He retired from Test cricket in December, bidding adieu in front of his home crowd, and had already ended his T20 International career. Thus a matching card buy by Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League player auctions left many wondering whether retaining South Africa great Jacques Kallis was a wise investment or an emotional decision made in a hurry.
On the eve of the match, coach Trevor Bayliss had to field a few questions on Kallis: his utility, slow starts, ball consumption, and the importance of strike rate over average.
Bayliss offered a prophetic reply. “Jacques has got great records, falls into the category of great players. He hasn’t played cricket for some time now, (but) naturally is in great shape fitness-wise. If someone wants to write off Jacques, they will do it at their own peril. I will be surprised if he doesn’t do well.”
And on Tuesday, against the Lasith Malinga-led Mumbai Indians attack, Kallis showed class is indeed permanent.
He not only hammered a 46-ball 72, studded with five fours and three sixes, his 131-run second wicket stand with Manish Pandey made all the difference against the defending champions.
A softer pitch at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium and balls stopping and coming made it difficult to play through the line.
And just when KKR looked to make a quiet start, captain Gautam Gambhir was back in the pavilion. And Kallis’ experience counted every bit. Circumspect in the first six overs, he backed his natural instinct — the fought against perception.
Kallis knew his best survival tactic was getting under the ball and hoicking over mid-off against Malinga; planting his leg across and a swipe of conviction to mid-wicket off Harbhajan.
And fours and sixes that carried his signature inside out shots against Pragyan Ojha shut the debate about his suitability for T20.
When he was caught brilliantly by Corey Anderson off Malinga, Kallis’ strike rate was 156, that statistic alone enough to answer all those murmurs about his utility and longevity.