Although it means he has been working with less than a third of the players who will be touring India, interim team director Enoch Nkwe said he is happy so many of the Proteas squad have been scattered around the world and not sitting at home ahead of his daunting first assignment in the sub-continent.
Nkwe’s senior international coaching career might be just at its beginning, but many of the players have worked with him before, either with Gauteng sides or the national age-group teams, so he believes this transitional period in terms of Proteas management will be comfortably handled. Only seven of the 25 players named for the T20s and Tests in India have been working with Nkwe in Johannesburg this week, with many of the other players in the SA A side currently in India or playing county cricket in England.
“Nothing beats game-time and for the guys to be playing good cricket overseas goes a long way. They would just be practising over here, and the best practice you can have is out in the middle. County cricket does stretch their overseas players, so that is the best preparation for them. They’re getting a lot of red-ball cricket and someone like Keshav Maharaj is playing a lot of four-day cricket.
“We still have two weeks to acclimatise in India before the first Test, so I’m comfortable and very confident in our preparation. I’ve had good chats with Faf du Plessis in the last two weeks and I’ve touched base with a lot of the players, having great, honest chats, and this journey looks exciting. There’s a good energy and a lot of positivity in the squad, although the guys are hurting and want to turn things around,” Nkwe said.
The 36-year-old said that aggressive play is his preferred brand of cricket, but the Proteas needed to have the right players for that style of play.
“As people, South Africans are quite aggressive on the battlefield so we want to adopt that and play aggressive, attacking cricket. But you need to find the right players for that brand of cricket and it’s not just about having the skills for it, but also the mental and emotional strength for it. Players need to have the right character to be successful for the Proteas.
“We need to trust that approach and commit to it 100% over a period of time. We can’t just speak about it, we have to implement it, and my job is to make sure the players are in the best frame of mind to play that way. What’s most important is clarity of approach and backing that 100%, so we don’t find ourselves in a confused space. It’s important too for the players to understand their own games,” Nkwe said.