The greatest, or merely one of the greatest?
As praise was heaped on Jacques Kallis after the announcement of his retirement from one-day international cricket yesterday, this question would have occupied the minds of the game’s followers.
He had it all – sublime technique, rock-solid temperament and a full range of skills. Statistically, he is the greatest South African cricketer yet, specially given that, in the post-isolation era, he played in all countries in all conditions, which some of the country’s other standout players had not done.
Maybe some would count Kallis’s lack of flamboyance, and perceived lack of haste as a Test batsman particularly, as downsides to his presence in the game. He spoke of “going into a bubble” when he was at the crease.
Kallis had to wait until relatively late in his career – until 2010 – to record a Test double-century. But he racked up 45 Test hundreds and 17 three-figure scores in ODIs in accumulating 24 868 runs in those two formats.
Flamboyant was not a label he coveted. It was far more valuable to him to be the rock, without which a team could easily flounder.
In his near 19-year career, the Proteas were at one time or the other top ranked in all three formats. They would not have got there without his influence.
His one dream was to be part of a World Cup-winning team, but he won’t be at the 50-over jamboree Down Under next year. Yesterday, he said that tournament was “a bridge too far”, but that South Africa had a team good enough to take the honours.
He still has T20 contracts with the Sydney Thunder and the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Since his international ODI debut in 1996, Kallis has been an important member of the Proteas ODI side, scoring 11 579 runs as a top-order batsman and also taking 273 wickets.
Proteas Test captain, Hashim Amla, said: “Jacques was a one in 50 years cricketer who had a huge influence on so many Proteas players over a 20-year period. I was privileged to have been one of those. You appreciate the magnitude of the cricketer not only when you look at his record but also when you play alongside him.”
Former international all-rounder Justin Kemp believes that Kallis will go down as the world’s best all-round cricketer and that he will be missed.
“Just by looking at the stats you can see how good he was, but I think that over the next few seasons he will really be missed and it will take some doing to replace him.”
Having spent most of his domestic career in Cape Town, Kallis played many matches at Newlands, including his career-best Test knock of 224 against Sri Lanka in 2012.
WP cricket chief executive Andre Odendaal remembers the day fondly.
“Seeing Kallis batting during a late afternoon at Newlands during a January Test is one of the most beautiful sights in cricket.
“His temperament and technique really make him stand out from the rest. Statistically, he is the greatest player in cricket history.” - Cape Argus