Kallis is the fourth-highest runscorer in Tests and has also taken 292 wickets in 165 matches in his 18-year career, an astoundingly good return for someone who was a world-class batsman and yet so often had to share his responsibilities between bat and ball.
He will remain available for one-day internationals, he said yesterday, and repeated his desire to play at the 2015 World Cup as his final swansong.
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to have been part of the South African Test team since making my debut 18 years ago,” Kallis said in a statement released by Cricket South Africa on the eve of the second and final Test against India in Durban. “I have enjoyed every moment out in the middle but I just feel that the time is right to hang up my Test whites.”
The 38-year-old Kallis will miss the home series against Australia in February. “It wasn’t an easy decision to come to,” he said, “especially with Australia around the corner and the success this team is enjoying, but I feel that I have made my contribution in this format.”
His contribution was outstanding whether batting, bowling or fielding. Kallis’ total of 13,174 Test runs is behind only Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid on the all-time Test list and he could overtake Dravid with a good test in Durban. He made 44 Test hundreds, behind only Tendulkar’s 51, and averaged 55.12, more than India’s “Little Master”.
It took him ten innings to make his first century, 101 against Australia in Melbourne. His last century was also against Australia in 2012, although he has one more match to go.
As well as his mountain of runs, more than 4,000 more than any other South African, Kallis also was a good enough seam bowler to trouble the best batsmen in the game and is fifth in South Africa’s Test wicket-takers. The other four above him were all out-and-out bowlers.
And added to those outstanding batting and bowling statistics, Kallis took 199 catches, most of them as a sharp slip fielder, to be behind only Ponting’s 210 catches in Tests. Kallis is widely considered South Africa’s greatest player and, many argue, he was the best allrounder to have played the game.
“The impact Jacques has made on South African cricket has been immense, not just as a player but as a human being,” South Africa coach Russell Domingo said. “I’m not sure we will ever see another player of that stature very soon.
“Jacques’ calmness, maturity and presence in the change room will sorely be missed and hopefully he will still be able to play a role in this team’s success in the near future.”
Kallis rarely displayed any outward emotion while playing, leaving some to presume that he lacked passion. That was a mistaken observation and he was an integral part of South Africa’s team for nearly two decades after making his debut as a 20-year-old against England in Durban – at the ground where he will retire – in 1995.
Up to the first Test against India in Johannesburg last week, he was still bowling at full speed at nearly 40 and taking crucial wickets.
He had also appeared to have regained some form with the bat in the second innings after a lean recent period, and his announcement on Christmas Day that he was quitting the longer format was a surprise.
Kallis leaves South Africa as the top-ranked Test team in the world and unbeaten through 13 series – possibly 14 after the second Test against India.
“The last two years specifically have been a memorable journey with an exceptional group of cricketers,” Kallis said. “I am fortunate enough to have ended my Test career amongst a group of talented cricketers but, more importantly, friends whom I will cherish for years to come.
“I don’t see it as goodbye because I still have a lot of hunger to push South Africa to that World Cup in 2015 if I am fit and performing.”
Kallis’ last desire, he said, was to win a one-day trophy with South Africa, which has never won the World Cup.
The decision to retire also brought praise from fellow players. Former England captain Michael Vaughan wrote on Twitter that Kallis was the “GreatestAllrounder” and a “Legend”.
“All I can say is what a privilege to have played with the great man,” current South Africa captain Graeme Smith tweeted.
“Hopefully we can give him the send off he deserves over the next 5 days! Gonna miss him immensely.”
Then, in a message to Kallis, Smith wrote: “love you and grateful.”