Yet, as Kallis’s best years coincided with Sachin Tendulkar’s dominance, he didn’t quite get the recognition he richly deserved. Kallis’s place in history, though, is secure.
Kallis, who turned 39 this month, recently spoke to The Telegraph for well over half-an-hour.
Q Are you at ease with the decision to retire from all formats at the international level?
A Yes, the time had arrived.
But you’d been wanting to play in the 2015 World Cup...
That’s correct, but I’ve made the right decision... There’s too much cricket going into the World Cup and I wasn’t prepared to spend that much time away from home... I accept it was a tough decision, but the right one.
You didn’t get runs in the ODIs in Sri Lanka. Did that influence your decision?
Not at all.
Having played international cricket for almost 19 years, how did you feel the morning after deciding to sign off?
Felt comfortable... I haven’t finished with cricket totally. The IPL is there, the Big Bash is there... The body is in good nick and the mind strong for T20... I’m involved with some businesses, I have the Jacques Kallis Foundation. So, there are things to do. Also, I’d like to take up fresh challenges.
Your Foundation helps youngsters...
It works out of Cape Town and we look after kids who need help in cricket and with their schooling. We reach out in the manner we can.
Is cricket better off today than it was in 1995, when you made your South Africa debut?
Test cricket has certainly become more watcher-friendly. One gets to see more decisive results.
What are the challenges?
(Passionately) To keep people interested in the game, to get more countries to be stronger at the international level... Clearly, a wider audience is needed and there has to be more competition.
Challenge No.1 for the players...
To keep improving.
Isn’t integrity a big issue?
Definitely. Everything that can possibly be done must be done. It’s important to look after the way the game is played... It has to be clean.
But, at the end of the day, doesn’t it all come down to the individual? The call is his...
You should be man enough to say you played the game with integrity. The game has to be kept clean for all stakeholders, including fans who come through the turnstiles.
Of late, bowlers with suspect action have been making headlines...
Bowlers with suspect action have been allowed to get away for too long. It’s good that the ICC has put its foot down. The next step is to introduce technology that can test the guys in an actual match, not in a laboratory.
You recently said that Test cricket would survive, but the ODIs were threatened. Why?
I believe that most youngsters still want to establish themselves as Test cricketers... Because people judge you by how you perform in the oldest format. The 50-over game is under pressure as the focus is on T20 cricket. This has been so for a while now.
Would you be disappointed if the ODIs disappear?
I would be, but you move on with time. The people have to want the product, there has to be a demand. Maybe you need fewer ODIs and have only tournaments of importance. There should, really, be more meaningful ODIs.
Are you in favour of making changes to the 50-over format?
No, it shouldn’t be tinkered with too much. However, you need to keep the balance between batsmen and bowlers.
What are your expectations from the upcoming World Cup?
I think it’s going to be a fantastic tournament. As a cricketer, you dream of playing in a World Cup. I know the players have the event in their thoughts.
Could one see you in Australia or in New Zealand in some capacity?
Can’t say right now.
Many regard India, Australia and South Africa as the favourites... What do you feel?
The conditions will suit Australia and South Africa... Champions India are going to be under some pressure, for (traditionally) they haven’t done well in Australia and in New Zealand. But, then, anything can happen in a World Cup.
(Laughs) You can’t tell a dark horse, can you?
You’ve played in quite a few World Cups. What makes the difference in that tournament?
The way pressure is handled. In a World Cup, you need to win every match. That brings about pressure. You don’t have meaningless matches.
Generally, what makes the difference in the 50-over format?
It’s about playing the big moments well, of taking the risks at the right time.
And, in Tests and T20Is...
The better teams come through in Test cricket, there are fewer upsets... You have to be smart in applying pressure and you’ve got to do so over a sustained period. In the T20 format, momentum is the key. If you have it, you're on a roll.
What would you tell AB de Villiers and his team if you were invited to give a pep talk before the World Cup?
That the team which enjoys the tournament the most stands the greater chance of doing well. Enjoy.
Some questions specific to you... What pushed you to achieve what you did (over 25,000 runs and close to 600 wickets for South Africa)?
I enjoyed winning... Didn’t want to lose... Always wanting to win has been my biggest strength.
Will every generation find a new hero?
Of course. Already, new guys are coming through. They’ll continue to emerge. It’s a cycle.
What has nearly two decades of international cricket taught you?
I have got a different perspective on people, different cultures. Indeed, on the world itself. When I look back, I have a chestful of fun memories. It’s a good space to be in.
The final one... How is the wine business, in partnership with former ’keeper Mark Boucher, doing?
Good. It’s giving us some pleasure.
The Telegraph, Calcutta