The Jacques Kallis says he isn’t picking and choosing but he would really like a cricket World Cup win.
Cricket South Africa announced this week that Jacques Kallis had confirmed his desire to play in the 2015 World Cup provided that his workload could be managed in the 18 months between now and the tournament in Australasia.
It led to several claims that he was 'picking and choosing' when he played for his country. The criticism left him bewildered.
“I’m not sure where that perception comes from. I have never thought, or suggested, that I deserve some sort of automatic place in the squad, never mind the team. All I ever suggested was that I would like to remain in contention,” Kallis told the Mail & Guardian this week.
The great all-rounder will be 39 by the time the tournament starts but, although there is no sense of denial, it is a number that doesn’t bother him.
“It’s not just about physical, it’s more about mental. My body is fine, I’m training every day and enjoying it. All I’m doing is being honest with myself and with everyone else by asking the question about how much I want to play ODI [one-day international] cricket.
“I have no intention of staying on beyond my time or being selected on my name or reputation, so I needed to be certain about my motivation. When I asked myself whether I wanted to play every series between now and the World Cup, the answer was no. It’s a long, hard day and I’ve had 321 of them.
“But would I like to place myself in contention for selection a year out from the World Cup? Absolutely,” Kallis said.
Apart from the 'picking and choosing' misinformation, there have been claims from some critics that, by not playing every game, Kallis was being “unfair” to the players who were filling in for him.
“I can understand that up to a point. If a player was doing well and was moved out of the team just before the World Cup that would be unfair and I wouldn’t be a part of something like that. I’m saying I would like to be available for selection ... If players perform better than me during that time then I don’t expect any favours,” Kallis said.
Kallis would join Pakistan’s Javed Miandad and Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar as just the third player to compete in six World Cups but he is utterly dismissive of that as a reason to want to be there.
“If you chase records in this game, if that’s the reason you play, then you’ll see your backside. I’ve always said that and nothing has changed.
“About six years ago Mark Boucher and I were discussing our ‘wish list’ for the rest of our careers. There were only three goals for both of us – Test series wins in England and Australia, and a World Cup win. We ticked the first two off in 2008 but the desire to have another go at the third target hasn’t decreased at all. Just one more shot at it – for me and Bouch.”
The leading Test century-maker of all time, Tendulkar, has retired from ODI cricket but is still playing the greatest format of the game at the age of 41 and is expected to tour South Africa with India at the end of the year. Kallis is second on the list, seven behind the Indian master’s 51. Speculation about when either will retire has been around for years.
“It’s different with Sachin,” Kallis says with a smile. “His status in India is a bit different to mine in South Africa. I’m not sure he’s allowed to retire, is he? That’s probably more of a government decision than his! I am in control of my own destiny and I am not afraid to call it a day. I always said the day I woke up and didn’t look forward to playing would be the day I quit. Again, that hasn’t changed.
“It takes a bit longer for the body to recover now than when I was 25, especially being an all-rounder, but I have no interest in compromising that. I started as an all-rounder and I’ll finish as an all-rounder. I would rather manage my workload at the end of my career than finish it by playing just as a batsman.”
“I could lose form or be injured in the next 18 months just like anyone else. You don’t look forward too far in this game at any age ... It’s never been ‘when’ I play, just about where I stand and what I would like to try and do. It’s not fair on the coach, the selectors or the squad if they don’t know where I stand,” Kallis said.
Given the team’s dismal showing at the Champion’s Trophy in England in June, Kallis’s decision to make himself unavailable while still playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League was seen as disloyal.
“I was damned either way. If I went to the Champions Trophy and was stale and struggling for form, what would people have said? When I chose to be honest and said I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to represent my country, I was shot down.
“Representing your country is the highest honour there is – it’s that simple. Not the most lucrative, but easily the most important. I would never mess around with that. I wasn’t able to give my best at the Champions Trophy, so I didn’t go. Same will apply with the 2015 World Cup.”