Pakistan v South Africa 2013-14 October 13, 2013

Refreshed Kallis ready for return

Having taken three months to refresh his mind and body, Jacques Kallis is ready to return to playing 'the best cricket of his life'

Jacques Kallis did not see India lift the Champions Trophy after bossing their way through the competition. He did not see England dominate Australia in the Ashes. He did not even see Pakistan lose a Test to Zimbabwe. Instead, Kallis has spent the past three months mostly engaged in his second favourite sport: golf.

He finally made good of the membership he was given at the Leopard Creek Estate after scoring his first double-hundred, against India in 2010, and played in their club championships, where he finished third. He also competed at the Dunhill Links pro-am competition in Scotland, which Mark Boucher also participated in.

"I didn't watch any cricket at all. I didn't watch a ball bowled," Kallis confirmed. "After the IPL, I wanted to get away from the game." And that is what he did.

Kallis made himself unavailable for the Champions Trophy, despite Cricket South Africa selection convener Andrew Hudson confirming he would be part of the South African contingent two days before the squad announcement. "Personal reasons" was the explanation given for Kallis's withdrawal.

What he has subsequently revealed illustrates that he just needed a break. Listen to Kallis talk about what he got up to and it will sound like the activities of someone who was desperate for time off. "I got to do what most people do on weekends," he said. "Braai-ing, catching up with friends, seeing my sister for the first time in a while, watching rugby and doing stuff around the house. You know when people ask where your favourite holiday destination is. I always say home."

Feeling burnt out is only natural, considering this is Kallis's 20th season in the game. Most of that time has been wall-to-wall cricket without many long periods of rest. More than his body, which had taken its toll in Test series over the last 18 months or so, it was his head that needed the holiday.

"I had the time to refresh my mind. Basically, I just did everything I wanted to over the last three months," he said. "It's the best thing I could have done."

Given that he returned, had two net sessions and according to spin consultant Claude Henderson, declared himself ready for the Tests, it sounds as though the rest has done Kallis a world of good. In South Africa's warm-up against Pakistan A he scored a fluent 70, which began with two pinpoint drives down the ground which had the timing of a man who has never been out of the game, bowled four overs problem free and has since continued to show the same intensity in the nets.

"Surprisingly, I got back in quicker than I thought," he admitted. "The body is feeling good and everything has gone according to plan. I am feeling as well as I ever have and hitting the ball as well as I've ever hit it. I'm playing the best cricket of my life."

That news will be welcomed by South African fans, who could see the effect Kallis's absence has on the team in recent limited-overs outings and even at Test level. If he is unavailable, as he was for the third Test against New Zealand in March 2012, South Africa often have to rebalance their side. Then, they left out Imran Tahir so JP Duminy could come into the batting line-up and Marchant de Lange could fill in for seam-bowling duty.

Kallis's body seemed to be sending out the message that South Africa would have to get used to being without their two-in-one more often. They will eventually have to do without him permanently but he has pressed the pause button on any long-term plan to step away. "Age has never concerned me. I still feel at times like I am a teenager," Kallis said. "The day I feel don't feel like improving as a cricketer, I will quit. At this stage the goal is to try get through to that 2015 World Cup."

Apart from being in what he calls his best shape for Tests, Kallis has also recommitted to the ODI set-up. Following a meeting with head coach Russell Domingo over the winter, he agreed to play "most of" the ODIs leading up to the World Cup and is expected to make his 50-over comeback at the end of the year, if India agree to tour South Africa.

Kallis said that was always part of his plans "Nothing's changed from when Russell took over. We just consolidated it.," he said. 'I'll play more one-dayers as that World Cup gets closer and then it obviously depends what form I am in." If his feats on the golf course are anything to go by, Kallis's sporting ability will not be a concern and if his mind is ready, South Africa could have their best at his best for some time to come.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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