They have been legends of South African cricket. But things haven't exactly gone to script for Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis of late. While Smith has been dropped from the ODI team following the fast rise of Quinton de Kock, Kallis' career is truly at the crossroads.

The South African chairman of selectors Andrew Hudson has left enough hints to TOI that while Smith's ODI career might well be over, Kallis' time is also fast running out. But both of them know that a good Test series against India can turn things around.

"If Jacques is playing, he is still the best batsman of the South African team. I don't know where this retirement talk is coming from," Ray Jennings, former Proteas coach, told TOI. With a Test average of 55.44 and 44 centuries under his belt, Kallis is pushing for Sachin Tendulkar's record of 51 Test tons and many of his contemporaries believe the legendary allrounder will break the mark. But Hudson has indicated that Kallis has to keep his motivation going if he has to retain his Test spot. "Kallis still has the game to play for a couple of years at least in Tests...The India series might well put all the speculation to rest," former opener Herschelle Gibbs said.

While Kallis has a good record against India, Smith hasn't been that successful. Ahead of the series, the South African Test captain is being projected as Zaheer Khan's bunny and when the veteran Indian paceman was reminded of that, he said: "Probably I just need to turn up at the ground to get Smith out." The opener, with 9034 Test runs and an average of 49.76, won't take it lying down. The fire must also be burning in his belly after he was sent home for Test practice following De Kock's first of the three consecutive centuries in the ODI series.

Smith, though, has indicated in a recent interview that he is in a happy state of mind. From being a "young single man who travelled around the world", he is now a married man with two kids and that has helped him "see the bigger picture". "Perhaps I'm not as single-minded as I was before, but it doesn't mean I want to win any less when I am playing for the Proteas," he said in the interview.

Even though Hudson indicated that there would be quite a few changes in the coming year and there's a strong possibility of De Kock being drafted into the South African Test squad, the one thing going in favour of Smith is his age.

"He is just 32 and we all know that a batsman is at his best when he is in his early 30s...Smith has the wealth of experience and I am sure he is going to be part of the South African team for a while longer," Gibbs said.

Smith, himself, is not too worried about the De Kock comparison. In fact, he prefers being a mentor to De Kock and see him progress. "It has been great to see Quinton take to international cricket the way he has. Sometimes it takes young players a while to settle in at international level but Quinny has really hit his stride quickly," Smith said.

Jennings, meanwhile, feels De Kock isn't close to Smith's class at the moment. "Graeme is far ahead at the moment, I don't see his Test spot being threatened," the coach said. In the course of the next two weeks, Smith and Kallis have to show that the confidence their peers still have in them is not misplaced.

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