If cricket was a religion, Kallis was the prophet of perfection

KallisJacques Kallis will retire from Test and first-class cricket after the Boxing Day Test against India (Reuters)

"Merry Christmas everyone," Jacques Kallis tweeted on Wednesday morning, "may you all have a blessed one." We should have known something was up: he barely talks to his batting partners, much less his 330 527 Twitter followers.

Five hours later, just as much of the South Africa that would more than once in the past 18 years have offered up silent prayers that Kallis would go on forever were saying grace over their most sumptuous lunch of 2013, the news broke: the Kingsmead Test would be Kallis' last.

What that did to the national appetite cannot be known. However, knowledge of the impending announcement seemed to hold little import for Kallis, who looked like he always does unshakable at the centre of his universe as he munched a sandwich on his way down the dressing room stairs after training yesterday. Within the hour, the world knew of his decision.

Then the questions began. Kallis has more runs than Brian Lara, but is 114 behind Rahul Dravid. Didn't he want to give himself more chances to confirm his greatness by having his name chiselled snugly under those of Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting on the runscorers' list? He has more wickets than Garfield Sobers, but is only eight away from becoming the 28th bowler to take 300. What if he didn't reach that milestone in Durban? He is one catch away from 200. What if ...

Cricket is obsessed with numbers. Kallis does not understand obsession, except for golf. On a cricket ground, all he understands is getting the job done.

That explains why he used his bat as a driver to let rip off an imaginary tee after reaching 201 not out against India at Centurion in 2010-11. That it had taken him 242 innings to score his first double century mattered less to him than the fact that doing so had earned him lifetime membership of an exclusive golf club: job done.

... contd.

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