It turned out to be an emotional 12 months for test cricket as South Africa’s indefatigable warhorse Jacques Kallis announced his retirement from the format, having cemented his place, at least statistically, as the greatest all-rounder ever and a modern great of the game.
Australian Ricky Ponting bowed out at Perth late last year while India plunged into deep depression when Sachin Tendulkar walked into the sunset amid much hype and fanfare in Mumbai last month.
Despite Kallis’ stature in world cricket, emotions are unlikely to reach such levels when he walks out on Thursday for one last time in test whites against India at Durban – the same venue where he made his debut 18 years ago.
Tendulkar commanded idolatry while Ponting evoked awe but Kallis, despite his mind-boggling numbers, always managed to slip under the radar when it came to adulation.
This despite the fact that Kallis, fourth in the list of highest test run-accumulators, has an enviable average of 55.12.
To go with his 13,174 runs, Kallis has taken 292 wickets from 165 tests generating unsuspected pace and disconcerting bounce from even some of the most docile tracks.
His 577 international wickets will attest to the fact that tasked with breaking up partnerships, he has rarely let his captains down.
Along with West Indian great Gary Sobers, Kallis’s all-round exploits will long be remembered.
When done with bowling, Kallis would take his cap back from the umpire and return to slip where his sure palms would pouch edges from tentative blades that comprise lion’s share of the 199 test catches he has taken so far.
One of the handful batsmen to have scored 11,000-plus runs in both forms of the game, Kallis towered over a South African team that often looked up to him for inspiration.
“South Africans love their sporting heroes and Jacques is right up among the best,” Cricket South Africa (CSA) president Chris Nenzani said.
“He has indeed been our knight in shining armour who has ridden to the rescue of our embattled troops on more occasions than I am sure he would wish to remember.”
CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat hailed Kallis as South Africa’s best player ever.
“Jacques Kallis has simply been the Proteas Rock of Gibraltar … He is a legend and his statistics speak volumes,” said Lorgat.
“Like all great players Jacques’ contribution cannot just be measured in runs, wickets and catches.
“He has been a tremendous source of inspiration and a mentor to some of his younger peers and I am sure that super stars like Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis would be the first to admit how much they relied on him.”
Nearly two decades of top flight cricket has taken its toll on his ageing body. His bowling has naturally lost some edge but his commitment never wavered.
“We were reminded again this past weekend what he means to the Proteas and what some of our opponents might well call an unfair advantage that he gives us,” Lorgat said, referring to the drawn Johannesburg test against India.
“When (fast bowler) Morne Morkel was ruled out of the match through injury he simply stepped into the void, cranked up the speed gun and put his body on the line to deliver what we needed.”