The 38-year-old Kallis, statistically the greatest all-round cricketer the game has seen, retired from Test cricket in December but had indicated his desire to continue playing one-day internationals for South Africa, with an eye on having one more crack at the World Cup in February/March 2015.
But a poor tour of Sri Lanka, where Kallis scored just five runs in three innings and did not bowl due to niggling injuries, has convinced South Africa’s leading run-scorer in both Tests and ODIs to end his international career.
Smith, who himself retired at the end of the summer, has been close to Kallis for more than a decade and only 11 of his 117 Tests were played without his friend beside him at slip.
“Jacques is a really stubborn man but I think that stubbornness must have run out! But one can only appreciate his honesty because he really wanted to win the World Cup, but he knew he would struggle to maintain the levels required, especially in terms of bowling and mentally, and he didn’t want to let the side down. He’s also given the team enough space tactically to fill his gap with other guys,” Smith said yesterday.
A relaxed-looking Smith, fresh off a family holiday, said retirement would take some getting used to for Kallis, who has spent the last 19 years excelling on cricket fields all over the world.
“I’ve just been through it and it’s a bit daunting really,” Smith said. “You’re no longer earning a salary – my electricity got cut off! – and you’ve just known one way of living for the last 19 years. Until the next stage of his life falls into place, he deserves the time and space to find his feet.”
In 166 Tests, Kallis scored 13 289 runs (the third most) at an average of 55.37 and claimed 292 wickets. He also took 200 catches and no other player has scored over 10 000 runs and taken more than 200 wickets.
In 328 ODIs, Kallis made 11 579 runs at an average of 44.36 and took 273 wickets.
“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,” Smith said.
“It used to irritate me when we started a season and Jacques had hardly picked up a bat in months, and he’d get into the nets and every ball would come out of the middle of the bat, while the rest of us were scratching around. I remember him hitting five centuries in a row [v West Indies & NZ in 2003/4] which was incredible, his two hundreds in a game against India and his century at Newlands on a tough pitch when he had a side strain. Jacques had a great ability under pressure to get stuck in and he was so reliable.”
Kallis remains committed to playing T20 cricket for the Sydney Thunder and Kolkata Knight Riders, but Smith agreed that once he had retired from Test cricket, a quick end to his international career was inevitable.
“Focus is very crucial at international level and I guess Jacques had to ask himself if his mind is really on it anymore. It’s hard to maintain intensity without playing regularly and it takes a lot of hard work to get to the required levels. When you’re playing full-time, it’s definitely easier.
“I hope there’s going to still be real respect for what he achieved, we can celebrate and look back fondly on an incredible career. He brought so much happiness and South African cricket got so much value out of him through so many eras,” Smith said.
Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat said Kallis had decided to retire after returning from Sri Lanka and spending the last two weeks mulling his future.
“It dawned upon him in Sri Lanka that his mind and body might no longer be fit enough to get him to the World Cup, and he said he had some thinking to do, so he prepared us for his retirement.
“In my book, he is one of the best cricketers ever and he has left as a legend. He was the consummate professional and naturally we are going to miss him because I don’t see any other three-in-one cricketers of his calibre,” Lorgat said.