Jacques Kallis, the South Africa allrounder, has admitted that, like many connoisseurs, he too did not buy into the idea of Twenty20 cricket when it was first mooted. Only on realising its popularity and inevitable growth was Kallis persuaded to work on his performances in the shortest format, and he soon found it improved other aspects of his game.
"A lot of us perhaps didn't accept Twenty20 cricket at first. I certainly didn't," Kallis said during an interview with ESPNcricinfo. "Then you realise that it's here to stay. It was a format of the game that I wanted to get better at and improve in, and I put a lot of time and effort into it." Kallis was dropped from South Africa's World Twenty20 squad in 2007 but worked his way back in after making notable efforts to increase his strike-rate during his time with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. He was a regular in the South African team in 2009 but stopped playing Twenty20 internationals after the World T20 in 2010, when his career needed to be better managed and South Africa looked to build different squads for each format.
Kallis recently featured in a one-off T20 against India in Johannesburg and made 61 off 42 balls. The match was played in his honour and the proceeds donated to his scholarship foundation. He also features regularly for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL. "I think it really has helped other formats as well. A long time ago, people were worried that one-day cricket was going to affect Test cricket negatively and I don't think it has. It has been really good for the game, as has T20 cricket."
The most obvious positive effect Kallis identified was that T20 cricket has helped speed up the sport as a whole. "Entertainment value has risen because the game is getting played a lot quicker and there are a lot more results," Kallis said. Throughout the 2000s, more than 70% of Tests yielded results. In the twenty years before that, the statistic hovered between 40 and 60%.
The numbers back up the opinion that Test cricket is healthy. Kallis says for it to stay that way, it should not be fiddled with. "The game doesn't need to change too much," he said. "The important thing, for me, is having big series, like there has been over the last while. [We need] some closely fought Test matches, Ashes series, our series against England, against Australia, some really exciting cricket needs to be played.
"It's getting a balance between bat and ball," Kallis said. "Not playing on flat wickets. Nobody wants to see 800 play 700, [they want] exciting contests and that is the key going forward: that the wickets we play on are conducive to good cricket and we have the chance of getting some good results."
South Africa's pitches are among those lauded for providing an even contest between bat and ball. With the team pushing for the No. 1 Test ranking, Kallis said they had the right grounding from playing on tough pitches at home and should be able to reach the summit when they play England in July. "We've got a big series against England coming up in a few months that will hopefully give us the opportunity to beat England and go to No. 1," he said. "It's a tough place to go to and win, we went there last time [in 2008] and did it."
South Africa spent four months at the top of the Test rankings in 2009 and bubbled under since then. If they reach those heights again, Kallis said they can have a sustained run as the world's best Test team. "Playing Test cricket, that's where you want to get judged. You still want to be judged as a cricketer on Test cricket. And it's important that it stays that way, that Test cricket is the No. 1."
Despite the success in Tests, Kallis said he will not be completely satisfied with his career until he has been part of a World Cup winning team. He previously expressed his desire to play until the 2015 World Cup to have another shot at the trophy.
"It [one-day cricket] probably is under the most pressure at the moment and they have made one or two rule changes to make it exciting," Kallis said. "But, the one World Cup that people want to win is the 50-over World Cup, which shows that 50-over cricket is still important. People talk, crowds talk about winning the 50-over World Cup. There is still a place for 50-over cricket."
Kallis said there was place for all three forms of the game. His opinion of T20 is different from what it first was, and he called it a "great revelation" because of the exposure it has given the sport. "It's been fantastic, to open the game up to new audiences. Families have come to T20s, people that didn't understand or follow the game are following the game. Hopefully they will enjoy it so much that they will start to learn a bit about the game and enjoy the five-day version as well."