Cape Town – They
say risk brings reward … well, Cricket South Africa could be said on Friday to
have taken a particularly high-risk route toward that goal.
That is due
to the confirmation that Enoch Nkwe, reasonably inexperienced coach of the
Highveld Lions and Jozi Stars and presumably riding the wave of higher approval
based largely on his 2018/19 season success at those levels, has assumed the
reins as the Proteas’ interim team director under CSA’s much-debated structural
It means he
will effectively take charge of both head-coaching and manager needs,
specifically for the looming Twenty20 and Test tour of India – a venture that,
to be blunt, brings a high likelihood of a back-foot start to a new regime
amidst a team rocked by recent retirements of seriously heavyweight figures
like Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla and no guarantee others aren’t quite hot on
reaction has been decidedly mixed -- though when isn’t it to such matters in
our often highly complex and still polarised country, and where so many people
have a quick-trigger point of view more inflexible than they may realise?
Soweto-born former first-class cricketer (an all-rounder, which isn’t a bad
start for the coaching side of things) simultaneously becomes, at 36, the youngest
to take charge of the national side -- and now with weightier
responsibilities/powers to his title than any head-coaching predecessors for
some sentiment doing the rounds that he has been catapulted to substantially
loftier levels now as a “one-season wonder” at the domestic tier of the game,
and at a time when it arguably suffers a bigger gap in standards to the
international arena than at any prior juncture in South Africa’s history.
It is an
unsettled environment, marked by the increasingly acrimonious legal tussle
between CSA and the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) over plans to
dismantle the six-team franchise system and return to a broader provincial
format, the glaring lack of sponsorships for the major competitions and the
gradual turning of the landscape into a sad wasteland from a spectator
bleak backdrop – can anyone convincingly argue against that? – Nkwe bravely
takes a large leap forward, also not helped by the air of despondency and
fragility around the Proteas following their limp 2019 World Cup.
off before he even begins would be unreasonable to the point of callousness.
to fill the void after the major clear-out, and given CSA’s deeply precarious
financial situation, maybe it was unrealistic to anticipate that they would
coax a Stephen Fleming or a Steve Waugh type of global icon to the position
Nkwe has assumed (perhaps on a more kindly “rands-based” basis, if you like,
than might have been expected by international candidates).
If it was
always likeliest to be an internal appointment, there is a lobby who would have
favoured for example, either of Ashwell Prince (Cobras) or Mark Boucher
(Titans): they are better established with their franchises, each is six years
older than Nkwe and, something that has long provoked strong views either way
over its relevance, also boast playing experience at the very highest level … significantly
so, of course, in both cases.
of those instead got the nod, the move would have far more greatly paralleled the
trend among the other six major current national Test teams not sporting
vacancies (Pakistan and Bangladesh are presently in that boat) in the chief
Of those half-dozen
incumbents, England’s soon-outgoing Trevor Bayliss is the only one not to have
played international cricket himself, though the 56-year-old was a first-class
campaigner and sports a globetrotting coaching CV stretching back 15 years.
of Gary Stead (New Zealand), Floyd Reifer (West Indies), Justin Langer
(Australia), Ravi Shastri (India) and Sri Lanka’s seemingly precarious Chandika
Hathurusingha have played for their countries.
age between the six is just over 50.
reservations about Nkwe’s promotion, as a conspicuous greenhorn, at this
vulnerable bend in both the Proteas camp’s and CSA’s road: I can’t and won’t
hide that thought.
potential for a problematic cocktail.
that Indian tour looks no less formidable than it did in 2015, and we all know
what happened then -- with a generally more seasoned crop of touring players,
too – and the scars that lingered so tangibly for months, and beyond.
I do sense
another video nasty, especially in the Test portion (SA’s debut in the new ICC
And what if
the Proteas are notably bludgeoned again?
grounds for a swift hierarchical rethink, given that Nkwe, remember, is only
would hardly seem fair; he’d surely warrant longer to establish his template.
or bomb on the Subcontinent, maybe he is going to receive a more permanent vote
of confidence from the shrinking group of major-policy commissars at CSA anyway.
more medium-term future may hold, I am also quite heartily prepared to give
Enoch Thabiso Nkwe his fair chance at the enormously tough gig he has signed up
If a hidden
gem comes to light … wonderful.
team last season played with a pleasing enterprise and spirit, from what I
could gauge in some televised fixtures, and I have heard good things about his
pessimism isn’t always a good, or helpful quality.
admittedly, I may fall prey to some accusation of that very hallmark …
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