
It then becomes clear to see that Kallis has had little time of relevance out in the middle.
With the ball, there is even less to indicate Kallis would be used much.
At his peak, Kallis was often supplementary to a traditionally strong South African pace bowling lineup. That was even more the case with an older Kallis set against Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander in the current Proteas armoury.
Now with Kallis approaching 40, the requirements of bowling at international level, on a regular basis, may disrupt his carefully managed return to the game.
Kallis did not bowl in either ODI against Sri Lanka, and his absence from the attack was particularly revealing in the second match. Steyn was struck on the hand during his third over and did not take any further part in the innings, having bowled just 2.2 overs. Still, Kallis was not called on to bowl during the innings.
Fellow allrounder Ryan McLaren, instead, stepped up to take 4/48 in his 10 overs.
It was also unclear whether the 327-ODI veteran was fit to bowl at the moment. Kallis was not available for the warm-up match in Sri Lanka last week after struggling with stiffness in his upper back.
It would seem then that Kallis is not an option with the ball and the focus is on his primary role as a batsman.
In a timeline of his career, it is worth noting that, not too long ago - after playing against New Zealand in two ODIs in February 2012 - Kallis retired from the format to concentrate on prolonging his Test career.
Kallis then retired from Test cricket after the Boxing Day match in Durban against India last year, but made his intentions clear of playing in the 2015 World Cup.
If Kallis continues to fail to deliver out in the middle, at some point, the selectors will have to decide when to drop their leading Proteas run-scorer in ODI cricket.
As it stands, Kallis has 21 chances left.