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Cape Town – In an exclusive interview, ex-Protea
JACQUES RUDOLPHtalks about “CSA
needing to take full responsibility” for the current state of play, the best
bowler he faced and braaiing for Rory McIlroy.
Sport24 asked: What is your assessment of the state of South African
Jacques Rudolph:Obviously the state of our game is not great and fundamentally
there are aspects that are worrisome considering the way the Proteas have
played over the last one-and-a-half seasons. South Africa’s showing at the 2019
World Cup coupled with their performances against India is cause for concern. I
genuinely feel gutted for the Proteas players at the moment, however, a fish
rots from the head. Cricket South Africa (CSA) should take full responsibility
for where we are now at as a cricketing nation. Structurally there are things
which need looking at and, along with massive financial challenges, it makes it
difficult as a collective to do well. I believe that when you have strong
leadership at the top it filters right down through your national team and all
the way to your franchise level. I’ll be honest in saying that I don’t watch
much franchise cricket but there is strong word on the street that the level
has dropped as has crowd attendance. Strong leadership along with the right
people in the right places with no hidden agendas is required. I think it’s
going to take a long time to turn this ship around. To offer an analogy it’s
like building a house on sand and if the foundations are not in place you are
going to incur some problems down the line. It’s easy to blame players when the
team isn’t doing well but collectively CSA need to arrive at a place where
everyone is aligned with the same vision. From a leadership perspective with
our rugby team, it seems everyone’s vision is aligned and Rassie Erasmus is able
to get on with his job sans side issues.
Sport24 asked: Would Graeme Smith have been an ideal director of cricket?
Jacques Rudolph:Had Graeme been appointed as director of SA
cricket it would have been a huge step in the right direction. I am fortunate
to have known Graeme for a very long time since primary school. I have played
with and under him and he is probably the strongest leader we have had within
South African cricket if not the strongest. He is a respected leader, who
understands the nuances of South African cricket and politics. With the correct
motives and by employing the right people in the right positions, Graeme could
potentially have been the guy to turn our cricket around. When Graeme withdrew
his candidacy he said:“Despite
my obvious desire to make a difference, I have not developed the necessary
confidence that I would be given the level of freedom and support to initiate
the required changes.”If he doesn’t have confidence in being allowed to
implement the necessary changes then it must mean that there were certain
assurances that he would not have been able to get from the men in suits at CSA.
I think it’s a big blow for us because Graeme would have liked to have come in,
changed things around and got the right structures and fundamentals in place. If
you read between the lines from his social media statement you can see it’s a
Sport24 asked: Who would you like to see coaching the Proteas?
Jacques Rudolph:I know there is always politics involved in sport
because I have been on that side of the fence before but you have people like
Ashwell Prince, Mark Boucher and Robin Peterson in your system. They have been
around the block, have played international cricket and the big thing is that
they are respected. I feel sorry for Enoch Nkwe because to be fair to him he is
an inexperienced coach. I know him very well. He is a lovely guy and was a good
cricketer at franchise level. He has had one good season with the Lions as head
coach, gets thrown into the deep end and then taken to India and the Proteas
get obliterated. The problem is that we have now taken a potential coach, who
could have been great for South Africa for the next to three years, and made it
far more difficult for him. Whereas if we had someone like Boucher, who has had
plenty of success with the Titans, it just gives a different flavour. If we
look at the Australian team, for instance, they brought in Justin Langer who
was a very good coach for Western Australia. They also introduced Ricky
Ponting, Brad Haddin and Steve Waugh. They haven’t necessarily ticked all the
boxes when it comes to coaching badges but when they speak the players listen. If
Smith was appointed director of cricket and one of Boucher, Peterson or Prince
were appointed head coach, for me, everyone would become aligned.
Sport24 asked: Your outlook ahead of meeting England in January?
Jacques Rudolph:From a positive perspective, we still have very
good cricketers. I know we have lost the likes of AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn
and Hashim Amla but there are still players like Faf du Plessis, Quinton de
Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Keshav Maharaj who have done really
well. I’m also a big fan of Temba Bavuma. I think the 29-year-old can turn into
a very good Test player… Looking back at the 2019 World Cup, the Proteas had
two people in leadership positions who are fairly laidback characters. Ottis
Gibson is a lovely guy but it seems his leadership style is a little more
relaxed. In turn, Faf is an equally relaxed type of guy and deals with pressure
pretty well. However, I believe there needs to be a synergy between coach and captain.
For example, when I was playing for the Proteas we had Graeme Smith, who is a
fiery individual and Gary Kirsten, who is a more laidback character. The
synergy between captain and coach needs to drive the team morale and culture.
The Du Plessis-Nkwe partnership is a very new relationship and they will need
to establish it from an early stage. It also needs to be driven by the more
senior campaigners… In terms of team selection for the upcoming series, for
me, it goes without saying that Dean Elgar should open for the Proteas in the
Test arena. He has been a rock for South Africa in the five-day format over the
last couple of years and I wouldn’t mess around there. I still believe there is
a very big future ahead of Aiden Markram. I think he could become our next AB
de Villiers. The former plays quite an attacking game. I think it’s fair to say
that in white-ball cricket he’s still working out what his game plan looks like
but he’s still quite young. If you look at a player like David Warner, he has the
ability to take the game away from you and when Markram is on song, he will actually
win you Tests.
Sport24 asked: What are your memories of playing for the Proteas?
Jacques Rudolph:My most memorable moment was when we toured England
in 2012 and became the number one team in the world. It was the perfect
culmination of good leadership and a well-honed squad over a long period of
time. As a group, we did all the right things and the culture was spot-on. We
had a very respectable coach and captain in Gary Kirsten and Graeme Smith and I
thoroughly enjoyed being part of that set-up. I had great experiences playing
for South Africa but
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