INTERVIEW: Kallis on retirement & taking T20 cricket to the world

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Kallis is widely regarded as the greatest all-rounder in history.

Jacques Kallis is undeniably one of the greatest players to grace a cricket field. He belongs to an illustrious list of stars that have the ability to turn a game with both bat and ball.

In a glittering career spanning 18 years, Kallis first established himself in 1997 with a stunning century in his fourth Test match in the boxing day Test against Australia at Melbourne's famed MCG. 

Since that winter day, he virtually transformed the art of the all-rounder with methodical run-scoring and consistency with the ball. Among many of his outstanding feats, his first ODI century against Australia in Melbourne will be remembered as one that personified his confidence skill that became the traits of his game.

But like all great things in life, the sun sets eventually, and after nearly two decades at the pinnacle of the game Kallis retired from international cricket in December 2013 and then ODI cricket in June last year, to widespread acclaim from the cricketing world. In true Kallis fashion he bowed out of Test cricket with a 45th Test hundred – second only to Sachin Tendulkar on the all-time list – that inspired his nation to victory over India.

Kallis ended his Test career with 13,289 runs and 292 wickets and is third on the list of all-time run scorers in the format. His ODI career consists of a remarkable 11,579 runs in 328 matches that included 17 centuries and 86 fifties. In his 25 T20s, Kallis scored 666 runs with five fifties. To further highlight his prominence, he is the only South African who’s posted over 10,000 runs in Tests and ODIs. But away from the individual honours and back page spreads he remains a humble, charismatic and enthusiastic man.

Retirement hasn’t seen Kallis fully distance himself from cricket, and he remains an effervescent presence among the world’s T20 leagues with a spell in the CPL as part of Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel and an imminent appearance in the UAE’s new MCL T20 two of his latest ventures.

The new UAE format will see Kallis joined by legends Wasim Akram, Brian Lara and Adam Gilchrist as icons of the league. For the South African all-rounder, playing in the inaugural edition gives him an opportunity to inspire players and develop cricket.

“I think the MCL can spread the game of cricket and get more people involved, especially in the UAE. It’s great for the game to have a competition like this going forward. The guys came up with the concept a few months ago and got hold of me, and since then I’ve be looking forward to getting involved,” Kallis told Sport360.

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“Any time you can spread the game of cricket to other parts of the world can only be good for the game. There should be some great cricket played too as the guys will be competitive. Any time you walk on to a cricket field, no matter what game it is, you want to win.”

South Africa’s recent run to the semi-finals of the World Cup showed promise but once again rekindled South Africa cricket’s long-held moniker of cricket’s greatest chokers. Kallis watched on intently and felt the Proteas’ performances should renew optimism in the camp.

“They are playing a strong brand of cricket at the moment,” said Kallis. “I was very impressed with the way they played at the World Cup. If they continue to play with a lot of freedom and skill, there’s no reason why they can’t get the positive results for this season.”

Among the star-studded South African pack is the awe-inspiring figure of AB de Villiers, who many regard as the best player in the world. Kallis is one of many to share that view.

“AB de Villiers is the best batsman in the game out of all three formats, and if he can carry on producing these positive results then the rest of the guys will try to follow in his footsteps. Quinton de Kock and these guys are an example. There’s an opportunity for them to put up their hand and follow for the future,” said Kallis.

While South Africa attempt to reinvent themselves as a dominant force of world cricket, the ICC have also been attempting to get their house in order. The recently implemented set of rules in ODI cricket have seen the elimination of batting powerplays, a removal of catching fielders in the first overs and permitting five fielders outside the 30-year circle in the last ten. The changes have drawn a mixed reaction, but Kallis believes it’s a positive step for cricket as it levels the playing field between bat and ball.

“I think the game went too lop-sided, favouring the batting side for a little while. It’s time to give something back to the bowlers. I think it’s some good improvements and hopefully that will bring the balance between bat and ball a little bit closer. It will give the bowlers an opportunity to show off their skills, as well as the batters who’ll have to flex a little differently now especially in those last ten overs,” he said.

Described by many as one of the greatest players to play the game, Kallis received the ICC Player of the Year accolade in 2005 and the leading cricketer of the year award in 2008. For such an iconic athlete, so intrinsically sewn into the annals of the sport, it is tricky to fully distance yourself from the game.

For Kallis, however, international retirement is something he is enjoying as he focuses on spending more time in South Africa working on his scholarship foundation which provides talented youngsters with the chance of fulfilling their sporting and academic potential.

“I haven’t missed much to be honest. I’ve enjoyed spending a bit more time at home with my foundation, helping kids and giving them a chance to accomplish their dreams,” added Kallis.

“On the cricket front, I haven’t missed too much if I’m being honest with you, which leads me to believe that I did make the right decision. I still get to play a little bit of cricket around the world which makes it more enjoyable the time I spend playing cricket.”

Kallis may be not be missing the sport, but it certainly misses him. His presence on the field and determination to succeed were hallmarks of his game and the bustling man-mountain will likely never be replicated in terms of style or success as an all-rounder. 

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India court clears Sreesanth and other players over IPL fixing

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Shanthakumaran Sreesanth leaves court after being cleared over IPL fixing.

A New Delhi court on Saturday cleared Test fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and two other players of spot-fixing during the Indian Premier League, a lawyer and media reports said.

Indian prosecutors had filed charges of cheating and conspiracy against the players over their alleged links to an organised crime syndicate during the 2013 edition of the Twenty20 competition.

Two of Sreesanth’s teammates from the Rajasthan Royals franchise, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, had also been charged along with bookmakers and underworld figures.

“The judge has passed the order and discharged all the players. There is no case against the players now,” a defence lawyer told reporters outside the court Saturday.

“All are discharged (from the case),” the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency quoted additional sessions judge Neena Bansal Krishna as saying while pronouncing the order.

The three players were arrested in May 2013 along with scores of bookies as part of a police investigation into the spot-fixing scandal that caused outrage among fans in the cricket-mad nation.

The players were later granted bail due to lack of evidence.

Gambling is mostly illegal in India, but betting on cricket matches thrives through underground networks of bookies.

Spot-fixing, in which a specific part of a game but not the result is fixed, is also illegal.

Sreesanth, who played 27 Tests for India, was alleged to have been paid tens of thousands of dollars after agreeing to deliberately bowl badly in an IPL match.

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Delhi police also said at the time of their arrest that his teammates agreed to similar deals in two other IPL matches.

The players welcomed the verdict Saturday, hugging family members and friends.

“It’s a huge relief. I have nothing against anybody. God willing I will return to cricket,” Sreesanth told India’s NDTV network.

Chandila said “a bad dream” had come to an end while Chavan said he was looking forward to being able to play again soon.

The glitzy Twenty20 league, which is broadcast around the world, is hugely popular in India, with a number of teams fronted by big Bollywood names.

But it has been dogged by corruption allegations ever since its first edition in 2008.

Earlier this month, a Supreme Court-appointed panel suspended two of the eight IPL teams after officials were found guilty of illegally betting on matches.

International news organisations including Agence France-Presse have suspended on-field coverage of matches hosted by the BCCI since 2012 after the board imposed restrictions on picture agencies.

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Chris Rogers returns to Australia Ashes squad

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Rogers (l) with the Australian Team Doctor (r).

Australia opener Chris Rogers was back with the tourists’ Test squad on Friday and will undergo further medical assessment to determine his fitness to play in next week’s third Ashes Test against England at Edgbaston.

The 37-year-old left-hander succumbed to a sudden bout of dizziness during the second Ashes Test at Lord’s on Sunday.

There were concerns that Rogers was a victim of delayed concussion, having been struck on the helmet by a bouncer from England paceman James Anderson on Friday’s second day.

But a London-based specialist said on Wednesday that Rogers was suffering from a balance problem in the inner ear.

Australia team doctor Peter Brukner, in a Cricket Australia statement issued Saturday, said: “Chris continues to improve and has re-joined the team in Nottingham last night. 

“He will continue to increase his level of activity over the next couple of days and will be closely monitored by team medical staff.”

Before the third and final day’s play in Australia’s tour match with Derbyshire in Derby on Saturday, Rogers walked round the outfield and then had a gentle knock-up with the bat.

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At Lord’s, after two overs’ play on Sunday, Rogers crouched down by the side of the pitch and then sat motionless before eventually going off on 49 not out. 

The left-hander played no further part in Australia’s crushing 405-run win, which levelled the series at 1-1, having helped establish their strong position at Lord’s with a Test-best 173 in the first innings. 

Rogers was not scheduled to play against Derbyshire in any event.

Australia do have a back-up opener in their squad in Shaun Marsh while all-rounder Shane Watson, dropped from the side at Lord’s following Australia’s 169-run defeat in the first Test of the five-match Ashes in Cardiff, has had spells as an opener during his Test career. 

Rogers, who plans to retire after the Ashes, missed Australia’s recent 2-0 series win in the Caribbean with concussion after being hit on the head while batting in the nets.

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