South Africa Must Decide Fast on Jacques Kallis: ODI Future or Retirement?

Chris TealeFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2014

South African cricketer Jacques Kallis ruffles his hair during a practice session ahead of their second one-day international cricket match against Sri Lanka in Pallekele, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

All good things must come to an end, and in the case of Jacques Kallis, the end of his South Africa career seems to be marching ever closer after a poor run of fitness and form.

Leading into the series against Sri Lanka, he was suffering with back stiffness and was forced to sit out the Proteas practice match against the Sri Lanka Board President’s XI.

This injury worry came having not played major cricket since the Indian Premier League (IPL) earlier this year, in which Kallis’ involvement concluded in early May.

Perhaps more concerning than his injury issues—which are to be expected given his advancing years—is his lack of form with either bat or ball since recommitting himself to one-day international cricket.

Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

Before this series, he was reinstated to his preferred No. 3 position despite having scored just 26 runs in three innings in his comeback against Pakistan.

He scored a half-century in his first game back in the 50-over format against Pakistan, but his subsequent lean patch was a cause for concern.

Following that, the next major cricket he played was in the IPL for the Kolkata Knight Riders, who went on to win the tournament.

However, Kallis had an ordinary time for Kolkata by his high standards, as he mustered just 151 runs in eight innings with a top score of 72 and an average of 25.16.

Take away that 72 for the Knight Riders and Kallis scored just 79 runs in six innings, a poor return for such a giant of the modern game.

It was clearly not the best preparation for this series, especially as South Africa look ahead to next year’s Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and Kallis’ returns got worse.

In three matches he managed just five runs—with four of those coming in Hambantota in the final game—to finish above only four other players in the South African batting averages.

Further to this, he did not bowl a single ball, a decision that may have upset the balance of the side but was compensated for by the displays of Ryan McLaren and Imran Tahir in particular.

At No. 3, Kallis is expected to be able to deliver telling contributions with the bat to help his side take advantage of a good start or to help them rebuild from an early loss.

He has been unable to do so in this series and has instead scratched around without hitting a single boundary or playing the long innings that cricket fans have been accustomed to seeing.

South Africa now have 20 ODIs remaining before the start of the World Cup, and Kallis will be desperate to return to form and dispel any doubts about his future.

However, his run scoring has been on a negative trajectory for some time now, and there must come a time where the Proteas believe it is not just a poor run but a longer-term decline.

That decision may come sooner rather than later, and judging by what has gone before, sadly that may be the case.