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‘If you take care of the team, you take care of yourself...’

- Exclusive
- Kallis says he doesn’t worry about labels
Jacques Kallis

Calcutta: Jacques Kallis, a modern-day great and one of the pillars of the Kolkata Knight Riders, spoke to The Telegraph the other day.

The following are excerpts

Q With 44 Test hundreds, you’re closing in on Sachin Tendulkar (51 hundreds)...

A I have never really focused on anyone else’s cricket, I focus on my game. I play to win and I like to make contributions which help the team.

Aren’t records special for you?

No. Winning is most important and that’s where everybody’s focus should be. Cricket is a team sport, not an individual game... If you take care of the team and its interests, you take care of yourself.

You’re one of the biggest achievers (almost 25,000 runs in Tests and ODIs, 61 hundreds)... What keeps motivating you?

(Passionately) I still wake up wanting to do well, wanting to be a part of a winning effort. I’ll keep playing as long as the enjoyment is there.

Is there a next level?

Look, I play according to the situation of the game... I try and play the role that the team requires me to play and I take it from there... That’s probably why I’m consistent... I don’t worry over personal goals and don’t think about a next level.

But do you look to consciously raise the bar?

I take each game as a separate entity, take each ball as a separate entity. You could say I have a different approach.

Do you challenge yourself to go a step higher?

I do tell myself to make good decisions... To make decisions which will help the team.

That’s interesting... Do good decisions come easy?

They come with experience... When you look back, you realise that you probably got a little bit more time (to make those decisions) than what you’d thought.

What separates a Tendulkar or a Kallis from the rest?

The hunger to succeed... The desire to help win games for the country. That want has to be there.

You’re regarded as the finest all-rounder after Sir Garry Sobers. Do you take it as a compliment?

I do, yes. To be put in that bracket indeed is a compliment. But, again, I don’t worry about labels. Whether I’m ranked No.1 or No.100, it doesn’t mean anything. I get more pleasure out of winning games for my team.

What do you tell young batsmen?

To practise harder and to practise with a purpose, not for the sake of doing it. After each practice session, you should walk away a better cricketer. That’s No.1. Then, obviously, you have to back your abilities... It’s simple: If you don’t back your abilities, no one else will. Also, convert a weakness into your strength, for that will take you far.

Cricket has changed from the time you made your South Africa debut (1995-96)...

The game has moved forward... It has got quicker and it has got better... Today, Test cricket is geared towards getting results and, generally, the game has become more exciting for the spectators.

Is it the T20 impact?

Yes... The players have got better too.

Wasim Akram, for one, believes that you don’t need to think too much in T20. Others hold a different view. Where do you stand?

You definitely need to be sharp. You also need to be calm... You have to quickly think where the game is heading and respond suitably.

One-time teammate Gary Kirsten is now South Africa’s coach. How has the experience been?

There’s not much of a difference in our relationship... It has been healthy and we’ve always had respect for each other.

South Africa are back as No.1 in Test cricket. Was getting there a driving force?

It’s nice to be No.1, but we didn’t focus on the ranking. Rather, we focused on the type of cricket we could and should play.

You’re in your 18th year as an international cricketer... At 37, what’s the future you’re looking at?

I haven’t set definite goals... Haven’t thought about retiring... I haven’t been playing many ODIs, though, in recent times.

Buddy Mark Boucher and you have jointly launched, The Innings, a red and white wine. What has been the response?

(Smiles) It’s doing well, people have received it warmly. There are other labels in the market as well, but as a new product, it has done well... It’s an easy-drinking wine, perfect for gentlemen.

Boucher is actively campaigning to save the rhino. Does he have your support in this endeavour?

Of course. Recently, I went to an event back home. Mark’s very passionate about the rhino.

Do top-rung sportspersons have a bigger responsibility towards being associated with social causes?

I’ll speak for myself... I try to do what I can... Cricket has supported me wonderfully and I do feel the need to give something back (to society)... Those of us who are more fortunate should try and help those less so.

Finally... Role models are expected to behave in a certain way...

Yes... There’s added pressure on role models.