Opinion: Kallis retired from the wrong format

Blog Opinion

Rather than quit ODI cricket, Jacques Kallis has surprisingly called time on a prolific Test career rather. This is the path he has chosen and the decision must be respected, writes Michael Schmitt.

How surprising is it that Jacques Kallis, South Africa's best post-isolation Test cricketer, is retiring from the longer format of the game to focus on being fit and available for the 2015 World Cup? More than a little, you'd have to say.

That Kallis is a better Test cricketer than a one-day player is a fact more than underlined by his statistics. The burly all-rounder has a solid one-day batting record, but never scored runs at the kind of rate that made him one of the top players in the format.

And while he could always be relied upon to do a job both with the bat and in the field in the 50-over game, it pales in comparison to the all-round value he brought to the South African Test side.

And what of those statistics? Kallis did not have a banner year in 2013. In seven Tests, he averaged under 18 runs an innings – a paltry return for a player of his immense talent and ability. And while he still chipped in with the odd wicket, his contribution as a bowler has certainly lessened.

In all likelihood, Kallis will retire with a Test batting average hovering just above 55, and though he has always been quick to dispel the notion that he is a player more concerned with averages than most, it's hard not to wonder about that number.

Perhaps Kallis is no longer confident that his efforts with the bat can ensure his average will stay above 55, and he is choosing to call it a day while he still boasts a record that will certainly go down as one of the greatest in the modern era.

To be fair to the man, it's probably best not to speculate about averages and the like. Whatever the reason, Kallis has decided the time is right to bring his glittering Test career to a close, and it will be with a heavy heart that South African fans say goodbye to one of the true greats of the game in the country – and the greater cricketing world.

The demands and rigours of Test cricket are obvious – the long tours away from home, the five-day grind and the demands it places on the mind and body, long hours spent in the field, where absolute concentration is key if you hope to be ready to snatch that slip catch when the opportunity finally arises.

And when the fall of your wicket alone gives the opposition a massive boost purely because of your reputation and the danger you pose, it means no walk to the wicket is ever made without the constant pressure to perform and not disappoint, regardless of the score on the board.

As for why the 2015 World Cup still holds an attraction for Kallis, well, that's no real surprise either. Having played in the last five World Cups, and been party to some of the immense failures and disappointments the South African side has experienced at the tournament (the disastrous exits against Australia in 1999 and Sri Lanka in 2003 the most painful examples), Kallis would probably dearly love to have one final chance of righting those wrongs.

Whether the 38-year-old is still around, fit and performing, when the 2015 World Cup comes around, remains to be seen. Whether the South African selectors believe he should be there in the top order to steady the side at the cost of what will certainly be an up-and-coming youngster remains to be seen as well. Certainly, his name will not be as easily penciled in as it would be for an upcoming Test series – even today.

But this is the path Kallis has chosen in the twilight of his career, and certainly he deserves to have his decision be respected and supported wherever possible – by his captain, fellow players, selectors and the public alike.

Replacing him in the Test side will be a mammoth task, not just for his batting prowess, but his considerable all-round abilities. We may never see his like again in the Proteas kit and there may never be another South African player that instills quite as much calm and confidence when he walks out to the crease.

So raise a glass and raise a cheer for Mr Reliable, Jacques Kallis, perhaps the greatest all-rounder ever to grace the game.

<b>Michael Schmitt</b>