'We must make sure the culture of Test cricket stays'
South Africa allrounder Jacques Kallis fielded questions as part of the Newlands 10th annual New Year's address on Sunday. He began by explaining how it felt to become an international cricketer:
I grew up not wanting to play for South Africa because we didn't have international cricket at that stage. I wanted to play provincial cricket and that was what I was working towards. To suddenly be exposed to international sport, your goals change. It was a major changing point in my life. It afforded me the opportunity to see places, meet people, explore other things.
Have you ever had a regret about retiring from Test cricket first, and have you missed it?
All good things do come to an end. The moment I had begun to lose a little bit of passion or I got a little bit tired, I'd have called it quits. Ideally, I would have liked to finish it at Newlands but everything happens for a reason. I have not missed it yet. I am still involved in the side quite a lot. I have been involved with the guys. We went on the camp before this series, in the bush. I still feel a part of it. Surprisingly, I have watched a little bit more cricket now than I did in my playing days. Life is a lot easier on the couch.
Everyone has a favorite ground, what is it about Newlands that is so special to you?
What better ground is there in the world? You've got the mountain, you've got beautiful weather, you've got great facilities. I grew up wanting to play at Newlands, bunking a few classes to come and watch matches. It's a magnificent place to play cricket. The crowds are always fantastic. They are always behind the guys. The memories play such a big role here.
Favourite Newlands memory - double-hundreds or twin hundreds v India?
The [twins] were special to me, even though I had done it before. The way the game was positioned, if we got bowled out then, India could have won the match. To get to that second hundred to set the game up meant a lot. I've had plenty of games where I've got 30 or 40 and it has meant more to me than a hundred. To get our team to a position from where we couldn't lose the game was nice.
The 200 was also special. There had been a monkey on my shoulder to get one. Fortunately and unfortunately, I got one in Pretoria. [Later] getting it here, it was almost giving something back to Newlands.
Pair to double-hundred v Sri Lanka... How did you turn it around?
I focus on my strengths and don't worry too much about opponents. There are little things you pick up but you want to exert your game plan onto them and not step back and let them make the play. It was a little thing where my movement was a little late and I picked it up straight away [on the video footage]. That was all I needed to see. For the next week, I worked on being a little earlier. It's little things at this level.
How do you feel about comparisons?
I didn't play the game for statistics. When you play this game you want to be as good a player as you can be and make decision that will benefit the team. I like to believe I got more right than I got wrong. There have been some magnificent players in yesteryear who didn't play as much cricket as we did and some who didn't get the opportunity to play at all. If they did and they had the opportunity and facilities that we have today, they probably would have achieved what I achieved and more.
How do you intend to stay in good touch [having retired from one format]?
When I want to achieve something and put my mind to it, I want to give it everything I've got. I want to be part of a team that wins the World Cup. That's something that's missing on my CV. If I didn't believe we could do it, I would not stick around for it. If I didn't believe I could make a difference, I wouldn't do it. We've still got 20-odd ODIs before the World Cup and if I am not scoring the runs, I have no right to be in that team. I've just sat down with Gary Kirsten and worked out a programme. Not playing Test cricket will give me time to work on one-day skills.
Would you consider domestic cricket or a contract in the UK?
I would like to play as much as of the one-day cricket as I can going forward. It's about getting the balance right.
How do you get into your bubble?
I have the ability to go in and out of concentration and it applies to a lot of things in life. We spend six and half hours in the cricket field and you can't concentrate for that long. I managed to find a way to concentrate for the five or six seconds when a bowler is at the top of his mark or when I am at the top of my mark. That's the difference between the experienced guys and the younger guys. The younger guys sometimes make mistakes because they think they can concentrate the whole day. You have to learn to switch on and off.
Administrative issues in the background of your career, how did you stop that from interfering with your game?
There were some tough times but we are also not silly as players that think it only happens to South Africa. There are issues all around the world. We don't have a lot to do with what the board has to say and what they do and it doesn't really directly affect the players. We had faith in the guys that were handling that sort of stuff, to handle it. We were there to play the game. Eventually it gets sorted out, sometimes not as quickly as players would have liked, but we also didn't get the results the players would have liked. It works both ways.
Your opinion on the BCCI's growing power?
I don't think anyone really knows if it's a good or a bad thing. We are going to have to wait and see. If we are brutally honest, the BCCI has had a lot of power over the game for some time, so I don't think it is really going to change much. My only concern is that they make decision in the best interests of cricket and not only in the best interests of the own cricket, and I think they will do that.
T20 cricket v Tests?
Look at the turnout here. Test cricket is healthy. Test cricket is the ultimate. That's what cricketers want to play. I don't think there needs to be too many changes. There is some talk about night cricket but I am not a big fan of that, because I think conditions will change. We need to look after Test cricket.
Having said that, there is so much money in T20 cricket, we can't turn our back on it. The pace Test cricket is played at these days is probably twice the pace it was before T20 cricket. It's opened up a new audience. But we mustn't overkill it.
Ideas to grow Test cricket?
The World Test Championship is a great idea for Test cricket. We need to focus as much attention and cash as we can [on Tests]. We need to make sure the culture of Test cricket stays. When I was growing up, we'd play the odd two-day game. I think it's vital that we still have that and guys are exposed to a longer form of the game.
Allrounders - is it a dying art?
My reasoning is [that is down to] the amount of cricket that is being played. There's too much to bat and bowl. In South Africa, we produce allrounders because of the conditions. There's always something in it for the batsmen and something in it for the bowlers. There are some great allrounders coming through. If you look at the history of the game, though, there hasn't been that many that have really come through.
I know I would not have achieved what I did if I couldn't bat and bowl. I would get bored fielding in the slips all day.
What is your legacy?
It's about giving something back to the game. I don't want to be seen as someone who just took from the game.
I also want to be seen as someone who never gave up, no matter what the situation. It's something we do as a South African team and we've done it a few times recently. There have been so many times when people have written us off and we came back.
And I also want to remembered as someone who enjoyed the game. There are a lot of pressures and sometimes you forget to enjoy the game.
Your opinion on this game [against Australia]?
Sometimes we give up home advantage. We maybe could have got a wicket that gave a little more. The Australians, when there is some sideways movement, they are not always comfortable. They are very good on a wicket like this. Sometimes we have to be clever with our home conditions.
We are under pressure here, but this game is far from over. We are going to have to bat well. I have no doubt we can. A couple of years ago, we were in a similar situation and we bowled them out for 47. Stranger things have happened in this game and all three results are still possible.
What is your advice to the Under-19s?
It's a fantastic achievement [winning the World Cup]. Going into the final, they probably had that chokers tag on them. It just shows South Africans can win tournaments. It will give the national side a lot of pleasure.
I learnt a great lesson when I started my career. My first six or seven Tests I scored virtually no runs and I doubted myself. Then I scored some runs and it taught me many lessons. I hope this success doesn't make them think they've made it. Now the hard work starts. Don't sit back and take it for granted.
Your toughest opponent?
Seamer: Wasim Akram. He had the ability to swing the ball both ways. Spinner: Shane Warne. He controlled the game, he attacked, defended. Batsman: Brian Lara.
He has done a tremendous amount for world cricket and for taking it forward. He played the game hard but always in the right spirit. To achieve what he achieved is incredible. I enjoyed my battles against him. I always said I will play this game hard but in the right spirit, that I can [leave aside] the game when I am in a country and have a beer with them. That's the way he played it [too].
What a revelation he has been. I remember when he started people said he will never make it with that technique. It shows you what hard work can do. You take the hardworking guy over the talented guy. I'm not saying he is not talented but he also works as hard as everyone. When he gets out, you feel a shiver go down people's spines. He is a complete player, he is difficult to bowl to, he's got the guts and the determination.
What are you going to do after cricket?
It has been nice to catch up with friends and family. That was the first thing I really wanted to do. My sister has recently got married and she is pregnant now, so its nice to spend time with her.
My foundation will take up some of my time. I wont be involved too much in the game at the moment. Perhaps the odd commentary stint... Though, from a coaching and batting point of view, I would like to give back. I would always want to share the knowledge I have been given and learnt.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent