England’s batsmen will be able pick the brains of a modern-day great during next month’s two-Test series in Sri Lanka following the appointment of Jacques Kallis as a consultant for the tour.
Kallis, the former South Africa all-rounder who recorded 13,289 runs and 45 centuries during a 17-year Test career, has been hired on a short-term deal under head coach Chris Silverwood while England’s regular batting lead, Graham Thorpe, is afforded some down time at the start of a hectic 2021.
The 45-year-old Kallis is part of a coaching set-up that also has Jeetan Patel returning as spin-bowling consultant. The New Zealander, considered favourite to land the role full-time next year, worked with England last winter but was prevented from a repeat during the recent home summer due to a visa issue.
Jon Lewis, the Under-19s head coach, will also continue his work with the seamers until a permanent appointment is made, while James Foster has once again been asked to mentor the wicketkeepers on tour – Jos Buttler, Ben Foakes, Jonny Bairstow and James Bracey – following Bruce French’s recent retirement.
Kallis is clearly the most eye-catching appointment and though Thorpe will return for the four-Test series in India that is due to begin on 5 February, this initial trip represents a unique chance for England’s players to learn from one of the most successful overseas batsmen in the subcontinent.
While Kallis never excelled in Sri Lanka, he made eight centuries during 25 Test matches in Asia – only Alastair Cook sits higher among visiting batsmen with nine – and a singular approach to his run-making also tallies up with England’s stated aim of creating a more glutinous batting unit overall.
The deal for Kallis was struck during England’s recent time in South Africa, the abrupt end to which, following an outbreak of Covid-19 in the team hotel that led to the three ODIs called off, once again highlighted the precarious nature of organising tours during a global pandemic.
As things stand, England are due to depart for Sri Lanka on 2 January via charter flight for two behind-closed-doors Tests in Galle that begin on 14 and 22 January. They then travel to India, where four Tests are followed by five Twenty20s and three ODIs.
With a number of countries having banned travel from the UK in the past week in response to the new strain of Covid-19, there are clearly few guarantees. A team spokesperson insisted on Monday, however, that planning continues as normal.