Johannesburg - Former Proteas coach Graham Ford paid tribute to Jacques Kallis after Kallis became the first South African to pass 11 000 test runs during the recent second Test against the West Indies in St Kitts.
During the match Kallis struck his 35th Test hundred as he became only the sixth player in the history of Test cricket to pass the 11 000 run-mark.
Ford, who coached the Proteas from 1999 to 2001, believes that much of Kallis’ success can be put down to the work the all-rounder puts in behind the scenes.
“He has always had a hunger to perform and he has a huge work ethic,” Ford told SuperCricket.
“Sometimes I don’t think people understand just how hard he works. They see him on TV and they can see he has talent but they don’t know how much work he has put in to get to where he is.”
Kallis made his test debut in 1995 and his first ton came in his seventh match, a fighting 101 against Australia in Melbourne in 1997.
Since then the 34-year-old has established himself as a permanent fixture in the Proteas’ middle-order during his 139 Test career.
Only Sachin Tendulkar, with 47, and Ricky Ponting, with 39, have reached three figures more times than Kallis in Test match cricket.
As an indication of how important Kallis is to South Africa he is comfortably ahead of the next two leading run-scorers for the Proteas.
Gary Kirsten scored 7289 runs during his 101 Tests while Graeme Smith is third on the list with 7078 in 84 matches.
As well as scoring a hat-full of runs Kallis’ all-round abilities has also seen him snare 264 Test wickets and gobble up 156 catches.
Ford believes that Kallis has all the ingredients to be regarded as one of the games all-time greats.
“Jacques would be an automatic selection for any international side at the moment and he would be an automatic choice for a World XI.
“To have a player like him in your team who bats, can bowl a heavy ball and adapt his bowling to what the team requires, and be a superb fielder means that a team has three players in one when Jacques plays and you can’t ask for more than that,” Ford enthused.
Ford, who is currently coaching the Dolphins, points to the former Wynberg Boys’ High School pupil’s mental strength as being a key ingredient in Kallis’ rise to the top.
“He has always been very strong mentally and with that he has enormous patience and powers of concentration. With his strong technique he has all the ingredients to be a great player,” Ford explained.
Kallis was accumulated a number of records and awards during his distinguished career, including being named the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Player of the Year in 2005 and the Wisden Leading Cricketer in 2007.
It would be easy to think that after all he has achieved in the test arena that Kallis may be content to rest on his laurels but Ford feels that there is a lot more to come from the powerfully-built right-hander.
“Jacques has already proved his class but knowing him as I do he will feel that he still has unfinished business.
“He would like to get a few more hundreds to move up the list of Test scorers and the way that he is playing at the moment shows that he still has a good few years left in him to do just that.”