Jacques Kallis, one of the game's greatest allrounders, will retire from Test cricket after the Boxing Day match against India. Kallis announced his decision on Wednesday, on the eve of the second Test against India, but stated that he would still like to play the 2015 World Cup for South Africa.
In a statement, Kallis said: "It wasn't an easy decision, with Australia around the corner and the success this team is enjoying, but I feel the time is right. I don't see it as goodbye, I still have a lot of hunger to push South Africa to that World Cup in 2015 if I am fit and performing. The last two years specifically have been a memorable journey with an exceptional group of cricketers. I am fortunate enough to have ended my Test career amongst a group of talented cricketers but, more importantly, friends whom I will cherish for years to come."
Kallis, who made his Test debut against England in December 1995, and has played 165 Tests, scoring 13174 runs at an average of 55.12, with 44 centuries and 58 half-centuries. He is currently fourth on the list of leading run-getters in Test cricket, and is also second on the list of batsmen with most Test centuries, apart from having scored the most runs for South Africa in Tests. Kallis' status as the pre-eminent allrounder of his era stemmed from his contributions as a bowler - 292 Test wickets at an average of 32.53 - and fielder, whose 199 catches ranks him only behind Rahul Dravid in the Test list. He has one more match to add to those numbers.
Batting has been the reason for questions surrounding Kallis' form. He last scored a century more than a year ago, in November 2012, against Australia in Brisbane. In 2013, he has scored just 194 runs with no hundreds - a first for Kallis in a calendar year - and only two half-centuries. He has been dismissed in single figures in five of his last seven innings, twice for a duck, and on four occasions playing across the line and being struck lbw.
On South Africa's recent visit to the UAE, Kallis had the leanest series of his career. He did not get into double figures once and did not take a single wicket either. Asked then whether there were concerns about how much longer Kallis would play, Graeme Smith had dismissed them. "He still has a great desire to play for South Africa," he said.
Kallis' struggles were brushed off as nothing more than rustiness after a long lay off. While most of the team hadn't played competitively for three months, Kallis was coming in from a much longer break that started when the IPL ended in May. South Africa did not play Test cricket in that time and Kallis, who initially made himself available for the Champions Trophy, withdrew from the squad citing personal reasons. He had not played fifty-over cricket for South Africa for 15 months at that stage, because of his workload management. He also played no part in the tour of Sri Lanka in August, in keeping with the policy of leaving him out of bilateral limited-overs series.
Kallis' wish to win a World Cup medal had not dimmed. So at the end of that month, after a meeting with new coach Russell Domingo, Kallis recommitted to the ODI squad. Domingo announced that Kallis would play in most of South Africa's ODIs in the lead-up to 2015, starting with the home series against India.
He played in the hastily organised home series against Pakistan and celebrated his comeback with a half-century. Kallis has turned out in three ODIs since then, sitting out of the dead-rubbers against both Pakistan and India, scoring 26 runs and claiming three wickets.
South Africa do not play any one-day cricket until next July against Zimbabwe, which means Kallis will disappear from the international arena for at least seven months after this Test. Following that, they have a five-match series against Australia and another five matches against West Indies at home before the 2015 World Cup.
If Kallis plays in all those matches, he will turn out 13 more times for South Africa before the tournament. That scarcity is something Russell Domingo, South Africa's coach, said the team would take some getting used to because Kallis has been a constant in the dressing room. "The impact Jacques has made on South African cricket has been immense, not just as a player but as a human being," Domingo said. "I'm not sure we will ever see another player of that stature very soon. Jacques' calmness, maturity and presence in the change room will sorely be missed and hopefully he will still be able to play a role in this team's success in the near future. He has ambitions of playing in the 2015 World Cup and it will be important for us to manage him accordingly so that he is in prime form leading into the tournament."
Haroon Lorgat, Cricket South Africa's chief executive, praised Kallis, calling him South African cricket's "Rock of Gibraltar". "He has been a stalwart for many years and South Africa's recent triumphs and greatness have been built around him. He is a legend and his statistics speak volumes," Lorgat said. "Jacques has been ever present for the Proteas in the past 18 years and it is fitting that his final Test should be on the same ground as the one on which he made his debut against England back in 1995."