With a tally of 13,174 runs, 292 wickets and 199 catches in 165 Tests, Jacques Kallis is the best all-rounder of his era. The South African’s career has always been marked by dizzying numbers and he may well add to this impressive record during his last Test in Durban. But is Kallis the best cricketer ever? It is tough to answer that question when the likes of Sir Garfield Sobers and Sachin Tendulkar are in the running. Sobers’s fans will certainly maintain that the West Indian legend made a greater impact on the field, notching up 8,032 runs and 235 wickets in 93 Tests. Maybe one cannot compare the greats. If Tendulkar was “God”, Kallis was “Mr Cricket”, though Michael Hussey was given that sobriquet.
Tendulkar’s retirement was feverishly anticipated. Kallis’s Christmas announcement that he was retiring from Test cricket came as a huge surprise. The question on everyone’s mind is, why quit now? Despite a bad series against Pakistan in the UAE, Kallis had not seemed out of form and was within touching distance of Tendulkar’s records for Test runs and centuries. At the recent Test in Johannesburg, he played a punishing innings against India and bowled with the energy of a youth. Kallis, introvert that he is, has left the question unanswered.
But his departure leaves a huge vacuum in Test cricket. Kallis is the fourth highest run-getter in Tests, behind Sachin Tendulkar with 15,921 runs, Ricky Ponting with 13,378 runs and Rahul Dravid with 13,288 runs. He is the last legend standing and, after his retirement, the generation shift that cricket has been witnessing will be complete.