Kallis retired from Test cricket in December, but decided to continue playing ODI cricket in a bid to make the World Cup squad early next year. But a poor tour of Sri Lanka this month, in which he scored just five runs in three innings and could not bowl due to niggling injuries, led to him re-evaluating his future.
“I’ve been calling him an ‘old man’ and asking him what he’s doing out there, but I had a hint that he might decide to retire after he came back from Sri Lanka and realised that it would take a lot of hard work for him to get through to the World Cup. When you’re playing full-time it’s easier, but focus is very crucial at international level and I think he was wondering if his mind is really on it.
“He really wanted to win the World Cup, but I’ve always appreciated his honesty and I think he realised that he might let the team down. He was honest enough to realise he might not be strong enough to make it through to next year, especially in terms of bowling and mentally,” Smith said on Wednesday.
Smith said the timing of the decision was perfect because it gave the team enough time to adapt their tactics to his absence ahead of the World Cup.
“He’s given the team enough space tactically to fill his gap with other guys but it’s obviously always sad when players of his calibre move on. But he’s had an incredible career which we can all celebrate and look back fondly on. He brought so much happiness and South African cricket got a lot out of Jacques in so many different eras,” Smith said.
“It’s always difficult to compare players from different eras, but if you consider the amount of cricket Jacques played, the length of consistency at the top of the game and all the different conditions and challenges he performed in, then he’s got to be up there with the best who’ve ever played the game. In time, I’m sure his reputation will only go from strength to strength.”
Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat said the timing of the decision was typical of the 38-year-old’s professionalism.
“He’s been a consummate professional who always knew exactly what his responsibilities were and although he was very keen to get through to the World Cup, and had committed himself to that, it dawned upon him in Sri Lanka that his mind and body were not fit enough to get him there. He said he had some thinking to do when he left Sri Lanka two weeks ago, so he prepared us for his retirement and in the last 12 hours there have been lots of conversations with him,” Lorgat said.
“In my book, he was one of the best cricketers ever. I’ve seen him play great innings and make wonderful contributions with the ball, but above all it was his presence that I will remember. In the last 10 years, the team has drawn an enormous amount of confidence from his sheer presence,” the former Eastern Province and Transvaal all-rounder said.