Jacques Kallis : A player South Africa deserved, a captain they never had
A man-mountain of a cricketer, Jacques Kallis is the last of an era featuring the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Shane Warne. Kallis is a classical player in the truest sense, and provides a reassurance with both bat and ball.
It is rather surprising that Jacques Kallis has never truly dabbled with captaincy. He is seemingly of the right frame, physically and mentally, and undoubtedly possesses the characteristics of a leader. Yet, in his 18 years as an international cricketer, Kallis has just led the South African side 15 times. In 2006, he was captain against Zimbabwe and in a tri-series featuring Ireland and India. In Tests, Kallis grudgingly accepted the role twice against Australia in 2009. Interestingly, all these instances have come during the latter half of the 38-year-old's career.
It is not lack of opportunity that has caused captaincy to elude Kallis. Prior to the inspired appointment of Graeme Smith as skipper, South Africa went through the tumultuous match-fixing scandal involving Hansie Cronje which was then followed by the stoical rein of Shaun Pollock. Whether Kallis was ever considered by Cricket South Africa is moot as no voices were raised or dissent shown by the man himself. It is almost as if captaincy called out to Kallis but like always, he played on his own terms.
On the field, Kallis is not the most vocal of cricketers. He is hardly seen encouraging bowlers, assisting field placements or giving lip to opposition players. The result - Kallis has often been perceived as a reluctant competitor, much like Shane Watson. Yet, as statistics will prove and history will confirm, the experience that Kallis brings -- while placid in appearance -- cannot be defined in tangible terms.
Very few cricketers possess the aura that the Cape Town native does. Strong, burly, over-powering and all-encompassing, Kallis cuts a figure of reliability. A man-mountain of a cricketer, he is the last of an era featuring the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Shane Warne. Kallis is a classical player in the truest sense, and provides a reassurance with both bat and ball. It is often said that Sachin's record of 51 Test centuries can never be broken. If anyone can however, it is Kallis who has 44 and is two years younger than the Master Blaster when he called it a day.
However, records are not the driving force behind Kallis. Over the past few years, he has seemed content on and off the field. Ironically, this has led to rumours of an impending retirement, something that he has quickly quashed. The 2015 World Cup is on the agenda and so is winning over a rugby-mad nation. It is true that retirement often brings out grace, adulation and glorification of the concerned person but you can't help avoid the feeling that if Kallis was a Springbok, he would have achieved God-like status already.
With 25,360 runs in international cricket, Kallis has ensured a place in the annals of the sport. Better than Gary Sobers? I would think so and many of Kallis' contemporaries would agree. But Kallis is far from finished. In his recent return after a prolonged absence from the sport, Kallis has looked leaner and fitter while his blond-thatched hair (a product of a hair transplant in 2010) seems as pristine as ever. The natural hairline might have been receding a few years ago but like the man himself, Kallis' hair just refused to go away.
Recently Thor 2 was released in theatres across the world, and I was one among many would caught the hammer-wielding god in 3D. While Kallis may not possess Chris Hemsworth's looks, he brandishes his bat much like Thor's hammer - with guile, force and sometimes violence.
Yet it is all likely to end soon. Gaps between matches are much longer; niggles and strains are bound to take their toll. Jacques Kallis is likely to end with a 20-year-career, 20 years of which have been spent at the top.