When to retire? This is the dangerous question that arises in every sportsperson’s career at a critical point of time. Some face it bravely while many, including some greats, take the escapist route. Sachin Tendulkar is widely believed to have gone on for too long, Kapil Dev definitely played on much beyond his sell-by date, and even Ricky Ponting retired by the time he was well past his prime. Jacques Kallis’ career seemed to be heading on a similar path. But, he took a brave decision to call it quits from international cricket, just a few months after he had retired from Tests.
One could understand why Kallis wanted to give the 2015 World Cup a go. He had featured in every edition of the world championship since 1996, but in spite of some impressive performances failed to take the team all the way. Being the talisman, he felt morally obliged to try and give it one last go in Australia and New Zealand. It was an emotional decision as much as it was a cricketing one. An experienced hand like Kallis would have been invaluable for South Africa, but only if he was in shape.
Over the last couple of years, Kallis hasn’t played much one-day cricket. In fact, he was even dropped from the side once. But, he was recalled for the one-day series in Sri Lanka. It was going to be a big pointer as to how prepared Kallis was for the bigger challenge ahead. In hindsight, the series cleared all doubts over Kallis’ future. While he did not bowl due to a niggling injury, all his three visits to the crease finished in single-figure scores. Not once did Kallis look like the great batsman we have known him to be.
Even though he failed in all three games, one cannot but have admiration for his honest assessment of himself, and his form, thus calling it quits. In Kallis’ own words, Sri Lanka told him that he was finished as an international batsman, and that the 2015 World Cup was a ‘bridge too far’. Considering the kind of yeoman service Kallis has given to the South African side over the last two decades, the selectors would have found it extremely difficult to axe him irrespective of his form had he decided to play on. But, with his candid confession, he has earned additional respect of fans and admirers. He could easily have held on and blocked a youngster’s spot, but decided otherwise.
Surely, Kallis would rue the fact that he was never part of a World Cup-winning South African squad. But, neither was Brian Lara, and that doesn’t make them lesser players. Kallis can take heart from the fact that he was the star performer with the bat and ball when the team won their only ICC tournament – the Champions Trophy in 1998. He was also a key member of the Test side that made it to the number one ranking. Kallis finishes with over 10,000 runs in both Tests and ODIs, add to that his number of wickets (292 in Tests and 272 in ODIs). Only a special player can achieve such stats. Bravo, Jacques Kallis.
--By A Cricket Analyst