‘King Kallis’ is going to be missed

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iol spt jan2 Kallis

Reuters

Cricket writer Stuart Hess laments Jacques Kallis retirement from Test cricket and how sorely he would be missed. Photo by: Rogan Ward

South Africa’s next Test match will start on February 12 2014 at SuperSport Park in Centurion. Andrew Hudson and his panel of national selectors will likely name the squad for that Test in the first week of February.

It’s going to be a bloody weird experience reading that squad list, because, for the first time since the summer of 1995/96 – for reasons not attached to injury – it won’t contain the name of Jacques Kallis.

No Kallis. It’s almost unimaginable. Except it’s all quite real. How grateful do you think the Australians are going to be for his decision to retire from the Test format?

In my position, writing about the South African team over the last 12 years, Kallis has always been there. I’ve criticised him, praised him, interviewed him, shared a beer with him, laughed with him as he cracked jokes about Morné Morkel.

Listened as he cleverly, diplomatically and honestly answered a cheeky question from a pro-DA youth politician in London on South Africa’s 2012 tour of England when she wondered if enough was being done to support the creation of sporting opportunities for youngsters in South Africa.

Listened, during the last interview I had with him in February last year – ahead of the Test against Pakistan – how he really loved his golf – “proper sport,” – and how the World Cup remained an ambition.

It is such an important goal for him, that Test cricket, the highest form of the game, at which he has excelled and achieved true sporting greatness, is the one he has chosen to stop playing first, in order to properly preserve body and mind for one last go (hopefully for him, his sixth attempt) at the one great prize that has eluded him throughout a glittering career.

Kallis’ final Test match almost perfectly encapsulated much of his career – almost perfect, because, well, he didn’t take a wicket. There was a fine catch at slip – his 200th, the second highest all time – and of course that century.

It being a Kallis special – six and a half hours and 316 balls – naturally there were the calls that it was too slow (from the coach potato experts as well as a former teammate), he was “playing for himself”, the team “needed him to bat quicker, to give them time to win the game”.

I had a quiet chuckle reading all the critics. It was all very 1990s or early 2000s, when nothing Kallis ever did was good enough.

Except Kallis knew. Like he always did, that what he was doing at the crease was just what the team needed. He always knew. The team knew. The team was grateful. As a nation South Africa was too. I’ll miss seeing his name when that next Test squad is released. - The Star


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