FORMER Proteas all-rounder Lance Klusener is thrilled about the chance to work with Makhaya Ntini as assistant coach of the Zimbabwean national cricket team. BY SIBUSISO MJIKELISO
Klusener was unceremoniously shown the door by the Dolphins in February after four years in charge of the KwaZulu-Natal franchise in which he guided them to a Ram Slam Twenty20 title.
When approached by Zimbabwe Cricket to recommend someone to team up with in the job, Ntini did not hesitate naming his former Proteas teammate Klusener, with whom he was close during their playing days.
The “Mdingi Express” was last week named Zimbabwe’s interim head coach after Dav Whatmore was sacked.
“I’m excited to work with Makhaya,” said Klusener. “He’s really energetic, he knows his work and he’s achieved at the very highest level of the game.
“It’s nice for me to get the chance to work with someone who is as experienced as he is. It will be about helping each other out as we go.
“I was coach at the Dolphins for four years, so I can bring that experience to help Makhaya and he can top me up where I need it, too.”
The number of young coaches of Klusener’s and Ntini’s playing generation have mushroomed on the domestic coaching scene, with Paul Adams and Nicky Bojé coaching the Cape Cobras and Knights, respectively.
Geoffrey Toyana, whose playing career was limited to first-class level, has done wonders at the Highveld Lions.
After retirement, Ntini did not get the opportunity to lead a domestic side like some of his peers, but when the chance came to go across the border, he wolfed up the offer.
He became the first black South African to coach a Test-playing nation.
Klusener expressed his admiration for Ntini’s bold decision.
“It’s nice to see a guy like Makhaya getting into coaching. He can add a helluva lot. He hasn’t had the opportunity of working in SA, but I see him coming back to work at home once he’s gained that experience of working with an international team.
“It’s the break he’s needed to establish himself as a coach. Unfortunately, there’s not always enough space in SA, which has only six franchise teams, so sometimes the opportunities will come from abroad.”
Zimbabwe, who have tailed off in recent times, were knocked out of the ICC World Twenty20 by Afghanistan in February. Klusener believes there is enough potential in the team to raise their international profile.
“Zimbabwean cricket wants to make changes and they believe that they can be a lot better ranked in the world,” said the coach. “Ideally they’d like to be ranked in the top 10 in the world of all competi-tions and formats. I certainly think that’s possible. We are going to have a buy-in from the players, a mind-set change and move away from being a team that’s just happy to compete.
“But it is going to be a challenge, as much off the field as it will on it. It … can happen over time. I’ve played at that level and I know the challenges and the preparation that needs to be done to be able to achieve at that level.”