Jacques Kallis, the legendary all-rounder who is working as England’s batting consultant for the Test series in Sri Lanka, has spoken of his regret at being forced out of a similar position with his native South Africa after their adoption of an affirmative action policy last year.
“I wasn’t allowed to be involved because Cricket South Africa said there would be no more white consultants, so unfortunately that fell away,” Kallis said before the first Test which starts on Thursday.
“I suppose it’s the way of our country – a lot of players have fallen away because of needing people of colour involved.
It’s tough but we understand where it comes from. It’s the modern way of the world. It’s sad in a way that I can’t help out in South Africa, but I’m thoroughly enjoying my time in the England setup.”
After he left his role with the Proteas several players spoke to Kallis about continuing to work with him on a more informal basis, but that possibility was blocked. “Unfortunately there was that rule, so it was pretty much taken out of my hands,” he said.
CSA clarified in September that it “had not taken and will not take a decision to work exclusively with black consultants” and “put on hold” the affirmative action policy, at least temporarily, after the entire board who decided on it resigned en masse in October. Kallis said he knew nothing about the latter development, and has no plans after the end of the Sri Lanka series beyond returning home to assist his wife with raising their 10‑month‑old boy, Joshua.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for me to take and see where it goes,” he said of the England role. “In the beginning it was a little bit strange because England were the arch enemy when we played them, but I suppose in the world we’re living now guys go and coach other teams around the world. So it’s kind of the norm in the modern world and I really have thoroughly enjoyed it. We’ll go through this tour and then see what the future holds.”
The 45-year-old’s appointment has certainly been well received by England’s players: last week Jonny Bairstow, who returns to the Test side batting as Kallis himself often did at No 3, described the South African as “in my eyes the best all-rounder that there has ever been”. Dan Lawrence, the 23-year-old batsman who is expected to make his Test debut, spoke about his excitement at working with “arguably the greatest player to have ever played”.
In Lawrence, Dom Bess – who is 10 days younger – and the 22-year-old Zak Crawley England have a group of emerging young batsmen who stand to benefit from the wisdom of a former player who, of all non-Asians who played at least 20 Tests on the continent, has a batting average second only to Clive Lloyd.
“I’ve been very impressed with them,” Kallis said of England’s young players. “They’ve got a lot of knowledge, and they’re hungry to succeed. They’re going to make mistakes along the way but that’s OK, that’s how you learn and grow. I think there’s a lot of youngsters that are going to score a lot of Test runs for England. It’s nice I can perhaps help them achieve the goals and dreams they want to achieve.”
Kallis has also been impressed by the all-rounder Sam Curran, another 22-year-old, for whom the series represents a chance to shine in the absence of the rested Ben Stokes. “He certainly has a lot of talent, and he’s willing to learn,” Kallis said.
“He’s a hard worker and a great kid, I see a lot of potential in him. Is he the best young all-rounder in the world? Yes, I think so. What he adds with the ball and the bat, he is certainly right up there. There are exciting times for him ahead. He’s hungry, and that’s half the battle already.”