TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
A familiar figure loomed large and in charge at South Africa’s net practice at Newlands on Sunday, and it wasn’t Table Mountain.
It was instead athletically, healthily human, and he was neither practising, coaching, part of the press pack nor hunting autographs.
In fact, he owns an autograph that has been hunted thousands of times.
Jacques Kallis signed a few more on Sunday and submitted himself to more than a few selfies.
“He’s probably the greatest cricketer whose ever played and he’s in Cape Town,” Russell Domingo said.
“For us not to get him down to practice would be stupid.”
Indeed. But what was Kallis doing?
“He’s keen to come and watch and see what’s happening and share his experiences with some of the younger players who have never met him before,” Domingo said.
“He’s just going to chill with the team for the day.
“It’s very informal. He sat in our team meeting and shared some of his stories and ideas.
“If there’s anything he’s picked up or anybody wants to chat to him about how they’re feeling about their game, talk to Jacques.
“He’s got all the experience in the world. He’s had ups and downs in his career.
“He’s had highlights, he’s had lowlights and he can share some of those.”
Kallis observed intently with the same unshakeable focus he had on the field, and offered advice that was received as if he was Jimi Hendrix dispensing tips on playing guitar to buskers on the street.
He never got in the way but he also was never just another bloke in the nets.
He was a tiger at home in his jungle.
“He’s Jacques Kallis,” Domingo said with mock emphasis.
“A lot of guys think of him and go, ‘Jeez – can’t he play tomorrow? Is he available?’.”
Alas, Kallis, now 41, retired in 2013, taking with him the experience he gained in 18 years as a veteran of 166 tests.
But South Africans will be pleased to learn he spent a significant chunk of his time in the nets closely watching Hashim Amla, the undeniably great batsman who has gone 11 test innings without scoring a century.
To watch Kallis, unmoving but all-knowing, staring a hole through Amla with unnerving patience was its own exercise in concentration.
For two reporters who had asked for a word with Kallis and had been told they could have it, but only after practice, it was like waiting for Godot.
Happily, unlike Godot, Kallis eventually arrived.
“I grew up with ‘Hash’ so I know his game pretty well,” Kallis said.
What did he impart to his former teammate?
“Just little things, little pointers that can help.
“Generally he is hitting it as well as when I was playing.
“He’s got a few 40s; he just hasn’t kicked on. That happens.
“But he’s hungry. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went on and got a big hundred in the next test match or two.
“That’s pretty much assured.”
And more broadly?
“When you go through good periods like we are going through now don’t give it away,” Kallis said.
“Take your mind back to India (last season, when South Africa lost the test series 3-0) where we were struggling.
“The guys have learnt from that experience in terms of taking their form forward and not giving it away.”
South Africa beat Sri Lanka by 206 runs in the first test at St George’s Park on Friday, and with the second match of the series starting at Newlands on Monday it was no surprise that none of the home side’s fast bowlers turned their arms over in the nets on Sunday.
That meant that, for a significant part of the session, the only recognised seamer around was Kallis.
“As good a batsman as he was we can always scrape together his runs,” Domingo said.
“But to scrape together the 15 or 16 overs he bowled (a day) is not that easy.
“It is one area where he has been missed, but it has presented an opportunity for a spinner to step up.
“Instead of the spinner bowling 10 overs the spinner’s now bowling 25 overs a day.
“His greatness probably limited the opportunities for a spinner.
“Having him not there now means the spinners have to front up.
“Een man se dood is die ander man se brood.”
Which, directly translated, means one man’s bread is another man’s death.
Unless that man is Kallis, whose achievements will live whenever and wherever cricketminded people break bread together.