Jacques Kallis, a colossus on and off the field

South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis' humble personality off the field matched his outstanding achievements on the cricketing field.

Off the field, Jacques Kallis was no different from his on-field persona — polite, approachable but extremely focused.   -  Getty Images

As we walked towards the dressing room at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur, Jacques Kallis stopped near the staircase, which led to the players zone, and chose to sit right there.

It was on the eve of the Indian Premier League (IPL) fixture between Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals. But even then, the stadium staff were still battling to get things ready and the staircase was quite dusty.

That, however, did not deter Kallis — who was then playing for the Knight Riders.

The city was sizzling at 42 degrees that afternoon and Kallis sat on the stairs and was more than happy to answer questions. There was no one else and the giant sightscreen placed next to the players zone was shielding us from the public and other players' view.

We could have easily gone to the VIP lounge and spoken, but Kallis was happy talking at that spot. “This should get you an exclusive… No one will know that I spoke to you,” Kallis laughed.

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The interaction lasted for nearly 15 minutes and Kallis was at his candid best.

It was 2012 and by then Kallis had possibly achieved everything he could have as a cricketer, but for the World Cup. But even then, he was an epitome of simplicity.

Just like how he is on the on-field, Kallis was no different off-the-field too — he was polite, approachable but extremely focused.

“I want to win the World Cup for South Africa. In my cricketing career, I have achieved everything, but the World Cup has eluded me,” Kallis said, adding that he will continue donning the Protea colours till he ‘enjoyed’ the game.

The South African all-rounder was a mix of sharp batting skills, to-the-point bowling and was one of the safest hands on the field. He piled up 13,289 runs in 166 Tests while his ODI record was also fascinating, where he amassed 11,579 runs in 328 outings.

Kallis is someone, who is never satisfied with the results and is always hungry for more. Former South Africa batsman, Dave Callaghan, who knows him since his formative years, believes that his ‘selfishness’ on the pitch helped him improve. “He was selfish (while batting) and would not throw away his wickets. That’s a major trait for a cricketer and Jack had all of it. He is an incredibly dedicated cricketer,” Callaghan says.

Kallis always made it a point to not throw away his wicket. “He hated giving away his wickets. He had good technique and that is there, but this attitude was the main thing,” Callaghan says.

And even after quitting the game in 2014, Kallis-the coach-has also maintained the similar principles. Be it for Kolkata Knight Riders or Trinbago Knight Riders, he has ensured that he focuses on work ethics and discipline more than anything else. And that his policy has worked is evident by the way the Knights have produced young talents.

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Ask any cricketer who has worked with Kallis — who turns 43 on Tuesday — and he would agree that the soft-spoken South African knows how to handle things without making noise. “In every team-meeting, he would encourage the youngsters to play to their strength and that eventually helped. If someone would struggle initially, the coach would be there to back him. And if a player knows that he has the backing of someone like Kallis, he will bounce back,” one of the Indian players, who was once a part of KKR, says.

Even his team-mates in South Africa know him as someone who would make his stand clear without much fuss. But that’s Jacques Henry Kallis — cool and calm but always making a point.