Jacques Kallis is the greatest cricketer that has ever lived: Pat Symcox

Suyash Srivastava

Jacques Kallis has been a wonderful ambassador of the game for the last 18 years. He has been an integral part of South African squad and his consistency was the key for the Proteas team’s success on several occasions.

For most of us, Kallis’ retirement from Tests came as a shock, as despite his rough patch in the last few months, the legendary all-rounder looked fit to play across all formats of the game. Former South African cricketer Pat Symcox – who played some international cricket with Kallis, not only rated him as the greatest cricketer to have played the game, but also said that the legendary all-rounder could play a crucial role for South Africa in the ICC World Cup 2015 to be held in Australia and New Zealand.

Suyash Srivastava of Zeenews.com spoke with Pat Symcox about Kallis’ retirement and his future in ODIs.

Excerpts from the conversation:

With Kallis’ retirement, an era for South African cricket has come to an end. So do you think Kallis has timed his retirement right?

I think Jacques Kallis would be the only one who would know when the time is right to go. Most of us around the world would not like to see him go, and it’s the way it is. It was the way with Sachin, it was the way with Brian Lara, it’s the same with great players. We always are sad to see them go. The only player that would really know would be Jacques Kallis. And the time of it is probably close to the good time. He knows his body, he knows where he is. I am surprised that it came that quickly to be honest, I thought he might hold it for a little while, there is an Australian tour coming, it’s quite a big moment, you want to play against Australia – at home. So I thought that would be fitting for him to finish that way, but as he has chosen that and that’s the way it is, you know. I am also sad that his final game wasn’t at a ground he loves like the Capetown, Newlands and that would have been fantastic, very much like India did for Sachin, to take him home to his home ground and have a wonderful Test match, he wasn’t able to do that, there wasn’t a Test scheduled, so probably he got to that point.

Most of the fans were disappointed or rather surprised when he said he would continue playing in the ODIs. Considering his massive record in the Test matches, do you think he should have done the other way around – retire from ODIs and play in Tests?

Well I know that South Africans want Jacques Kallis to be available for the World Cup in Australia, in 2015. And because it’s in Australia, because of those kind of pitches, you kind of feel that a player of Kallis’ stature would be important to play in the game or be in the squad for that matter. If you look at his experience, his record, you find that he is equally proficient at One Dayers as well as Test matches, although we know him as a great player in Test cricket, he has also done amazing things in One Day cricket. The one thing that has eluded him throughout his career is lifting the World Cup trophy. Like all the great players, he wants to win it. But, he has never been able to do that. And I guess that’s in the back of his mind that if it’s in Australia, if it’s an opportunity to be part of it, an amazing event and the way the South African side has been bowling up in One Day cricket, it’s kind of looking good. We’ve just beaten India convincingly in South Africa, and they are going to Australia, so he probably feels – give it one more time and see what happens.

For the past 18 years, he has now become a habit for the Proteas team. So even though it will take some time, who according to you, is the right successor for Kallis in Test matches?

Yes, Jacques Kallis has become kind of a household habit to see him there, it’s going to be strange to see him not being there. For me, personally it’s pretty sad. He’s the last guy I played with and that is playing in the South African side and I remember him coming as a young boy and making his way, I remember watching him sitting in the change room in the stand when he saved a Test match, he got his first hundred done in Australia. So you know, it is a sad time when Jacques Kallis leaves South African cricket. But there will always be a successor. Whether we see in a hurry, a caliber of Kallis, I am not sure. You have to play for a very long time – 18 years – to build such a record, and you know when it comes to picking all-rounders, in finding one, you have got to ask the question – would you pick him as a batsman only if he couldn’t bowl, or would you pick him as a bowler only if he couldn’t bat. There are not many people who would fit in that category. And probably, he is one of a handful in the world, ever in the history of the game that you could say – if he can’t bowl, I’ll pick him as a batter and if he can’t bat I’ll pick him as a bowler. That is quite amazing.

In 2015, what contribution do you think Kallis can make to the South African squad in the World Cup?

I must say that his last Test innings that I saw him play when he got 30 odd against India in the second innings at the Wanderers, he was heck of a proficient and he looked apart, he looked as good as in form as I have seen him. He is in trim shape, he is looking good, but we’ll never know what his mental state is, and whether he feels he has had enough now, but he looked in magnificent condition. South Africa unfortunately, have had some bad runs, as far as Test matches are concerned. They haven’t played a Test match in seven months leading into this series which hasn’t given him any opportunities to challenge for any further records or milestones, and going ahead, most people don’t know, South Africa won’t be playing a One Day International for almost nine months which is crazy, so again there is no opportunity. So I guess he’ll retire from Test cricket, he wants to be a part of the One Day team. He’ll probably look ahead and see, I feel in eight months down the road, whether he can keep himself going. I am not sure, but he has got the IPL, domestic cricket. He has been playing for so long that he is such a talented player that will probably work hard, and has always worked hard throughout his career. I am sure he will work hard and make a decision when it comes that time.

Last but not the least, is Kallis the greatest all-rounder ever, ahead of Garry Sobers? Some people rate Garry Sobers as the greatest all-rounder. But according to you, is Kallis the greatest all-rounder ever and if that even is worth a debate?

Well you can only measure all sports that are measurable by time, weight whatever, distance run. Who is the fastest runner in the world? Who is the fastest swimmer in the world? That is measured by a certain measurement done by a clock. In cricket, we use statistics to measure the person who is deemed to be the most proficient based all-rounder that’s ever played and in terms of cricket statistics, Jacques Kallis is the greatest cricketer that has ever lived. In terms of batting and bowling and catches, no one has bettered that. He is, unquestionably, statistically, the best cricketer to have played the game. Now that’s a heck of a statement. I think if you ask his peers, the players who have played against him in the last twenty years and I am not talking about poor players, I am talking about great players, that have been captains, that have understood the game, bowlers and batsmen and fielders, they’ll all would agree that Jacques Kallis is the best all-rounder that has played. I know there have been some great players before, in India we have had Kapil Dev, in West Indies we have Garry Sobers, we have our own Mike Proctor, we have had Shaun Pollock, England have had Ian Botham, Australia have had some great players, but none of them have the record of Jacques Kallis, not one. And that would put him ahead of the pack in my opinion.

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