The legendary allrounder retired from international cricket last December but is still a key member of the KKR squad. (Getty Images)
The legendary South African allrounder, Jacques Kallis, may have hung his boots but his heart still beats for the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) as the 38-year-old is set to re-ignite his hunger for runs and wickets at IPL 7.
Kallis brought curtains down on his glittering 18-year career after scoring his 45th Test century during the Boxing Day Test against India last year, but he is looking fresh once again after a rejuvenating break.
The burly South African trained with the KKR on Saturday and was the first to arrive and the last to leave the nets - which tells you about the dedication with which Kallis plays his cricket.
"The last game that I played was my last Test match, which was on 26th of December. I have had plenty of nets and bowled in the Cape Town nets, and I'm hitting the ball as well as I have, and I'm happy with my game at the moment," Kallis was quoted as saying by the Khaleej Times.
"I took a complete break [after retiring from international cricket]. So on the mental side, I'm nice and fresh and ready and raring to go. On the physical side, I have put in a lot of time in the gym and the nets, so as far as fitness wise and mental wise, I'm in as good a space as I've ever been," he added.
Kallis said playing IPL in the UAE is not going to be much different from India. "From a batting point of view, it is like batting in the sub-continent. The temperatures are actually not that hot at the moment; it is pleasant, which is nice. All in all, the conditions are going to be pretty decent for playing."
Going into the 2014 players' auction, the KKR retained only skipper Gautam Gambhir and West Indies spinner Sunil Narine and bought back Kallis during the auction. But the South African said the new-look squad of the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise looks better than before.
"I think we are well balanced... We have some good quick bowlers, some really good spinners. From the batting point of view, we have guys who can hold the innings together and we have guys who can hit it out of the park. So, from the balance point of view, we are probably better than we were over the last three years. I think we have more options," he said.
At 38, it's a lot difficult to play on as an allrounder, but Kallis said he is keen to continue bowling. "I'm still working hard on the bowling side of it. I enjoy doing both. I can't see myself ever playing this game just as a batter. It will be a sad day if it does happen. But I don't think I can ever do that."
The KKR won their maiden IPL title in 2012, and Kallis - with 2276 runs, 61 wickets and just 10 games away from 100 IPL appearances - will once again be critical to Kolkata's chances.