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Jacques Kallis and other great cricketers who didn’t care for personal milestones

South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis has phenomenal numbers to his credit in Test cricket © Getty Images

Jacques Kallis surprised everyone when he retired with a triple achievement in sight. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at other greats who did not think much of career records.



The fact that Jacques Kallis is the only cricketer who has been compared with Garry Sobers despite the illustrious careers of legends like Keith Miller and Imran Khan tells volumes about the man. One would probably have expected the great man to continue with his career, but he decided to call it quits.


Kallis had perhaps thought that he would not overcome the current slump in his form; perhaps he had wanted to provide a chance to youngsters; one can only speculate. What, however, cannot be denied is that Kallis did not really care for records (which is quite contrary to what people make out of him, possibly because of his defensive style of batting).


Let us look at Kallis’s numbers: he has taken 292 wickets and 199 catches in Test cricket, which makes him very close to achieving two landmarks. He may get to that 200-catches mark, but an eight-wicket haul in his final Test is a nigh impossible. It should be remembered that Kallis had taken four wickets at New Wanderers (admittedly, he had got an extended run with the ball thanks to Morne Morkel’s injury).


What about batting, then? Kallis is currently on 13,174 runs and 44 hundreds. Sachin Tendulkar’s 51 hundreds may be a bit far away (though, knowing Kallis, you can rule nothing out); though he is well short of Tendulkar’s tally of 15,921, he could easily have reached the second spot — going past Rahul Dravid (13,288) and Ricky Ponting (13,378). Of course, he still might (remember he had scored twin tons in the last Test against India three years back?), but the announcement shows he really does not care.


Some men have bowed out of international cricket without ever getting a chance to reach their coveted milestones. When Mohammad Azharuddin received his ban, he had played 99 Tests. Ian Healy had asked for a single Test (that too at his home ground) but was not allowed to; he had to finish with 395 Test victims. Some hearts should also go out to Venkatesh Prasad, who ended up with 96 Test wickets and 196 ODI wickets.


But there were certain other giants of the game as well — men who never cared about breaking records. Let us have a look, then, at the men who did not wait for milestones to come their way and quit, taking the world by surprise.


Syd Barnes, 1913-14


Barnes still holds the records for most wickets in a Test series — a feat he had achieved in the tour of South Africa in 1913-14. With four-Test series being almost a concept of the past, 49 wickets at 10.93 seems almost unreal numbers. What makes the record even more phenomenal is the fact that he achieved this in only four Tests.


When the legend was informed by the authorities that his wife’s accommodation would not be sponsored, he promptly opted out of the fifth Test at St George’s Park. Not only did he miss a chance to become the only player to take 50 wickets in the series, he also missed out on being the first player ever to reach the figure of 200 Test wickets (which was perfectly feasible, given that he had seven five-wicket hauls in eight innings).


In the end, he never played another Test and finished with 189 wickets from 27 Tests. When he was asked to tour Australia in 1920-21, he refused again.


Jack Hobbs, 1934


Hobbs was the proverbial mile ahead of Patsy Hendren in terms of hundreds, the next name on the list, with 197 hundreds when he had decided to quit First-Class cricket in 1934. Though he was not at his best in his the final season, he had scored 11 hundreds from the previous two seasons, averaging over 50 in both.


The decision turned out to be more agonising when two more hundreds that he had scored for Vizzy’s XI in 1930-31 were granted First-Class status. 199 sounds a lot worse than 197.


Sid Barnes, 1946-47


Sid Barnes, with a name homo-phonic to the first name on the list, did something unusual in the fourth Test of the 1946-47 Ashes at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG): he had added 405 with Don Bradman for the fifth wicket in 397 minutes before the latter fell for 234. Barnes, who had stonewalled for 667 balls, hit a skier off Alec Bedser and was caught by Jack Ikin.


Barnes later said, “Lots of people have asked me whether I deliberately threw my wicket away at 234. The answer is yes…It wouldn’t be right for someone to make more runs than Sir Donald Bradman.” He had, after all, scored 234 as well.


Don Bradman, 1948


The Don had announced that he would retire after the 1948 Ashes. He was stuck on 6,488 runs, which meant he was 512 short of the 7,000-mark and 761 short of Wally Hammond’s tally of 7,249. Had he played a single series both records would have been easily reached given his career.


As things turned out he scored 508 and finished — rather famously — with an average of 99.94.


Alan Knott, 1981


Knott was marginally elder to Rod Marsh and had started playing Tests three years earlier, but thanks to Australia’s ascent in the 1970s, Marsh caught up with his English counterpart around 1980. The 1981 Ashes started with Knott on 263 dismissals from 93 Tests and Marsh on 260 from 70.


Unfortunately, the perpetually fit Knott missed out on the first four Tests of the Ashes while Marsh moved to 271 from 72. Knott played the last two: after the series Knott was at 269 from 95 Tests and Marsh on 276 from 74. However, neither the urge to compete with Marsh nor the one to go on to play a hundred Tests lured Knott: he quit after the Ashes.


Note: Marsh later took a leaf out of Knott’s book when he hung up his gloves after 96 Tests. Retiring alongside his mates Greg Chappell and Dennis Lillee seemed to be a better way to exit than waiting for the milestone.


Derek Underwood, 1981-82


Underwood had received a ban at an age of 36 for touring South Africa, which effectively ruled out of international cricket after he made the tour. He played only two matches on that tour: it probably proved to be somewhat of a loss for him, as he finished with 297 Test wickets.


Not only would he have remained the only English spinner to have taken 300 wickets till date, but he would also have gone past Lance Gibbs’s record of 309 wickets, taking his aggregate to the highest among spinners.


Greg Chappell, 1983-84


Greg Chappell had announced his retirement before the SCG Test against Pakistan. He was on 6,928 runs — 168 short of Bradman’s record Australian tally of 6,996. Going past Bradman was obviously a huge incentive, but Chappell did not care to wait: as things turned out, he scored 182 (he had scored a hundred on debut as well) and finished as the highest run-getter among Australians.


As mentioned before, it was also the last Test of Marsh: he finished with 96 Tests.


Curtly Ambrose, 2000


Arguably the greatest fast bowler of his generation, Ambrose had announced his retirement before the English tour of 2000. Before the series Ambrose was on 93 Tests and 388 wickets; given his phenomenal form Ambrose could easily have gone for Kapil Dev’s world record of 431 wickets, but he chose not to.


Ambrose finished the series with 17 wickets at 18.64 from five Tests and finished with a phenomenal career record of 405 wickets at 20.99 from 98 Tests.


Sanath Jayasuriya, 2000-01


Few batsmen have been as destructive as Jayasuriya in his pomp, and the Coca-Cola Champions Trophy Final was no exception. He ended up scoring a 161-ball 189; he had to score only six runs to break Saeed Anwar’s record of 194 and eleven to become the first cricketer to score 200 in an One-Day International (ODI). There were still 11 balls left in the innings.


However, records seldom played at the back of Jayasuriya’s mind; he went after a wide ball from Ganguly and was stumped. He could perhaps draw some consolation from the fact that the other batsmen in the entire match scored 164, making him the only batsman to have scored more than 50% runs in a match.


Inzamam-ul-Haq, 2006-07


After missing the first Test at Karachi, Inzamam had announced his retirement from Tests before the second Test of the 2007-08 home series against South Africa was played at Lahore. He was on 8,813 Test runs, 19 short of Javed Miandad’s Pakistani record of 8,832.


As things turned out, he hit a brilliant boundary off Andre Nel, but was caught-behind off Kallis for 14. With only six required to usurp the record in the fourth innings, Inzamam on-drove Kallis for a three off the first ball he faced; but when attempted to clear the field off the next ball to him, Paul Harris had him stumped. Miandad retained his record as Inzamam started his iconic slow, long walk back for that one final time.


Muttiah Muralitharan, 2009-10


Before the first Test of India’s 2009-10, Muralitharan had announced that he would retire after the first Test at Galle. The problem was, he was stuck on 792 Test wickets, and there was a high possibility that he would not make it to the 800-wicket landmark.


Hopes were raised when Muralitharan sliced through the Indian first innings with figures of five for 63. The tension started mounting when India followed-on after being 244 behind: Muralitharan did not pick up any of the first four wickets. He got the fifth and the seventh, but with two more wickets he had to pick up the last wicket to reach the milestone.


Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha resisted for 92 balls, but eventually happened: Muralitharan tossed the ball up, it took his edge, and Mahela Jayawardene took a diving catch at first slip. It was perhaps the most dramatic of exits in Test cricket.


Special mentions:


Mark Taylor, 1998-99: There are rumours that he had declared on his overnight score of 334 not out — a joint Australian record with Bradman. However, Taylor has denied this later.


Shane Warne, 2002-03: Unable to pass the dope test, Warne was banned from the 2003 World Cup. He retired from ODIs after that and finished with 291 ODI wickets. The legend came out of retirement two years later to play the World Cricket Tsunami Appeal match (which was given official ODI status) and picked up two more wickets. The cause appealed to him: numbers didn’t.


Nathan Astle, 2006-07: Though Astle was out of form before the 2007 World Cup his sudden retirement before the tournament came as a surprise. Seldom remembered for his bowling, Astle remains the only one to finish with 99 ODI wickets.


Brian Lara, 2006-07: Though Lara was already the leading run-scorer in the world he had decided to retire with a career tally of 11,953 Test runs. One more Test would have made him the first player to the 12,000-run mark.


Shaun Pollock, 2007-08: One of the giants of the sport, Pollock announced his retirement from ODIs before the 2007-08 home series against West Indies. He bowled brilliantly, picking up six wickets at 21.83 and an economy rate of 2.78; he eventually finished with 393 ODI wickets. In an excellent gesture, Graeme Smith promoted him to number four to ensure that he could hit the winning runs.


Mark Boucher, 2012: Following an injury on the England tour of 2012, Boucher had retired from international cricket with immediate effect. He had 999 wicket-keeping victims to his credit across all three formats of the sport. However, in an ODI against West Indies at Queen’s Park Oval in 2010, he had also caught Darren Bravo (rather brilliantly at cover) off Roelof van der Merwe. His international victims count thus ended on a perfect thousand.


(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at He can be followed on Twitter at


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