Kallis offers Amla 'little pointers' but sees the hunger remain
Newland's favourite son, Jacques Kallis, didn't say goodbye to the ground when he retired abruptly at the end of 2013 but almost three years later, he was there to say hello as the South Africans conducted their first training session of 2017. South Africa's coach Russell Domingo asked Kallis to come in to consult at what became an extended optional net session. He spent time with every batsman, was in the team meeting then even helped to pack up at the end and Domingo's hopes that the greatness will rub off.
"He's probably the greatest cricketer who has ever played and he's in Cape Town. For us not to get him down to practice is stupid. He's keen to come and watch and see what's happening and share his experiences with some of the younger players who have never met him before," Domingo said. "A lot of guys think of him and go, 'Jeez - can't he play tomorrow? Is he available?' He's a great player and it's great to have him around the team."
While Kallis is most definitely not considering a cricketing comeback, he has had dalliances with coaching through T20 leagues. Kallis has coached at Kolkata Knight Riders and Trinidad in the CPL and although he does not think he wants a full-time role just yet, he admitted it is something he has started to enjoy. "It's very rewarding. Towards the end of my career, I found I liked passing on knowledge to the guys. That's the nice part - seeing the guys' game develop," he said.
One player whose game Kallis has an intricate knowledge of is Hashim Amla, who he saw debut and played alongside for almost a decade. With Amla in the midst of a slump of sorts - he has not scored a century in 11 innings and a fifty in eight - Kallis spent a significant amount of time in his net and gave him "little pointers" on how to ensure he pushes on from a start. Kallis was convinced a big score is looming for the holder of South Africa's highest individual Test score.
"He is hitting it pretty well, he just needs to push on but generally he is hitting it as well as when I was playing," Kallis said. "He has got a few 40s in that and he just hasn't kicked on. That happens. But he is hungry, I can tell you that. I wouldn't be surprised if he went on and got a big hundred in the next Test match or two. It's pretty much assured."
Similarly, Kallis was certain that South Africa are not in danger of slipping into complacency after a convincing win over Sri Lanka in the first Test. It was only a year ago that South Africa were on a downward spiral after losing 3-0 in India and then being beaten by England at home. Kallis believed it was a case of lesson learnt.
"It's nice to see us bouncing back from that," he said. "One thing you can learn from that is that when you do go through good periods like we are going through now, don't give it away. Throw your mind back to India where we were struggling. The guys certainly don't seem complacent, they seem very hungry to keep going. They've learnt from that experience in terms of taking their form forward and not giving it away. They are in a very good space."
South Africa have admitted they feel better about themselves than they have for a long time and that is largely because they have unearthed some depth. From going through the 2015-16 season with many frontline bowlers injured, they now have Vernon Philander back and several others in reserve with Morne Morkel also turning up at the New Year's training. What they have not really found is an allrounder in the Kallis mould and for that alone, even Domingo wishes Kallis was still around.
"As good a batsman as he was we can always scrape together his runs but to scrape together the 15 or 16 overs he bowled is not that easy," Domingo said. "Look at England, they've got Ben Stokes who plays as a fourth seamer. Angelo Mathews bowls 15 overs. Australia have Mitchell Marsh. It is one area where he has been missed."
But there have been signs in recent times that South Africa are finding another way to ensure their main quick bowlers have someone to play a supporting role. "It has presented an opportunity for a spinner to step up," Domingo said. "Instead of the spinner bowling 10 overs the spinner's now bowling 25 overs a day. Kallis' greatness probably limited the opportunities for a spinner. Having him not there now means the spinners have to front up. That's why it's so good to see a guy like Keshav Maharaj come in. We've got the confidence to bowl him 25 overs a day and rotate the three seamers."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent