The other side of Jacques Kallis
As it began to drizzle over Buffalo Park in East London, Jacques Kallis stood in a circle with six blazer-clad schoolboys. At first they were reluctant to say too much, but he prompted them. "Any questions, or is everyone too shy?"
One of the boys piped up. "How much of a role does fitness play now?"
Kallis was in his element. He puffed his chest out and spoke to them in the voice of a gentle older brother. "You guys are playing three times the amount of cricket that I played, so fitness does play a role," he said. "Gym work becomes very important to prevent injury. There's no shortcut, you've got to put in the hard work and you'll see the results. Mentally, it's good to do that kind of stuff. It does help your other cricket skills."
Another asked a braver question. "How did it feel getting run out in Paarl?"
Kallis shrugged. "It's part of the game. In one-day cricket, you accept it and move on. It's almost about trust - like with everything in life, you've got to trust your partner."
And another ... "Who's the fastest bowler you've faced?"
No hesitation. "Shaun Tait."
"And the best spinner?"
"Definitely, Shane Warne."
"And what about the best bowler?"
"Wasim Akram. He could swing the ball both ways, with the new and the old ball and he had a good bumper too."
"We see you've been bowling quite quickly these days, getting up to 140…"
"Yeah, my role has changed a bit," Kallis said. "I probably won't bowl as much, bowl shorter spells, where try and run in and get a breakthrough. My job will vary as well, sometimes I will try and hold the game."
"What about the chirping on the field?"
"There's not much these days. It's pretty quiet now, nothing much gets said. It's sad actually, cricket's always had it."
"What's your highest score at this ground?"
"Uhh … couldn't tell you," Kallis admitted. "But I broke the window next to the clock," he said, pointing to the shattered glass on the far side of the ground. "And they still haven't fixed it."
In the 2009-10 domestic final, when Kallis still played for the Warriors, one of the sixes in his undefeated 87 crashed into the window. His highest Test score at the ground is 75 not out, which he achieved in a Test match against Bangladesh in 2002, while his highest ODI score here is 63 against Australia in 1997.
Buffalo Park is not a particularly special venue for Kallis but for the six boys surrounding him, it is. Jordan Hayes (son of Greg Hayes, who played an important role in Makhaya Ntini's development), Nathan George (son of umpire Shaun George), David Brits, Jerome Bossr, Pumelelo Payi and Sibulele Lwana are six schoolchildren who have received scholarships from the Jacques Kallis Foundation. They will come through the structures at Border Cricket and dream of representing their province one day at this very ground.
The organisation was set up to provide monetary assistance to pupils at four schools around the country: Kallis' alma mata Wynberg Boys, Mark Boucher's old school Selbourne College (where the schoolboys Kallis addressed on Friday are from), Jonty Rhodes' Maritzburg Colleague and the up country school Pretoria Boys. The Foundation was started in 2006 when Kallis had his benefit year.
"Instead of taking the money raised from the events of the year, I wanted to give something back to the game of cricket," Kallis said.
Kallis' ex-headmaster Keith Richardson works with the foundation to identify talented boys and pave the way for their funding. "They mainly look at the Under-13s week and try and find the most talented guys there. They find out a bit about their background and if they can afford to go to a good school."
The Foundation presents a side of Kallis that few will ever get to see. The public image of Kallis is of a one-track minded cricketer, who exists only to score runs, take wickets and claim catches at slip, whose life is consumed by what happens on the field. But behind that façade, is a real person with a giving soul.
"It's given me a lot of pleasure to see guys come through," Kallis said. "The cherry on top would be if a guy came through and played for South Africa. But even if he is getting an education and its changing his life, it's just as rewarding."
Kallis left the boys with sober advice, before they departed for a lunch. "Stay away from all the girls," he joked. "Cricket only, cricket and academics."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent