Cape Town - In an exclusive
interview, former Proteas coach RAY
JENNINGS talks about the importance of managing Kagiso Rabada’s workload,
the state of domestic cricket and being shown the door by CSA.
Sport24 asked: What’s your assessment
of the Proteas under the stewardship of Russell Domingo?
Ray Jennings: The Proteas
are in a re-building phase and they still seem to be finding out the correct
team combination. Domingo’s results aren’t as good as they were before, but the
Proteas are a team in transition. In any high-powered international job, the
system expects a return in terms of results. I believe you can’t judge Domingo
in his sixth year as you did in his first year. Domingo finds himself in a
country where fan and media expectation is high because the Proteas have been
at the top of the tree in the past. You suddenly lose a few games and slip down
the rankings and find yourself under pressure as a coach. There is no doubt that
South Africa’s bowling unit is not as good as it once was and the national side
is clearly being hurt by a genuine lack of quality all-rounders. In my book,
all-rounders add the finishing touches to a well-balanced team. With the
retirement of Jacques Kallis, Cricket South Africa failed to address the
problem early enough. We didn’t try Albie Morkel a few years ago as an all-rounder
and Ryan McLaren was tried and subsequently dumped. We have talented players
coming through the system, but we must understand that they need time to grow
as individuals. If you throw players by the wayside after a few performances,
when they were getting better, and keep saying it’s a young side, you will go
in circles and find that you are back to square one over a period of time. I
don’t know if SA cricket is at a stage where we can identify the right player
and push him. We have seen glimpses of all-rounders coming through, but where
do they go? Kagiso Rabada, for example,
has shown signs that he can be an all-rounder, but have we done that?
Sport24 asked: What’s your take on Rabada’s rise and how
do we optimally manage his workload?
Ray Jennings: Kagiso is
very special human being and is an organised young man, with the mind of a 30-year-old.
The way he thinks in comparison to his age underlines that he will be a real
success. However, his workload going forward is a worry. Any fast bowler in the
world at Rabada’s age – 21 – has found it difficult to stay as the leading man
in the system. For instance, young Australian bowlers have come and gone. The
only way to manage Rabada, who is a diamond that has burst onto the scene, is to
get one or two bowlers around him that can actually support him. At present, I
don’t see that happening because Dale Steyn has really been put on the
side-lines and Morné Morkel most probably feels unsure of the role that he is
playing in the system. In the last year, Rabada has been the key bowler all the
time. That not only nails you physically. It’s the mental fatigue which is also taxing,
because he knows that he is accountable to move the game forward. When you keep
leaning on one player, it’s only a matter of time before he picks up an injury
and falls back in terms of form.
Sport24 asked: How would you assess the standard of
domestic competition within South Africa?
Ray Jennings: The
franchise system is not as strong as it should be. I don’t know if it will
improve by adding two new franchises. However, what it will do is expose more
players to system and afford them the opportunity to hone their craft. Aiden
Markram was the leading runs-scorer at the 2014 under-19 Cricket World Cup and
Corbin Bosch is a potential future all-rounder for South Africa, but only the
former is playing franchise cricket. By introducing more franchises it
potentially gives these players an opportunity, but if the system doesn’t allow
for that then my point gets blown out of the water. You need to expose the pot
of players to see if they are good enough to move forward. How do you get the
franchise system stronger? I believe the people that are running it have to
improve the intensity of the game and training. And, if you are getting paid by
an employee and are not putting your life on the line, you should get fired.
How many guys in the franchise system are being challenged? When I have
selected or signed players, hard work comes first and talent second. A person
with a good work ethic and an understanding of who he is will utilise his
talent plus more. Do we have the coaches and is the franchise system at a level
that it should be at? I don’t believe so. The work ethic, the fitness,
understanding and leadership needs to be passed on for players to grow. When
you get rejected in life you have two choices: give up or work harder. Growth
only happens when you walk the tight-rope and fall off. We need more players
who last for 10 years in the system.
Sport24 asked: Barely two months after you guided the
South African under-19 team to World Cup success in 2014, you were replaced by Lawrence
Mahatlane as head coach. Your thoughts now?
Ray Jennings: The people who
made that decision did so for their specific reasons. Cricket administration
goes through phases and the door might be closed now, but in two years’ time if
a person with a certain type of intelligence says: “I want to open the door to
that particular person”, the situation can change. It’s the same concept when
one door closes for a player and another opens. The people who made the
decision to dispense of my services might have thought they were closing the
door on me. However, on the contrary, they actually opened it for me because if
I trust my skills I can do anything I want. How many people really know who I
am, what I’m about and how good I am? And, as a coach, should you be liked? If
you are getting positive results, you must surely be doing something right. I
can reveal that one or two international sides have spoken to me, but the
academy I’m running at the moment is very different and rewarding, because I’m
having a positive impact on a five-year-old that is interested in cricket. You
don’t only have to be happy dealing with a Jacques Kallis all the time. If you
have that brain and want that fame then you will have a problem coaching a
five-year-old. The coaching you do changes according to who you are and what
Sport24 asked: At the top echelon of the game, is it
more about man-management than coaching?
Ray Jennings: I believe it’s
both. In terms of man-management you need to set up a value system so that
players are able to understand what they do. If they are happy with their roles
within the team they are going to give you more care, energy and are not going
to disrupt the flow of the side. And from a coaching point of view, you need to
be organised because you could be in a situation where you have to say to Kallis you are not
playing as well as you should because your top hand isn’t working properly.
Man-management and coaching are inter-linked. In terms of Steyn not going to
the West Indies, did he understand that decision? He was supposedly going to
rest and suddenly he’s going to play county cricket in England. In terms of
management, what does that tell Steyn? Was he compatible with that decision?
And if the happiness is not there, then the money in the IPL or the UK becomes
an option. In a general sense, players also have to be open and honest and say:
“At this stage of my life money is more important,” and administrators have to get
players to buy into a value system. And, like in business, if they are not
happy with it they will move on. Is Steyn moving forward in his life in South
African cricket? If the answer is no, then have we lost him too early? And why
could we lose AB de Villiers? It won’t be about the money, but a sense of unhappiness
within an environment. Commitment and loyalty cannot be bought and players need
to be managed correctly.
Jean de Villiers
Ali BacherFelipe Contepomi