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April 12, 2013
After 18 years as an international cricketer, the world's top-ranked Test allrounder Jacques Kallis, was finally named one of Wisden's Cricketers of the Year. It may seem surprising that it took so long for the publication to honour Kallis, but given that its awards are confined to performances in England, their time lag was justified.
Until last July, Kallis' record in England was modest. He averaged less than 30 and only had one century, scored in Manchester in 1998. He had done better with the ball, with 35 wickets at 27.51, but the 2012 tour improved those statistics dramatically. He scored 262 runs in three Tests, including 182 at the Oval, which saw his batting average in England surge to 35.33 and he added four crucial wickets to his tally, including Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell in the first Test.
Kallis played an important role in South Africa taking the No.1 rankings off their opponents. For Kallis, to be included in the list was simply recognition for his role in ensuring the team finally summited after bubbling under for so long.
"It's a great honour, I had a pretty good season with South Africa and it's nice to be rewarded for that," he told Kolkata Knight Riders' official website. "But I don't play the game for those accolades. I play games to win for the team I am playing for. As much as it is a nice accolade, it's nice that the team had a good year as well."
Kallis also contributed to South Africa's series win in Australia with a hundred in Brisbane and at home against New Zealand and Pakistan. What is most noticeable is that he has begun to score at a quicker rate, playing the longest form of the game more aggressively.
His continued ability to maintain standards of excellence has earned him praise from many quarters, including Brendon McCullum, his KKR team-mate. "I'd say he is probably one of the five cricketers of all time," McCullum said. "He is a freak, so much talent and he is such a humble guy as well. He deserves every bit of the accolades he is getting because he is such a great guy, such a great team man and it's a great privilege to play with him."
KKR are the most recent beneficiaries of Kallis' skill. He opens both the batting and the bowling for them and Trevor Bayliss believes he will be vital to their title defence. "He just keeps doing it, batting and bowling. It's incredible - the longevity he has shown at the very highest end of world cricket," he said.
With age creeping up on him, Kallis is being carefully managed by South Africa. His bowling loads are monitored and he no longer plays bilateral ODI series. While he knows he is in the twilight years, Kallis hopes to be able to keep going - not because he wants to continue to stack up achievements but because, to borrow from Cyndi Lauper, he just wants to have fun.
"I'm getting on in life now but I'm still hungry; still enjoying it and there is still lots to achieve in the game. As long as I wake up in the morning happy to play this game and wanting to get results for the team I am playing for, I will carry on for as long as the body holds out," he said.
"I am not really one for setting personal goals. I prefer setting goals for the team. My personal targets would be to make the correct decisions for the team as many times as I can and hopefully Knight Riders will come out on top again."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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