There was a time when Jacques Kallis considered England the “arch enemy”. Now he is working with them on their tour of Sri Lanka.
Kallis is a bona fide legend of the game, having averaged 55, with 45 centuries, across 166 Tests for South Africa, while also taking 292 wickets and 200 catches. Kallis is not bothered, though, about where he fits into the pantheon of the game’s greats.
“I think it’s unfair to compare eras and types of players but having said that, to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the greatest players to play the game is humbling and an honour,” he said from Galle.
“It is nice but I’m not one who gets too worried where I fit into the game. I’m very proud of what I achieved in the game. I was a terrible loser, I hated losing, so that pretty much drove me and it certainly does drive me now I’ve finished the game in the other avenue of coaching.”
Certainly it is a boon for England to have him working with the likes of Dan Lawrence, Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley. He has said he will not be applying for the full-time batting coach vacancy, preferring to flit around as a consultant.
“I suppose in the beginning it was a little bit strange because England were the arch-enemy when we played them, but I suppose in the world we’re living now guys go and coach other teams and in the T20s around the world guys go and play with other teams,” he said.
“So it’s kind of the norm in the modern world and I really have thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a good bunch of boys with a lot of youngsters who have bright futures ahead of them so it’s nice I can perhaps help them achieve the goals and dreams they want to achieve.”
Kallis likes what he sees. He describes Sam Curran as the best young all-rounder in the world, and thinks English batting is in good hands.
“I’ve been very impressed with them,” He said. “Firstly, from a game plan point of view, understanding batting, they’ve got a lot of knowledge. And they’re hungry to succeed. Coming through a tour of South Africa, where the wickets can be quite demanding, to have performed like they did, certainly that’s very heartening and they’ll have taken a lot of lessons away from that. As they will here.
“They’re a young batting side with a lot of guys who will learn a lot. They’re going to make mistakes along the way but that’s ok, that’s how you learn and grow, but I think there’s a lot of youngsters that are going to score a lot of Test runs for England.”
England’s gain, clearly, is South Africa’s loss. He was working with the Proteas when England toured a year ago, but believes he “wasn’t allowed to be involved because Cricket South Africa said there would be no more white consultants”. CSA denied in September that it would only work with black consultants.
“I suppose it’s the way of our country – a lot of players have fallen away because of needing players of colour involved,” he said. “It’s tough but we understand where it comes from. It is sad [the way his role ended] but the times we are living in at the moment”.