In his autobiography, former England batsman Marcus Trescothick recalls a day in South Africa when a beleaguered England, after a rough day, entered the team hotel, hoping to chill out with drinks and a dip in the pool.
Duncan Fletcher, the then England coach, got annoyed and took them to the gym where Jacques Kallis was on the treadmill. The South Africa all-rounder had been the performer of the day, and despite a long day, was not done yet.
It was an eye opener for the England players, and while it will be far fetched to attribute their revival to this incident, Trescothick considers it important.
Despite being a role model for all-rounders, as Ravindra Jadeja said later, Kallis has been an unsung hero, someone who couldn’t draw the respect and attention that Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar or Ricky Ponting got.
Quite symbolically, when he walked out to the middle at the Kingsmead, not even one-third of the South Africans had turned up to watch him. The India team though accorded him a guard of honour.
Former captain and longtime teammate Shaun Pollock said it was probably because he did not have the big individual scores of Lara or an entry into world cricket at 16 like Tendulkar. But he talked of his contribution.
“At that time, we had a lot of batsmen averaging just over forty. He raised the benchmark; he took it to a new level. Guys have followed suit. Smiths, Amlas, De Villiers, all the guys who have come after have set themselves new standards (of averaging 50s),” he says.
Kallis was on the ball from the word go and his famed dour grit was evident. The experience and patience was there for all to see as he bided his time while AB de Villiers played freely against some good bowling.
It was an important innings and no wonder, he took ages when in the 40s. While Alviro Peterson said there were no nerves, it is difficult to agree. Kallis eventually reached his fifty and the crowd rose to its feet.
It was nowhere neat, a bit frustrating but then that’s what has carried him thus far. With the wicket spinning a lot and likely to do more in the coming days, the South Africans wouldn’t mind that. For they need all his experience one last time, and hope to close out the match on Sunday itself after he resumes his innings on 74.
As Peterson said, “The way he is batting seems like he is batting in his prime. We want a big one from him.”