VISAKHAPATNAM: The 36-year-old Enoch Nkwe doesn’t know for sure how long he is going to last in his role as team director. It is only an interim title offered to him by Cricket South Africa (CSA). While it is undoubtedly a novel way of working in world cricket, it isn’t surprising why Nkwe is already being spoken about as the man to take up the role on a permanent basis.
Unlike other teams, South Africa have always relied on someone from within their system to coach their national team. Bob Woolmer, Eric Simmons, Mickey Arthur, Corrie van Zyl, Russell Domingo all fit into that category. In between, they flirted with Gary Kirsten, who took them to No 1 in ICC Test rankings. With Ottis Gibson’s reign coming to an end after the World Cup, CSA handed over the job of rebuilding the side to Nkwe.
As a player, Nkwe lasted only seven seasons after which an injury forced him to quit. He took to coaching soon after, around the same time as Pep Guardiola started assembling his dream team in Barcelona. Like the Catalan who started his coaching career with the Barca B team, Nkwe’s entry into the national side was along similar lines. He coached Highveld Lions to the domestic title before guiding Jozi Stars to the summit of the Manzi Super League. In 2015, he coached the South Africa A side briefly, but Nkwe knows this a big step up.
Nkwe is looking at Guardiola as inspiration as he tries to guide the Proteas along a new path. He is already the first black South African to coach the national side and also happens to be the youngest. “He (Guardiola) is a special human being. He has produced special performances and achieved quite a lot. The belief he has in himself and the drive to improve is something that resonates with me. I’ve so much to offer to the game back home. My biggest drive is to make a difference and right now I will try to ensure the team keeps growing and keeps believing in itself and achieves greater heights,” he said.
Guardiola’s footballing theory is well-known. Nkwe has already drawn up a similar style. Faf du Plessis already acknowledged that the arrival of new faces has provided them with fresh ideas, and Nkwe wants to set a philosophy that will dictate where South Africa cricket heads in the immediate future.
“I suppose every coach has a different philosophy, and I want mine to rub off on the team. The key is to be able to control a session for long periods, with bat and also while on the field. But also just to be a lot smarter and be innovative in certain situations. Cricket is about how often you win those key moments. May be in the past, we let ourselves down. We want to ensure we master that.”
Unlike the previous South African sides, the current one has plenty of new faces and the team is gearing up for a major rebuild, something it last did after their exit from the 2003 World Cup. But unlike then, they don’t seem to have the talent which can make this a smooth transition. “My biggest focus is to help the team create a strong foundation. We have to define the character of the team in the next two months. Ultimately it is all about bigger picture,” he added.
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