Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
21 Feb 2017
3:12 pm

How do you coach AB and co? Welcome to Neil McKenzie’s world

Heinz Schenk

The Proteas batting coach admits it's all about communication and respect because, seriously, what exactly can you teach a veteran?

Neil McKenzie believes it helps that he played with some of the men he's coaching now at the Proteas. Photo: Anesh Debiky.

Neil McKenzie can only give a hearty chuckle when he gets asked how it feels to mentor the current Proteas top-order.

South Africa’s batting coach currently has five players who are in the top 10 of the ICC players rankings under his watch.

You could even argue McKenzie, who played 58 Tests for the Proteas, can afford to let them function on autopilot.

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“It’s always nice to work with a lot of quality players,” he said ahead of the second ODI against New Zealand in Christchurch early Wednesday morning.

“I don’t think we’re the only case, you work with great players mostly everywhere.”

Indeed, what exactly is there to still “coach” for a top order that boasts 27 136 limited overs international runs between them?

“It’s all about clicking with each individual, trying to familiarise myself with the player’s own game as quick as I can,” said McKenzie.

“I’m fortunate to have played with or against a few of the older guys (like AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla). That helps me to know what makes them tick too.

“The thing with senior players is that you basically bounce off and share ideas with them. Sometimes, those talks can help in assisting a younger player, like a Quinton de Kock.”

If New Zealand weren’t already wary of the Proteas’ firepower with the bat, they’ll now have to deal with David Miller as well.

The explosive left-hander missed most of the one-day series against Sri Lanka with a finger injury, just after hammering an unbeaten 117 in Durban.

“Dave will be alright. He batted a bit the past few days,” said McKenzie.

“His finger is feeling better with each passing day.”

Miller’s availability is a huge bonus for a side now searching a 13th consecutive win the 50-over format.

That neat record won’t make South Africa complacent because there’s still a long way to go in this five-match series, as well as mid-year’s Champions Trophy in England.

“We have a certain game plan that we want to achieve, and the 12 wins in a row have shown that what we have been doing over the last year has worked,” said McKenzie.

“The numbers are a nice goal to have at the back of the head, the assurance that something we have done is working, that the game plans are working, so we must keep going with that.”

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