Not talking to the media is another hobby of Lance Klusener, although when he breaks his silence, he does so with quiet intelligence and impressive clarity of thought, like he did when he was reached by Dhaka Tribune
Former South African cricketer Lance Klusener, fondly referred to as Zulu, is one of the finest bowling all-rounders the world has ever witnessed. As opposed to his reputation as an unrefined slogger, set in stone at the 1999 World Cup in the UK, Klusener, now a coach in charge of Afghanistan, was one of the most skillful players back in the days. While his heavy bat had sent the ball all around the park, his wily medium pace cutters was something many batsmen found hard to negotiate. Not talking to the media is another hobby of his, although when he breaks his silence, he does so with quiet intelligence and impressive clarity of thought, like he did when he was reached by Dhaka Tribune. The excerpts below is an effort to present his thoughts as a coach, his relation with Bangladesh cricket and if the 1999 World Cup still haunts him.
Bangladesh were still struggling in the international arena when you retired. How do you see the progress in the Bangladesh team with regards to where they are now?
Bangladesh as a cricketing nation have come in leaps and bounds. When I played Bangladesh were emerging into an international team, maybe like what Afghanistan are doing at the moment. To see how far they have gone, the big teams they have upset and the players they have produced, they have produced number of players in the world in various departments – Mustafizur [Rahman] for example is there, and Shakib [al Hasan] is there as well, to name a few. Wonderful players are there that they produced along the way. I guess the same as any emerging sub-continent side like Bangladesh, Afghanistan for example, the challenge is that they are not used to real fast bowling – that’s always going to be a challenge for them, especially travelling and playing abroad. They have done considerably well and it’s a work in progress. There are a lot of teams out there and hopefully see teams like Bangladesh, Afghanistan making improvements where we can see them competing regularly with teams just ahead of them – South Africa, Sri Lanka, the West Indies. It is an exciting time for Bangladesh, got a lovely coach as well in Russell Domingo. He did an outstanding job for South Africa and Bangladesh definitely got the right man for the job as well.
You worked in the Bangladesh Premier League Twenty20 for Rajshahi Kings in the 2018 season. Could you please take us through the experience you had working in Bangladesh?
Thoroughly enjoyed my time in Bangladesh, especially with Rajshahi. First of all, it is a hospitable, friendly nation of people. I always enjoy my trips there, the cricket as well, the supporters, of course. The people are passionate and the stadiums are full. Had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people, owners in Rajshahi who were extremely good to me. To be retained is a privilege for me and hopefully I can come back there soon again. Certainly looking forward to the Bangladesh experience, not looking forward to sitting in the traffic and spending hours in the bus but that’s a small price to pay for the wonderful people I have met and make close friends. So, enjoyed my time, however, cricket is about performance and if I come over there for next BPL, winning the competition will be first priority.
You are considered as one of the finest pace bowling all-rounders in world cricket. What should young fast bowling all-rounders work on, to grow and contribute in both batting and bowling departments?
Young all-rounders, certainly from fast bowling point of view, I was saying the same to someone else about, South Africa for example have Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, and all-rounders from the past like Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock, those kind of guys. For me the biggest difference is not the batting ability of our current all-rounders, its the fact that they are bowling 125kilometers/per hour. All-rounders in the past from South African point of view, they bowled 145, that for me is a big difference. That elevates you as a fast bowling all-rounder to be able to bowl that consistently around 140kmph. I guess that’s the challenge to become a world class all-rounder like a guy like Ben Stokes. He can do that, he can bowl 140kmph and a fine batsman. But they are for me the slight difference, something that young all-rounders may need to focus making sure that they are not just bowling medium pace. It’s the pace that you need right up to be considered as a fast bowler as well as a handy batsman.
Have you noticed any of the Bangladeshi all-rounders who you think can improve more in the coming days?
I think Bangladesh always had all-rounders in their team. There are a lot of spinning all-rounders not just in Bangladesh but in the sub-continent as a whole. The big difference is that those fast bowling all-rounders, Bangladesh has got those guys that can bat and bowl medium pace but if you can strengthen them up and get them bowl at 140kmph that elevates them certainly to a top level.
Does the 1999 semi-final still haunt you?
No regrets and no nightmares about the 1999 World Cup. Of course we would have liked to won that game and gone through. Just a general South African point of view, during the 1999 World Cup we were always under pressure with the bat. We never scored enough runs consistently and the top six never really performed consistently enough. We just kept leaving ourselves towards the end in too many games and too much reliance on Nos eight nine, 10 and 11 to get us through the line. You can get away once or twice but you can’t leave too much for your No eight and downwards. Our batting department never really performed as a unit. It was the toughest of time and yes, we got caught and that was really the bottom line of that. I have no regrets as I was in the form of my life and played really well. But cricket is not about individual as it’s a team game and sometimes you need to get that help in the batting and bowling unit to get yourself across the line.
Do you think that South Africa had the best chance to win the World Cup in 1999 compared to the other World Cups they have played till date?
I think the beauty of South African cricket is that they had the opportunity to win every ICC event that they took part in and that’s a good sign. We had a great chance in the 1999 World Cup and least to say, what would happen in the final. South Africa always had a chance to win an ICC event and I am sure it’s a matter of time we get across the line. We had our chances in the past and maybe it’s a matter of time to put your nose off the line.
Do you agree with the term “chokers” tagged with the South African cricket team?
Yes, chokers has been tagged with South Africa but you know if you look at world cricket teams choke all the time. You can say any team which lose a game didn’t really choke and there have been tight games where Australia also choked. You know that seems to be associated with South Africa and we have to live with that. As a team I think we have to deal with that and get over the line and win a World Cup or whatever it is and finally shake that off. It’s a nasty word, however, it does say that South Africa have put themselves in to contention to win big tournaments hence, I guess the significance of the word chokers, which counts a lot to their performance in big competitions. I think the last World Cup South Africa were extremely poor. So that’s a good thing and I think we can use that as a positive. Yes, we have choked and couldn’t get over the line and we have choked in big games which counted a lot.
You have been appointed as the new team director of Bangla Tigers, a franchise of Abu Dhabi T10 cricket tournament. Tell us about this new assignment…
Looking forward to the T10 for Bangla Tigers and looking forward to teeth in as it’s something different as well. I think there is a future in that and I think there is more of a future in that in the way the world finds itself these days as you know coronavirus looking to shorten contact with other people. So I think we might see a little bit more T10s as the strengths of those tournaments are really picking up. I thoroughly enjoyed the last T10 that I watched over there and I think there is much of tactics are important to balancing your side for a T10 competition. So, I think that will be a challenge before the draft. You know I am looking forward to work with Bangla Tigers as Lance Klusener is there to win the competition and not just to compete.
Not an ideal situation surely at the moment for everyone around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic but I must ask how’s life going for you at the moment?
It has been ideal situation. Obviously a lot of people around the world are battling due to the coronavirus. From personal point of view, I have been spending some quality time back in South Africa, although we have been under lockdown as well. We have not been able to do too much. It has been difficult and I am hopefully looking to the future and hope by the year end we can get back to getting on the park. I am sure the things will look a bit different but looking forward to that.