Kallis: I am enjoying my retirement


Jacques Kallis called time on his two decades in international cricket in July of last year, walking away from the game as South Africa's most prolific Test batsman, with 292 Test wickets and a record that puts him in the company of all-round legends.

He had hopes of making it to the 2015 World Cup squad but after poor returns on the tour to Sri Lanka, Kallis made the call to retire from all formats of international cricket.

After 19 years of the grind of international cricket it would be understandable for Kallis to miss the job that has taken up pretty much all of his adult life. He says that isn't the case.

Kallis told Cricket365: "No, I am not missing it, I am thoroughly enjoying retirement. I am spending a bit more time at home which has been nice."

The life of an international cricketer is one spent away from your family and living in hotels. Some years a player will sleep in a hotel room 300 nights. For Kallis that is often the reason why players decide to call time on their career.

"[The time away] is probably the one thing that pushes most cricketers to retire. The amount of travelling and the time away from home. I enjoyed the journey while it lasted. It was 19 fun years. It is nice to send off with a little bit more relaxing cricket, it is obviously serious cricket but it is nice to be at home a little bit more."

That relaxing cricket is of the T20 franchise variety. Kallis was sat in the lobby of his St Lucian hotel when we spoke, a representative of the Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel on the eve of their first game in the Caribbean Premier League.

When he did make it on to the field he bowled his four overs for just 31 runs picking up two wickets in the process. Rain curtailed his batting efforts, but in the five balls he faced he managed to crash two brilliantly timed boundaries.

"I still haven't given up cricket completely. I am playing a little bit on memory at the moment but as the tournament goes on it will be a little easier. End of January was the last time I played some competitive cricket and then I was in Cape Town in the winter so you can't go out and have too many nets.

"So today was the first outdoor net that I have had, I hit it alright so hopefully it will go OK."

The motivation is still there to keep going, and Kallis suggests this is because he is playing so rarely he can give his all when he does turn his hand to cricket.

"I am still enjoying training. Possibly because I don't play as much anymore. I play two or three months of the year so you can really enjoy it, give it your all and have a real go.

"After this the next real cricket I will play is probably Big Bash so I have a nice big break after this. From a body point of view you can give it your all."

There will certainly be a sizable gap between this event and when Kallis next plays a shot in anger in Australia this winter. Watching him in practice he seemed as committed as ever, while perhaps not as quick as he once was. During fielding drills Kallis was throwing down the single stump 90% of the time.

"I have another season of Big Bash. In fact that is the last bit of cricket that I played. I saw the other side of cricket, the coaching side of it at Kolkata Knight Riders (in the IPL). It is a lot harder being a player, but I really enjoyed the coaching side of things."

His achievements are well documented, but what about regrets. When asked the question it was inevitable that the World Cup would be mentioned, it is the one area of the Kallis CV that remains blank. On the whole he says he only looks back with pride on his success.

"I suppose you can always look back and say I wish I had done this at a different time or I wish I had done that, or be part of a World Cup winning side. But on the whole I have no regrets, I wouldn't I have done anything different. I really enjoyed the journey."

In a sport that is obsessed with numbers it is perhaps surprising that Kallis says he was never interested in them. He missed out on 300 Test wickets but he said that he wouldn't even have known he was that close to the landmark.

"I was never one that played for those type of milestones. Milestones for me was never really an issue, it was trying to make the best decision on the day that the side made or needed and made that call.

"I was never one that looked at stats, in fact I never knew them. If you were to ask me about my stats now I could tell you I have 45 [Test] hundreds but that is about it."

One of those landmarks that people discussed the most was the fact that Kallis hadn't made a Test double hundred. He finally got there against India in 2010, but when you watch the footage it is AB de Villiers, the man Kallis was batting with at the time, that does most of the celebrating.

"It wasn't something I was losing sleep over. Once you get it you realised how much it meant, especially to the people of South Africa. Probably less to me. It is certainly something that will stick with me for a very long time.

"The ovation that I got at Centurion [was fantastic]. I look back and I say thank goodness I did because I would not have liked to have missed out on it."

Kallis says he was delighted with the way his former team mates performed at the World Cup. After such a long time with the 'chokers' tag attached to the side he says he was very pleased to see them perform so well in the big pressure games.

"The brand of cricket that we played was excellent. They played freely in those knockout games which for me was the most rewarding. It wasn't scared cricket, it was brave cricket. And I think they did all they could.

"Unfortunately there was a little bit of politics that has gone with that game that seems to be coming out now which is sad to hear.

"But as far as the players are concerned I don't think they could have done much more. They got beaten by a side that played better on the day – and only just."

So where next for the greatest all-rounder the game has seen in the last 20 years. He says he wants to do what he can to pass on what he has learnt, but as much as he has a passion for coaching he is not in a rush to stop playing altogether.

"I have picked up a lot of knowledge over the years playing international cricket, and I would hate to waste that. Whether that is being a batting mentor on the coaching side of it. I did enjoy the coaching.

"For now I will just concentrate on the playing side and we will look where I am in a years’ time and I will see where I am then."

Jacques Kallis is playing for the Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel in the Hero Caribbean Premier League. The Biggest Party in Sport runs from 20th June to 26th July.

Peter Miller