Jacques Kallis is a legend.
The amount of cricket he has played over the last 20 years and the way he’s managed to keep his fitness levels high, it’s one of the most amazing things about him.
The thing that has helped him most is that he has been well looked after by the South African management, the physios and the trainers. If you see him in his earlier days, he was not as big as he is now. But he was made into this because of the workload he was to be put under.
Kallis' international career
They knew that if he bats for three to four hours and then has to go bowl 10 overs, he would need the muscles and the extra energy. And that’s what he has worked on as well and been extraordinarily fit.
And he has served South Africa brilliantly – over 25,000 international runs and almost 550 international wickets. That is some achievement and that is why I admire him a lot.
What make his achievements stand out more is the fact that he was an all-rounder. That is really tough. I’m an all-rounder as well and it’s not easy. It’s a two-in-one role. Not many people have over 10,000 runs in both forms of cricket. I was watching tv the other day and someone mentioned Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan together, having achieved the runs and wickets milestone.
Kallis has done that all alone. He’s one man. He averaged over 55 in Tests. That’s remarkable!
But his fitness, as I said earlier, has been key to his performance. It’s really important as a player to keep your fitness high. And concentrate day in day out for 20 years. It’s not an easy thing. I’m still playing county cricket and I find it really tough. Your body is aching, your mind is not there.
It’s hard work, being an all-rounder. But it’s up to each individual how much work they want to put into their fitness and skill levels. If someone says they can’t do it, they shouldn’t , be playing cricket. Kallis was more of a batting all-rounder but he still managed to open the bowling and pick up all those wickets.
But a player knows his own ability. They have to realise at an early stage which way they want to go. Some go more towards batting, some, like Kallis, work hard on both skills.
When you’re getting old, you have to compete with youngsters and you need to work extra hard to stay fit and stay on top of your game.
Kallis has always been a tough opponent, right from the start. He had the hunger and wanted to do well everytime he took field. Even towards the end of his career, he always wanted to do well for himself and the team. He was a proper fighter.
I remember in 1997 when I made my Test debut. Kallis had had a surgery and he didn’t bowl much. But when we had the return series in South Africa, he bowled really well, said a few words too. Just to balance things out I guess!
He wants to play hard. He runs in every ball and wants to get people out.
Batting wise he was so calm and collected at the crease. If you say something to him, he’d just ignore it. He won’t say anything while batting. Whenever he was at the crease, he had things under control. You’d hardly see him celebrating big like punching the air. But he was different with ball in hand. He always showed aggression when he was bowling. Totally different when he was getting the wickets.
Away from the field, Kallis is an amazing person as well. I played lot of cricket against him and I think we played a few charity games together. But I never got a chance to share the dressing room with him which is a real shame. He had brilliant work ethics.
I was talking to Wasim bhai during the IPL last year and he would tell me how Kallis would come in for practice, takes the ball and with a full run-up would bowl five to six overs. Then he would go on and bat for a long period. He works on his skills, fitness and everything else. That’s the reason why I have a lot of admiration for him. When you’re playing international cricket, there’s a lot of pressure and expectation from your fans. And that’s a huge test for you.
He was a master of his game, knew his game really well, his limitations, his strengths, weaknesses. No wonder he has this remarkable record over the last 20 years. He definitely is one of the best all-rounders of all time in my opinion. I didn’t get to see Gary Sobers but in the era we played in, he’s definitely one of the best.
I wish I could achieve half of what he has. I’d be happy with that.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy. Azhar Mahmood, former Pakistan all-rounder, was talking to Al Jazeera's Faras Ghani.