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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sri on October 14, 2013, 6:28 GMT

    @diri In ODIs he is no match to Sachin. In tests i would put this guy ahead of Sachin for the period 2006-13(I ignore the fact that Sachin was averaging 56+ in 2010-2011) However the same questions that anti sachin fans ask should also be redirected to kallis. How often did he win the games when it mattered? How did he fare against Aus(home or abroad). How did he fare in ODIs in big tournaments.

    I don't bother to check the statistics because i know what he has done to cricket and these questions were just to those anti sachin fans. However kallis will remain as the num 1 allrounder i have ever watched.

  • Dummy4 on October 14, 2013, 5:13 GMT

    great player, makes me feel younger :)

  • David on October 14, 2013, 4:39 GMT

    @ SurlyCynic. JK STILL clocks over 140 at times. It's that quick ball that confuses so many players, and landed Punter on his arse - literally!

    When he says he is playing the best cricket of is life, I think he means he has still got every bit of skill - hand eye coordination, etc, but is playing with a freer, more focussed mind. The weight of carrying SA on his shoulders for so long, is no longer there. He does not walk out having to tailor his innings to ensure the safety of the team. I think that restricted his play, made him conservative. I reckon he may be more dangerous than ever, playing without worry, and with nothing to lose. With Hash and AB on either side of him, he has the support to relax & not have to carry the innings. Statistically, be scores more, faster, when batting with them.

    He is in better shape than he was for years, and I think we are in for another purple streak, one that could see him lay waste to all the records. We may yet see the best of the King.

  • David on October 14, 2013, 4:15 GMT

    @ jackiethepen who thinks that Eng have it tough because "Since Kallis played his last Test match in February 2013, England have played 10 Test matches."

    Jackie - Eng need the practice. If they played 10 matches against Kallis, they would lose them all…unless rain & Broad's shoelace saved them. Eng used to play 5 test series against SA. They don't anymore because they hate losing 5-0! Eng play long series against sides they can beat, but not against Kallis.

    For a little perspective, Kallis has been playing international cricket for twice as long as most Eng players. Anderson, solely a bowler, only passed him in wickets taken in the past year. Eng's best bats have aves 9-10 runs LESS than him. Cook & Pieterson need to score another 21/19 centuries each to equal Kallis.

    And he gets in a lot of extra cricket playing IPL each year. Only Eng players with an IPL berth are KP - a Saffa, & Morgan - an Irishman.

    Eng have NEVER had a player like Kallis. That's why they need the practice!

  • Dummy4 on October 14, 2013, 2:34 GMT

    Kallis - one of the most underrated legend of modern era

  • Dummy4 on October 14, 2013, 2:18 GMT

    A colossus with the ball, matchless with the bat. Easily the greatest batsmen of his generation and a very handy bowler too. It's good to see Kallis is ready to play some more cricket, it'll be a welcome sight to see him score more hundreds.

  • John on October 14, 2013, 1:57 GMT

    Kallis turns 38 this week. It's great to hear that he's feeling fit and eager to play (though playing the best cricket of his life might be stretching it a bit). How long that will last we'll have to see. At 38 those times at home begin to sound more and more attractive. A couple of days in the field with the temperature at 35C will show him whether he's ready to keep playing.

    Enjoy him while he's here- certainly one of the all-time greats.

  • Shanmugam on October 13, 2013, 21:54 GMT

    Definitely not a SA fan but Kallis is indeed special. The greatest cricketer since Sir Gary Sobers. A quick look at his batting and bowling stats in both tests and ODIs will tell you why. No cricketer has achieved close to what he has. Salutes from an England fan.

  • des on October 13, 2013, 20:16 GMT

    Why does every article about Kallis end up in a discussion about Sachin? They are both all time great players and let's leave it at that. As far as Kallis's bowling goes, I think people forget that at his peak he could reach 90mph and had a v good bouncer. How many quick bowlers are still playing at his age, let alone all-rounders?

    Sure, he bowls fewer overs these days, but still gets key wickets. The ball he got Ponting with last year was one of the best of the series!