Jacques Kallis retires July 30, 2014

Kallis a standard-bearer for a nation

He made South Africans proud and he made the rest of the world stand up and take notice. He played at the highest level for 18 years and was the beating heart of many fine teams
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'Kallis' calm balance helps him make big scores'

There is always a certain sadness when exceptional sportsmen call time on their career. Our interest in them lies not just in the aesthetics but in both character and personality; in physical and mental strength; in the ability to win. Few are given every gift. In cricket, Sir Garfield Sobers has been the stand out. Roger Federer, Diego Maradona and Severiano Ballesteros are three from other sports so blessed.

Jacques Kallis wanted to play in the World Cup next year but he has run out of time. The reason for his retirement from Test cricket was simple enough; he didn't have the mental energy for it anymore. The brain had rebelled against the demands of the contest. Test match innings are a triumph of the mind. Bowling is a talent wholly attached to discipline. Catching at slip is a matter of concentration. Kallis still had the legs but the heart and head had wandered elsewhere. He broke the news to Graeme Smith while the pair of them stood at slip during the series against India last Christmas. Smith was eager for him to hang on for the Australians but he said there was nothing left to give. Friends suggested he drop down the order and barely bowl. He told them they were missing the point. Either you are up for it or you are not. Hanging on is a betrayal.

He thought he had a World Cup left in him. It grates, not just with Kallis but with every South African who has touched upon bat and ball, that World Cup failures are associated with the C word. Some sportsmen lose, others choke. Or, as a well know golfer once said about a putt that went astray, "I threw up on myself." It appears that the South Africa cricket team does much the same, which is odd given that South African people have both courage and commitment in the many challenges they face. Kallis is furious that his team should be the subject of such opinion and remains certain that the talent and attitude exists to win the tournament in Australia. Initially, he felt his experience and all-round skills would add value to the sum of the parts. But he has found out that being a part-time cricketer is a mug's game. Thus, the career of an exceptional player has finally come to an end. After making 13,289 runs and taking 292 wickets in Test match cricket along with 11,579 runs and 273 wickets in one-day cricket, they will have to go and win the cup without him.

The Kallis statistics broke no argument. They are exquisite. And remember that batting on South African pitches provides a sterner test than those in most other countries. In the early 1990's, that shrewd old fox Robin Jackman said that the next great South African batsmen was about to make his debut for Western Province. Jackman was coaching in Cape Town and had first seen "the little oke" at Wynberg Boys High, alma mater of one Allan Lamb. Jackman was struck by a pure technique and commanding presence, aspects of his game that were to remain at the core of his longevity and success.

If figures are the go-to, only Sobers can compare. Sir Walter Hammond shares with both of them the unusual distinction of a Test match batting average above 55 that exceeds a bowling average by 20 or better. Only two men have batting averages above 40 and bowling averages below 33. Kallis is one but neither Sobers nor Hammond are with him. (I'll let you work out the other. It's a good 'un.)

In an age of extravagance, Kallis played the game pragmatically. He preserved his wicket in the way of the great defenders and yet had a range of strokes that allowed him control of pretty much any attack. His hugely strong upper body brought immense physical strength to his bowling, as batsmen uniformly spoke of a "heavy ball" and the relentless application of a tactic. He possessed two of the jewels of the great game, a beautiful cover-drive from either foot and a perfect late outswinger. He held 200 Test match catches, most at slip. A quirky but revealing stat is that only Adam Gilchrist, with 107, has hit more Test match sixes. All this hardly seems fair.

What he lacked was Sobers' flair. There were times when Kallis appeared lost in his own world, strangely unable to alter the pattern of play through inspiration. He operated within a risk-averse strategy, while Sobers regarded a gamble as part of the daily routine. Because of this, Sobers was greatly loved while Kallis was highly regarded. Sobers emptied bars, Kallis guaranteed no change should you happen to drift off. Sobers had a fluent, animal grace; Kallis a latent power and foreboding sense of permanence.

There have been five more unarguably great allrounders. Each caught the eye for different reasons. Sir Richard Hadlee applied a surgical precision; Sir Ian Botham paraded an absence of self-doubt that won many an unpromising situation; Kapil Dev played with an athletically free spirit, Imran Khan with a lion's sense of occasion and Keith Miller brought an unbridled pleasure to those lucky enough to witness either the man or his talent at first hand. Mike Procter may well have been among them had fate not turned against him.

Kallis retires as another one of those truly great cricketers. Whether or not he is the finest all-round player ever is irrelevant and, anyway, comparisons can be odious and lead to contempt. What we know is that he adorned the game we love. He made South Africans proud and he made the rest of the world stand up and take notice. He played at the highest level for 18 years, which is a testament to desire and fitness every bit as much as it is to the skills that make him irreplaceable. He was the beating heart of many fine teams, the reference point for many an opponent and a standard-bearer for a sports loving nation through its period of extraordinary reconciliation and change. Bravo Jacques, the game will be poorer without you.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on July 31, 2014, 1:07 GMT

    A wonderful tribute from a writer whose passion for the game is always reflected in his articles. It´s nice o see he mentions Mike Procter, a player who IMHO would undoubtedly rank alongside Miller and Kallis, just behind Sobers. It took me a while to guess the mystery all-rounder. My first three guesses ( Dexter, Asif Iqbal and Mushtaq) were all just outside the criteria.

  • on August 3, 2014, 22:51 GMT

    A lovely article and truely deserved for such a fine cricketer. Kallis is undoubtly one of the greatest players of all times! and should enjoy his retirement because he certainly earned it. I cant believe people keep going about him not being able to win matches??? most player of the matches and 2nd most player of the series awards in test cricket suggests that he his performances won many many matches and series.

  • on August 2, 2014, 6:45 GMT

    It amaze me that no one is talking about his contribution in Slips. Safe as a house !! A complete package which i think will never arrive in Cricket.

  • on August 2, 2014, 0:48 GMT

    Great article. The man's a one off. An all rounder as good as Lara, Tendulkar, Ponting and Gavaskar with the bat, yet was still able to take almost 300 test wickets. All the other famous great all rounders were surpassed by Kallis. In a league of his own. South Africa might be easier to beat now :)

  • on August 1, 2014, 13:17 GMT

    With no limits on games played, runs scores, wickets taken, 33 test cricketers have a batting average above 40 and a bowling average below 33. Kallis, Greig, and Faulkner head the list in terms of wickets taken, but from recent players, Simon Katich and Darren Lehmann also qualify. Full list: http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=1;filter=advanced;orderby=wickets;qualmax1=33;qualmax2=100;qualmin1=0;qualmin2=40;qualval1=bowling_average;qualval2=batting_average;template=results;type=allround

  • on August 1, 2014, 4:34 GMT

    Thank you Mark, for such a well written (as always) article. There is no doubt Kallis is one of the greats of all time as his record proves. However having seen Gary Sobers up close and personal many times I do not believe there has been a better all round cricketer. However as you say comparisons are irrelevant.

  • Insult_2_Injury on August 1, 2014, 3:31 GMT

    Nice article, Mark. As an Aussie, we have looked high and low for a genuine all rounder for nigh on two decades and everyone touted in that time was found wanting because the undoubted benchmark was Kallis. The gulf between him and the next best, as you rightly noted, isn't measured just in averages, but in generations.

    We've seen the retirements of some all time great batsmen and bowlers in the last 24 - 36 months, but now we have seen the retirement of a truly great cricketer.

    My admiration for him is not just based on his undoubted reliability which Aussies envied, but while he wasn't a sledger, he wasn't appalled by it. He was up for a contest in all its forms and just got into it.

  • PadMarley on August 1, 2014, 2:31 GMT

    Undoubtadly the cricketer of our generation... no one else managed to show such impact on all departments of the game like he did. Add runs to his career count to match the amount of wickets he has taken and the catches he has taken. Easly that might come to 20000 test runs!! what more to prove it!! The greatest cricketer !!!!

  • Schumi1 on August 1, 2014, 1:17 GMT

    Thanks Jacques for being there right from the beginning of my cricket watching years as a young kid.

    By the way, adding to the mystery all-rounder conundrum, doesn't Doug Walters fit the bill by having a batting average of 48.26 and a bowling average of 29.08?

  • on July 31, 2014, 21:03 GMT

    It makes me sad that people look immediately for negative things about the guy. Lemme tell you, if you're a South African, you love him. Everyone always says he was boring, he didn't play for the team, he wasn't a match winner. Rubbish. He was a big time match winner. He played in some pretty average teams and made them look good. That was the character of Kallis. No big talk. No cocky attitude. No rubbish. He just quietly went about single handedly saving or winning test matches. And carrying others with him. When his batting was out of form he was taking wickets and catches. His bowling stats are on a par with Zahir Kahn and his batting stats as good as Ponting and Dravid. He took a helluva lot of catches. A better ambassador for cricket I have never seen. Not opinionated, he never ridiculed or tried to put down his opponents. Thats real character and integrity. Brilliant and I am lucky to have been able to watch him play for most of his career. Thank You JK.

  • on July 31, 2014, 1:07 GMT

    A wonderful tribute from a writer whose passion for the game is always reflected in his articles. It´s nice o see he mentions Mike Procter, a player who IMHO would undoubtedly rank alongside Miller and Kallis, just behind Sobers. It took me a while to guess the mystery all-rounder. My first three guesses ( Dexter, Asif Iqbal and Mushtaq) were all just outside the criteria.

  • on August 3, 2014, 22:51 GMT

    A lovely article and truely deserved for such a fine cricketer. Kallis is undoubtly one of the greatest players of all times! and should enjoy his retirement because he certainly earned it. I cant believe people keep going about him not being able to win matches??? most player of the matches and 2nd most player of the series awards in test cricket suggests that he his performances won many many matches and series.

  • on August 2, 2014, 6:45 GMT

    It amaze me that no one is talking about his contribution in Slips. Safe as a house !! A complete package which i think will never arrive in Cricket.

  • on August 2, 2014, 0:48 GMT

    Great article. The man's a one off. An all rounder as good as Lara, Tendulkar, Ponting and Gavaskar with the bat, yet was still able to take almost 300 test wickets. All the other famous great all rounders were surpassed by Kallis. In a league of his own. South Africa might be easier to beat now :)

  • on August 1, 2014, 13:17 GMT

    With no limits on games played, runs scores, wickets taken, 33 test cricketers have a batting average above 40 and a bowling average below 33. Kallis, Greig, and Faulkner head the list in terms of wickets taken, but from recent players, Simon Katich and Darren Lehmann also qualify. Full list: http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=1;filter=advanced;orderby=wickets;qualmax1=33;qualmax2=100;qualmin1=0;qualmin2=40;qualval1=bowling_average;qualval2=batting_average;template=results;type=allround

  • on August 1, 2014, 4:34 GMT

    Thank you Mark, for such a well written (as always) article. There is no doubt Kallis is one of the greats of all time as his record proves. However having seen Gary Sobers up close and personal many times I do not believe there has been a better all round cricketer. However as you say comparisons are irrelevant.

  • Insult_2_Injury on August 1, 2014, 3:31 GMT

    Nice article, Mark. As an Aussie, we have looked high and low for a genuine all rounder for nigh on two decades and everyone touted in that time was found wanting because the undoubted benchmark was Kallis. The gulf between him and the next best, as you rightly noted, isn't measured just in averages, but in generations.

    We've seen the retirements of some all time great batsmen and bowlers in the last 24 - 36 months, but now we have seen the retirement of a truly great cricketer.

    My admiration for him is not just based on his undoubted reliability which Aussies envied, but while he wasn't a sledger, he wasn't appalled by it. He was up for a contest in all its forms and just got into it.

  • PadMarley on August 1, 2014, 2:31 GMT

    Undoubtadly the cricketer of our generation... no one else managed to show such impact on all departments of the game like he did. Add runs to his career count to match the amount of wickets he has taken and the catches he has taken. Easly that might come to 20000 test runs!! what more to prove it!! The greatest cricketer !!!!

  • Schumi1 on August 1, 2014, 1:17 GMT

    Thanks Jacques for being there right from the beginning of my cricket watching years as a young kid.

    By the way, adding to the mystery all-rounder conundrum, doesn't Doug Walters fit the bill by having a batting average of 48.26 and a bowling average of 29.08?

  • on July 31, 2014, 21:03 GMT

    It makes me sad that people look immediately for negative things about the guy. Lemme tell you, if you're a South African, you love him. Everyone always says he was boring, he didn't play for the team, he wasn't a match winner. Rubbish. He was a big time match winner. He played in some pretty average teams and made them look good. That was the character of Kallis. No big talk. No cocky attitude. No rubbish. He just quietly went about single handedly saving or winning test matches. And carrying others with him. When his batting was out of form he was taking wickets and catches. His bowling stats are on a par with Zahir Kahn and his batting stats as good as Ponting and Dravid. He took a helluva lot of catches. A better ambassador for cricket I have never seen. Not opinionated, he never ridiculed or tried to put down his opponents. Thats real character and integrity. Brilliant and I am lucky to have been able to watch him play for most of his career. Thank You JK.

  • harshthakor on July 31, 2014, 18:44 GMT

    Statistically Kallis is the best cricketer of his generation but cricket is not only about statistics .It is also about entertainment,charisma artistry and x -factor.What counts aginst Kallis is that he at times did not step the gas sufficiently to win games for his team and the fact that he did not champion the cause with both ball and bat in more than one or 2 series.Infact he was only a great batsmen in the latter half of his playing days.No doubt his batting figures were monumental,on par with Tendulkar but again he could not equal Tendulkar Lara's or Ponting's strike rate or match their ability to turn games.Kallis score a greater percentage of his runs in drawn test matches.True,in a crisis he was arguably the best of his time and on par with Sir Gary Sobers.Kallis was not as great a match-winner with both bat and ball as Ian Botham in his prime or Imran in his entire career.Neverthless his longevity wins the battle for 2nd spot to Sobers.

  • Paul2005 on July 31, 2014, 14:23 GMT

    Brilliant read about the premier cricketer of this generation. Thanks Mark

  • BenJaneson234 on July 31, 2014, 13:49 GMT

    There are actually TWO other all-rounders (at least a wicket a game) who fit into the 40-33 range - Aubrey Faulkner (40.79/26.58) and Tony Greig (40.43/32.20) - so which one did Mark Nicholas forget???

  • on July 31, 2014, 13:23 GMT

    Alastair Cook is the mysterious great all rounder. batting average of 46 and bowling average of 7. truly one of the great all rounders of the game

  • TommytuckerSaffa on July 31, 2014, 13:21 GMT

    All hail the King, all hail King Kallis. All hail. I will never see another multi-talented cricketer like this again in my lifetime and I am in my mid- thirties. Its a depressing thought but on other hand, makes me appreciate and pay homage to this rare gem that is Jaque Kallis.

  • BellCurve on July 31, 2014, 12:23 GMT

    Aubrey Faulkner - only Test cricketer to be ranked No1 as batsman (1912) and No1 as bowler (1914-19). He only played against the best teams of his era (England and Australia) and still managed to average 40.79 with the bat and 26.58 with the ball over a career that spanned 19 years and 25 matches. He batted against legends such as Barnes and bowled against legends such as Trumper and Hobbs. Aubrey Faulkner is a statistical gem. Even his First Class career was almost entirely made up of high-profile matches against star-studded composite XIs. He deserves to be included in the ICC Hall of Fame. His name should be mentioned alongside Bradman, Sobers and Kallis.

  • on July 31, 2014, 10:23 GMT

    Farewell to the King. What a privilege it was to watch him.

  • PaddynairBlr on July 31, 2014, 9:49 GMT

    Very well put by Mark Nicholas-Think that South Africa has never produced a cricketer of the Kallis Class.Due to his absolute all round skills,it allowed South Africa to slip in an extra batsman or bowler as the situation demanded.This made them phenomenally strong as they were playing with a team of 12 effectively.That extra edge made them the No 1 team in the world in test cricket.In one day cricket however ,Kallis was not quite the same force.He was not a "winkler out of batsmen" like Malinga and slip fielding did not matter as much in the shorter version of the game.His pace of scoring of course was relatively slow.Still very effective but not quite there.But a great,great cricketer nonetheless.Next to Sir Garry Sobers !

  • on July 31, 2014, 9:44 GMT

    Why should be there an argument at all???Kallis and Sobers have been the greatest cricketers ever. Period. Even if these two had not bowled a single ball, they would still be counted among the greatest batsmen ever.

  • Sexysteven on July 31, 2014, 8:39 GMT

    Kallis may not have been as aggressive as some greats but to me that don't matter to me he was classical test cricketer where he could go at his own pace I don't know he was criticised for that that's what's test cricket is about isn't it and he did adapt to white ball cricket and became more aggressive as his career progressed so to me those that have cricked him over the years especially the Aussies were wrong in my view how can you criticise somebody with stats like kallis has

  • Romanticstud on July 31, 2014, 8:15 GMT

    There is another mystery all-rounder from the era in which Procter was playing ... He batted lower down than Kallis ... not because of his ability ... but because of the quality of the teams he played in ... He averaged 39.59 with the bat ... scored 39831 runs and took 1449 wickets at 22.59 ... he took 575 catches ... his career spanned 964 matches ... sadly only 3 were officially international games ... He retired at 44 ... Added to all these stats ... he was a great captain ... with attacking flair ... Clive Edward Butler Rice is his name ... Now, back to Kallis ... statistically the best all-rounder in the world ... although nobody would have thought so when he scored 1 run in his debut test ... Longevity is one of the keys to a successful career ... VIVA KING KALLIS ... I hope that he will still be involved with the national teams as A MENTOR, COACH, GENTLEMAN and FRIEND ...

  • ydoethur on July 31, 2014, 7:28 GMT

    Was Walter Hammond knighted? I thought not, but I could easily be wrong. He should have been, but somehow he was one of those stars who never quite found acceptance from the English establishment.

    I think though that he would have been quite happy to be mentioned in the same breath as Kallis and Sobers. What a trio of titans that would be in the same side!

  • harshthakor on July 31, 2014, 7:10 GMT

    Kallis has been judged rather unfairly by critiques like Cristopher Martin Jenkins or James Armstrong who do not rank him with the top dozen or even 20 cricketers of all and place him behind Imran,Botham,Hadlee and Kapil Dev.I would bracket Kallis with Brian Lara and just a notch below the greats like Imran,Tendulkar,Viv Richards and Sobers because of his lack of ability to consistently win games.Had Kallis played in the era of Botham.Hadlee,Imran and Kapil Dev I would have backed him to overshadow all 4 as a pure all-rounder.(on the basis of leadership Imran would rank ahead)

    Kallis may have been workmanlike but reminded you of a great architect or a soldier battling against all odds.Upto 199 he was very effective with the new ball which was remarkable.Experts claim that he never championed the cause with bat and ball in the same period but they forget that it was the same with Imran and in Kallis's time there was far too much cricket played .

  • harshthakor on July 31, 2014, 7:00 GMT

    Kallis is the greatest cricketing all-rounder after Sir Garfied Sobers.In statistical terms he is the greatest all-rounder and arguably cricketer ever.Nobody may ever surpass his statistical achievements of 13,000 runs and 280 wickets in test matches and 11,000 a runs and 273 wickets in tests .He may not have been as much of an entertainer or match-winer as Sobers nor could turn matches with both bat and ball at the same time as Ian Botham but in terms of utility he matched strides with nay great cricketer.What counted against him was that at times he failed to step the gas but we must never forget that he scored about 45% of his aggregate runs in winning causes and took 5 wickets and scored a century in the same test on two occasions.In 1998 versus West Indies his all-round performances compared favourably with Sobers,Botham or Imran at their best.To or thwart a crisis Kallis equalled Sobers while at one stage of his career bowled as effectively as any fast-medium bowler.

  • Qeng_Ho on July 31, 2014, 6:42 GMT

    I count 32 players with a batting average over 40 and a bowling average under 33.

    Greig and Kallis are the only ones with at least 100 wickets to their names though.

  • on July 31, 2014, 6:08 GMT

    i have seen clips of sober and i am bullish but if he was born in this era he wouldnt have scored that many runs and would have been in trouble because of his gambiling habbits they can now work on any player and get his weakness on other hand mr. kallis was the best player i have seen live and he can make any attack any batting team crumble he is that strong he is the best allrounder test cricket has ever seen

  • PADDA on July 31, 2014, 5:45 GMT

    Absolute legend. Intesresting comparisons on SA television last night.

    Combine the stats of the best batsmen and the best bowler of all test playing nations over the last 15 years, and Kallis matches or beats all of those combined stats (and then add 200+ slip catches).

    I still think people don't realise the brilliance and quality of this man.

  • Pathiyal on July 31, 2014, 5:20 GMT

    a players who stood out from the rest of the world, in the true sense. congrats to him for just doing with a magnificently successful career!!!!!!! the cricket world will miss him on the field.

  • on July 31, 2014, 3:58 GMT

    The other player is Aubrey Faulkner. Mushtaq Mohammad and Asif Iqbal just miss out. Both have bowling averages of less than 30 but their batting average is 39

  • rizwan_1992 on July 31, 2014, 0:55 GMT

    Is the other player with Kallisque figures is Aubrey Faulkener?

  • igorolman on July 30, 2014, 23:34 GMT

    A.E. Greig batting average 40.43 bowling average 32.20.

  • on July 30, 2014, 20:41 GMT

    wow. That other player with a batting average over 40 and bowling average below 33 is very surprising :D

  • on July 30, 2014, 20:25 GMT

    Superb Mark! It needs feelings not words to define the undefinable. You almost precisely did that.

  • on July 30, 2014, 19:50 GMT

    As always, Mark Nicholas outdoes himself every time he puts his fingers to the keyboard. Wonderful, wonderful article on a fantastic cricketer. Jacques was probably the last of the classical batsmen... Cricket is poorer today without him.

  • Robster1 on July 30, 2014, 19:30 GMT

    Good article on King Kallis. SA will be lucky to find another like him within the next 25 years. Thanks for the memories Jacques. Is there anything he couldn't do.

  • Robster1 on July 30, 2014, 19:30 GMT

    Good article on King Kallis. SA will be lucky to find another like him within the next 25 years. Thanks for the memories Jacques. Is there anything he couldn't do.

  • on July 30, 2014, 19:50 GMT

    As always, Mark Nicholas outdoes himself every time he puts his fingers to the keyboard. Wonderful, wonderful article on a fantastic cricketer. Jacques was probably the last of the classical batsmen... Cricket is poorer today without him.

  • on July 30, 2014, 20:25 GMT

    Superb Mark! It needs feelings not words to define the undefinable. You almost precisely did that.

  • on July 30, 2014, 20:41 GMT

    wow. That other player with a batting average over 40 and bowling average below 33 is very surprising :D

  • igorolman on July 30, 2014, 23:34 GMT

    A.E. Greig batting average 40.43 bowling average 32.20.

  • rizwan_1992 on July 31, 2014, 0:55 GMT

    Is the other player with Kallisque figures is Aubrey Faulkener?

  • on July 31, 2014, 3:58 GMT

    The other player is Aubrey Faulkner. Mushtaq Mohammad and Asif Iqbal just miss out. Both have bowling averages of less than 30 but their batting average is 39

  • Pathiyal on July 31, 2014, 5:20 GMT

    a players who stood out from the rest of the world, in the true sense. congrats to him for just doing with a magnificently successful career!!!!!!! the cricket world will miss him on the field.

  • PADDA on July 31, 2014, 5:45 GMT

    Absolute legend. Intesresting comparisons on SA television last night.

    Combine the stats of the best batsmen and the best bowler of all test playing nations over the last 15 years, and Kallis matches or beats all of those combined stats (and then add 200+ slip catches).

    I still think people don't realise the brilliance and quality of this man.

  • on July 31, 2014, 6:08 GMT

    i have seen clips of sober and i am bullish but if he was born in this era he wouldnt have scored that many runs and would have been in trouble because of his gambiling habbits they can now work on any player and get his weakness on other hand mr. kallis was the best player i have seen live and he can make any attack any batting team crumble he is that strong he is the best allrounder test cricket has ever seen