Proteas / 10 December 2019, 12:00pm / zaahier adams
There’s a song in the famed musical The Sound of Music that goes something like this “let’s start at the very beginning.”
And that’s exactly where I am going to start.
I did not believe Enoch Nkwe was the “right” appointment to succeed Ottis Gibson. Nkwe had done exceptionally well with the Highveld Lions and Jozi Stars to win the respective Four-Day Franchise Series title, T20 Challenge and Mzansi Super League.
But to accelerate his natural coaching progression I felt was a bit hasty and to a large degree irresponsible by the people in charge at Cricket South Africa.
We now know that those same people made quite a few irresponsible decisions while at the helm.
I believed a better choice would have been Cape Town Cobras and Cape Town Blitz coach Ashwell Prince. I felt that despite Prince having yet to win a major trophy he would have had the automatic respect of the Proteas dressing-room due to his 66 Test caps for SA.
Captain Faf du Plessis has desperately been calling for former players with Test experience to be around the Proteas set-up, and Prince would have been a perfect fit.
Equally, Prince’s record in terms of producing young players to represent the Proteas has been second to none with Janneman Malan making his T20 debut earlier this year, while Zubayr Hamza and George Linde played their first Tests in 2019. Anrich Nortje also earned his national call-up in all three formats on the basis of his form for the Blitz. But this column is not about Prince. It is about Nkwe and whether he actually needs a “mentor” in the form of Gary Kirsten.
Nkwe may be inexperienced, but he is an astute strategist and by all accounts is a very organised coach who is adept at putting solid structures in place.
I wonder if Nkwe was even approached about the idea of needing a mentor. I don’t think he would have been pleased. He will already have a director of cricket to report to, and no coach wants too many people looking over his shoulder.
There’s no doubt Kirsten still has a role to play in SA cricket. And he is currently doing one with the Durban Heat. But the mentorship to Nkwe is not what the national coach needs right now.
He needs quality support staff around him. Vincent Barnes was only an interim bowling coach appointment and that needs to be sorted out as soon as possible.
If CSA don’t have the money to prize away Charl Langeveldt from Bangladesh, then another good option would be Alfonso Thomas. The former Titans seam bowler has done excellent work with Hampshire in the county championship and would be an option to explore.
A spin coach is also required and CSA need to get Imran Tahir involved in the coaching set-up sooner rather than later.
The batting coach has to be a heavy-hitter. Whether someone like Hashim Amla is interested in such a full-time post is open for debate, but Jacques Kallis could be another option. I am a big fan of Neil McKenzie too and could easily see “Macca” settling back into his Proteas tracksuit.
Previous SA coaches have had mentors. When Mickey Arthur was appointed with nothing to show for in terms of domestic silverware, he was handed Francois Hugo - an executive life coach.
Arthur had a good working relationship with Hugo until Jeremy Snape was brought in by Graeme Smith.
The success the Proteas enjoyed during the Arthur-Hugo reign was due to the fact Hugo had nothing to do with the “cricket side” of things. He was merely to there to guide Arthur through the pressures of coaching an international cricket team.
Likewise Nkwe does not require someone like Kirsten - a former coach. He needs someone who he has had a relationship with before and more importantly, someone he trusts wholeheartedly.