Durban: South Africa captain Graeme Smith said that the series-clinching win over India in the second and final Test here was a fitting tribute to "irreplaceable" team-mate Jacques Kallis who bid farewell to Test cricket on Monday.
"We wanted to win it for Jacques. Ultimately, we wanted to make sure that his farewell is a fitting tribute to him. The pitch made it a little difficult, and certainly we had to work hard, considering that we lost so much time in the Test," Smith said at the press conference after South Africa beat India by 10-wickets on the fifth and final day to clinch the two-match series 1-0.
"India too played well on day one wicket. They were 180-odd for one. The way we turned it around from that point is a huge achievement for us. The kind of performance the team has put together over a period of time, and conducted itself tell a lot and does not require me to tell anything more," he said.
Smith said his team will never be able find a replacement for Kallis. "I think we are never going to replace Jacques. He's worth more than 13,000 runs, nearly 300 wickets and 200 catches. He's a top class personality and the experience he brings to the side is irreplaceable. The way forward is to get tactically smart in the next Test match," said the Protea captain.
"AB [de Villiers] offers us an allrounder's option, keeping wickets. So it's an opportunity to look at an extra batter or bowler depending on conditions, and those decisions we can make going forward.
"But I think anyone who gets picked up for the next Test shouldn't feel the pressure, and it's an opportunity for someone else to start a career. Kallis' career is huge, and it's important that the next guy gets a fresh start," he added, shedding light on South Africa's future plans.
Kallis was central to South Africa's victory. He scored 115 runs in the first innings, notching his 45th Test ton in his final match. Then Robin Peterson took four wickets in the Indian second innings and the visitors collapsed on the final day.
"Jacques has been so consistent in his career. The kind of performances he put, often when the team needed it the most, like the hundred he made here, consolidating the innings and the guys batted around him. His knock gave us a total from where could get a move on. But credit to him to keep all those emotions in his last Test, playing an innings like that," Smith said.
"Our spinners have faced challenging times. It's nice to see them bouncing back and Robbie played superbly with the bat yesterday. He certainly brings a good balance to the team, and I think the four wickets have been hugely rewarding for him.
Without those four wickets, we would not have come close to winning this Test, and the contribution from our spinner has been fantastic," he added.
Even so, all talk was only about Kallis and his retirement. "I knew about it in the last match. He came to me in Durban along with his manager and said it was the last Test match, and in his humble way he wanted to keep it low key and in many ways he would have preferred it if no one would have known it, and he would have finished it that way. But I think in the end, the kind of respected figure Jacques is, it has been handled the right way," said Smith.
"We managed to win it as a team and perform well, which I think he too would have appreciated. I think he never would have wanted to get in the way of our performance. In the end, it was fitting that we won the Test match and for him the hundred of course, but winning the Test is the highlight of the last five days," he said.