Former Proteas pace bowler Andre Nel is the new coach of the Easterns team and says you’re not nearly as likely to hear him roaring from off the field as you were likely to hear him on the field during his playing days.
“It’s hard not being as fiery, but my job is to understand and manage the players, look after them well and get the best out of them. I’m pretty laid back, but discipline, respect and never giving up are things I won’t compromise on. I want them to be fiery,” Nel says.
The 37-year-old, who played 36 Tests and 79 ODIs for South Africa, has been coaching at school and academy level and sees the Easterns appointment as his breakthrough first job at senior level.
“When you’ve played with that much passion, it’s hard to just take yourself out of competition. For me it was more about passion than aggression and so once I stopped playing I started coaching at schools and the academy. My biggest advantage is that I know and understand how the players think and what their needs are. And they respect me too because they know I’ve done it myself, I know how cricket works,” Nel says.
Nel said his long-time mentor, Ray Jennings, would be helping him at Easterns, especially in terms of setting up structures and improving the discipline.
“The big thing at Easterns is that there’s no special schools identified, we need to pick three or four feeders and try and develop those. Plus we need tertiary institutions to keep players in the system and create an academy that works.
“It will take time, but it’s a lot more than just coaching, we’ve got to get the structures right. We’ve also already spoken about club facilities, which are poor and don’t give players the best opportunity to show what they can do. And we need to make Willowmoore Park somewhere where we can proud of too. Others hate coming there, but we must be proud of our office,” Nel says.
And, in terms of on-the-field action and his own area of expertise – bowling, Nel says for him the yorker is a much under-utilised skill.
“Batting skill has moved so far forward with guys playing reverse-sweeps and laps, but bowling skill seems to be standing still. The slower-ball bouncer and slower yorker are both old news and we need to try and figure out what we can do to bring a different dimension to bowling.
“We need to be able to nail the yorker, but nobody in South Africa seems able to bowl it on demand. We’re a bit predictable; yes, the yorker is hard to bowl, but it’s a dying art.
“The laws are all conducive to batting, so maybe in the powerplay the bowlers should be able to choose whether they want to bowl with a new or an old ball … ” Nel says.