'You'd pick Jacques for another year or two'
Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock made their Test debuts within a month of each other and played together for 13 years. Pollock retired five years ago and has since been a commentator, watching Kallis craft his remarkable career. On Kallis' retirement from Test cricket, Pollock spoke to the media about the man he called "the greatest allrounder of my generation."
The first time I heard of Jacques Kallis was when Western Province went on a pre-season tour to Australia. He scored a big hundred or 200. That was the first time there was talk of the ability he had and the fact that he could be a man for the future. Then I played against him a couple of times and went on the Under-23 trip to Sri Lanka, where I got to know him.
Being a fellow allrounder and being of the same age, we gelled with each other and spent a lot of time together. From that moment, you knew Jacques was a class player. He didn't take to Test cricket as quickly as he could have but thank goodness the selectors stuck by him.
When he first came in, Jacques was a giggly kind of person and he used to laugh at a lot of things. He had a good sense of humour at times. On that Under-23 trip, he was struggling with the heat and he came in and said, "I need some petrol for my radiator," which probably wasn't right. He was also one of those guys who appreciated humour like, if someone would hit a shot and it would go and hit the rubbish bin, he would say, "That was a rubbish shot." Or you'd hit it into the tree and he would say, "That's a tree-mendous shot." That was his kind of humour. He enjoyed a good laugh.
In the 438-game, I didn't play because of a back spasm. When the guys came back to the change room, it was a bad environment because everyone was really quiet. It was still. There was no humour. Jacques was the last to get into the change room and he said, "Well guys, the bowlers have done their job, they're ten runs short of what they should have got. Let's go and get it." And everyone burst out laughing.
As he got older, Jacques became very serious about what he wanted to achieve. I can remember him having a chat with Bob Woolmer where Bob said to him, "You need to take your standards to the next level. You are averaging a certain amount, you need to go to the next level," and he did.
There was no doubt he was the backbone. He understood, when he matured, that he wanted to be more significant in his contributions. We needed to him the backbone. He did change his game as the years went on and got really good at it.
He has been the catalyst for many South African batsmen. Many guys were averaging around 40 and he raised the benchmark. Look at Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, all the guys that came after set themselves new standards of what is a good average.
Often Jacques used to get motivated by anger, but it was never outright anger. He used to channel that energy and used it to motivate him. Like that Sri Lanka game in the 1999 World Cup, he was angry for some reason and when we gave him the ball, he charged in and tried to bowl at the speed of light, and he did. That was what made his bowling special. He operated at 130 kph for his entire career and had the ability to go to 140 kph at times. He never shied from his duties as a Test bowler. One-day cricket, every once in a while it was like, "Do you really want me to bowl?" but in Test cricket he was fantastic. To have him as a fourth seamer, and then have a spinner in the second innings has been so vital to South Africa.
Jacques has been lucky. I can think of very few injuries. He has had the odd hamstring. He has played the odd game where he has only been able to bat. I remember him having his appendix out in Pakistan in 1997. But that's about it. He wouldn't describe himself as a fitness freak, who ran and went to gym, but he did what he had to do and he was very successful.
When T20 cricket came about, and even at the end of his one-day career, he had the ability to up the ante. There was a bit of criticism leveled at him at the beginning of his career that maybe his strike rates were too low, but he developed. Certain people can do certain skills well and others have to work at it. He was prepared to work at his game to get it to where he needed it to be.
There were instances when there were certain comments passed. He would vent privately, or keep it to himself, or maybe make the odd comment to one of us. But he didn't get vindictive about it. He would just use it as fuel to motivate himself to perform. He would be man enough to confront anyone on a certain issue but he wouldn't make mountains out of molehills. Unless there was something that really upset him, he would just let it ride.
As international sportsmen you sift through criticism all the time. Jacques would have asked himself if it was constructive and whether he should change, or decided he was doing his job for the team. If he had any doubts, he would have probably bounced it off captains and coaches. He would have taken criticism on board, looked to adjust and try and be the best Jacques Kallis he could be.
We talk about his bubble. It was his great strength. He stayed in his bubble for a long time. The best thing as a captain was to make sure he was in his bubble. Leave him in there and let him get on with it.
He didn't speak much but when he did, people listened. If Jacques was speaking, it was important. He wouldn't come up and just give you an idea that was from left field. He would have put a lot of thought into what it should and shouldn't be.
If he is honest, he will say he was always someone who shied away from captaincy. He knew his strengths were in batting and bowling, and I didn't think he ever wanted to take that extra responsibility of having to captain. He never had an issue about who was or wasn't captain.
A lot of people say he hasn't got the accolades he deserved and I've often wondered why. The people you would be comparing him to are Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and maybe Rahul Dravid. Jacques was never a big one for the media, didn't want to give too many opinions or go to too many press conferences. He tried to keep everything to himself and maybe that could be the reason why Lara, for example, got more recognition.
Lara was flamboyant. He got two world records and that drew a lot of attention to him. Sachin, we all know, for coming in at 16 and having the reputation that he did in India meant that he got a lot of accolades. Jacques just did his business, being the backbone of our batting line-up for a long period of time.
Even his bowling contributions, he would pick two or three wickets but there weren't many performances that brought attention to him. He was always there doing his part and that's why he always slipped under the radar. It's also a case of maybe a prophet in your own land. We appreciated him here but maybe we didn't give him as much attention as maybe someone like Sachin or Ricky Ponting got.
Some of the pitches that we've had in South Africa haven't been easy. Jacques made it look easy and managed to get big runs. I know that if I had played for India on some of those surfaces, I wouldn't have had the average and career I had with the ball. So I'm sure if Jacques had played on some flatter wickets, maybe he would have had a better record. But you'll never be able to say, and maybe he wouldn't have got as many wickets.
Jacques would have been thinking a lot about when to retire. You could see in the UAE, in the last Test match - he was always quite relaxed and reserved at the best times - but you did get the feeling that something was playing on his mind. Credit to him. I think the time to go is when you're on top. You don't want people to start talking about, is it time or isn't it time?
He also wouldn't want to let anyone down. His mother passed away at a very early age so it was his dad and his sister. His dad made a lot of sacrifices for him and he supported him throughout his career. When he gets hundreds, he always acknowledges his dad. Jacques always came across to me as a very loyal person, whether it was to sponsors or to friends. He always respected people for the value they added to his life.
Jacques will be missed. To replace a cricketer like him, you need two guys. You talk about a true allrounder as being a guy who can hold his place as a batsman alone or as a bowler alone. Jacques could do that. From a team perspective, he was wonderful to have around. You always knew what you were going to get, he never caused a stir or fuss in the change room.
If he wanted to play in the next Test, you'd pick him. In fact, you'd pick him for another year or two. I think the timing for him is right. He realises the body isn't capable of doing what he wants to do and I'm just happy he announced it before this Test match. Jacques is the kind of character who easily could have said after this Test, "That's it, I'm done, I don't want the fuss of what goes on." I'm glad he is going to get some fuss because his efforts deserve it. I'm glad he has given people the opportunity to say thank you.
Going forward, the key for the team is going to be balance. If you take Jacques out of this line-up, do you shift the batting order up and slide in someone like [Ryan] McLaren at No.7? Then you've got a bowling option plus some runs, and you've got [Robin] Peterson and [Vernon] Philander to contribute. We need to come up with a plan of how we can be successful without Jacques.
Jacques is one of those guys who you may get in for a short period of time as a consultant. I'm sure he would love to help out guys with some of his ideas. Some of his thinking might be above what us mortals are used to implementing. Even when you used to hear him talk about his technique, you'd think, "I've never thought about it that deeply." A man who has played as much cricket as he has would have some great ideas about how people can improve.
He will move out of cricket quite easily. He is going to spend plenty of time on the golf course. He has always been a man who has enjoyed the luxuries of home and family and friends. Whatever he decides to do after that, he will do well. Jacques will find something to sink his teeth into.