Farewells are not always about tears and emotions. They are also about performances - defined aptly by Jacques Henry Kallis, on Monday. The 38-year-old played his final Test here in Durban but said nothing much has changed in the last 18 years of being an international cricketer, except his age!
Considered one of the best all-rounders in the game, Kallis finished his Test career as the third-highest run scorer (13,289) and second-highest centurion (45). Humility, however, defined him on his last day as a Test cricketer, exactly how it had through all his records and laurels. (Match report)
"I sat here the day before the game, looked out on the field and nothing much had changed in my 18 years except I was a little older," he said, after his team defeated India by 10 wickets to claim the 2-Test series 1-0. (Highlights)
Asked what he would miss the most and Kallis was prompt in his reply, "I will miss the friendship, will miss the emotions in defeat and victory." (Scorecard)
The decision to retire from a sport is never easy for a veteran. Kallis said he was no different. "It was a tough call to retire from Test cricket. It's been incredible how people have made this special for me. I thank Cricket South Africa, my teammates and fans here for everything. I have been fortunate to have good coaches, friends and family and I will miss the dressing room." He also chose to specially mention his parents, saying they had played a large part in who he was today. "As kids, you want to make your parents proud and I hope I have done that for my mom and dad. My father watched me play my first Test and today, I have my sister here. It feels nice." (Pics)
Over the years of being a cricketer, his team has been like his family and on his last day in whites, Kallis chose to celebrate with fellow players. He led the entire team in a lap around Kingsmead as he waved towards cheering fans. And he finished his lap with a big swig from a beer can. In all of it, the true gentleman in a gentleman's sport didn't forget about the opposition. "I thank Dhoni and the Indian team for the guard of honour," he said at the post-match ceremony. (Read: Dhoni and Co. give Kallis a guard of honour)
Even when his fellow players took the mic to applaud him and his career, Kallis - wearing his usual on-field sunglasses - sported only a shy smile, as if to say thanks. Skipper Graeme Smith chose to describe precisely this humane side of the player. "We have played 105 Tests together and it has been a privilege knowing him as a friend and a teammate. In the end, I think he is an outstanding person and that is what counts," said Smith, six years junior to Kallis. (Kallis hits farewell ton)
It isn't just those who have played with him, but even former greats have hailed Kallis and thanked him for his contribution to cricket. While former South Africa cricketer Kepler Wessels said Kallis has brought a lot to his team, Sunil Gavaskar hailed him as unique. "There have been many great all-rounders but not all of them could be selected as either a specialist batsman or a bowler, which has been the case with Kallis. It is difficult to compare different eras but to me Kallis was unique," said the former India captain.
While Kallis may now be focusing solely on the 2015 ODI World Cup, he has already scripted a tale in Tests and set a benchmark - on and off the field - that will be extremely hard to replicate. However, it will serve as an inspiration for generations to come.