Mon. May 20th, 2019

Exclusive interview: Andre Nel talks send-offs, English weather and coaching a knight.

Andre Nel Exclusive interviewAndre Nel is a man who is as passionate about coaching as he was about fast bowling.

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Former Proteas fast bowler Andre Nel recently took up an assistant coach position at Essex and agreed to speak to us about his coaching career, life after cricket and a range of other subjects.

Nel has not been in England long but the autumn weather has left him longing for sunny South Africa and a braai.

“Fortunately I haven’t been here for too long but the braais you miss a lot, it is pretty obvious you always miss a braai, Nel told the South African in an exclusive interview.

“The sun is out and it always looks nice here but it is still cold. We have got a beautiful country and we will always miss our country. In South Africa you’ve got so many things to do and that you really miss.

“So it is a tough decision to be here but at the end of the day this was an opportunity that I didn’t have in South Africa.

“When this opportunity came up I was very grateful to be involved in cricket again and coaching you know I am very passionate about coaching specifically bowling so it is a great opportunity to learn and grow and possibly use these lessons to help South African cricket”

Nel used to try and intimidate batsmen with short-pitched deliveries and his trademark snarl, but admitted that the presence of England legend, Sir Alastair Cook, in the Essex dressing room left him somewhat in awe initially.

“It is strange, it is slightly intimidating walking into a change room and there’s Alastair Cook and you’ve got to tell him what to do now, or assist telling him what to do, so yes it is slightly strange but he’s a very nice guy, ” Nel remarked.

We take the mickey out of him about the knighthood but it is an honour and a privilege for players to play with him and for me also to tap into his knowledge and learn more about the game and pick up some tips and advice to give players in the future.”

Nel feels that when the Proteas make their bid to become 2019 World Cup winners the ability of the bowlers to find the right length will be a massive factor.

The former quick revealed that the white ball hasn’t swung much in pre-season, but the World Cup will take place at the height of summer and some lateral movement is expected.

He said: “It is going to be interesting, the conditions that time of the season should be quite nice, they won’t be as tricky as they would be at the beginning of April and early May in England.

“The conditions should be good so the length should be slightly fuller. We have done a lot of practice sessions with white balls the last couple of weeks and the ball has not swung as much as we expected it to, so a lot depends on whether there will be swing at that time of the year that could assist our bowlers.

“The length you have to bowl is slightly fuller but not driveable, a similar length to what you would bowl on a good Wanderer’s wicket, where it is fuller but the extra bounce makes it a good length. Also here in England if you dig it in back of a length it often holds up and asks to be hit. Kissing the deck a little bit fuller could be the key for the English and South African bowlers in the World Cup.

“They have a few guys who have been there before in Dale Steyn and even Kagiso Rabada. Steyn can mentor the young quicks like Ngidi, they have done really well and I think they will adjust well to the English conditions. We just hope they can figure out the length quicker than the other sides.”

Rabada has found himself on the wrong side of ICC officials for a few of his more exuberant send-offs something Nel was quite fond of and doesn’t regret.

The veteran of 36 Tests and and 79 ODIS feels that if he played today he might find himself suspended more often than not.

Nel feels that every bowler should celebrate every wicket like it was their last.

He added: “Time’s have changed a lot. I don’t think I’d play a lot of cricket these days but I live by the philosophy that any game could be your last and any wicket could be your last so why not celebrate it. I was very privileged to play for my country at the highest level so any wicket I took I enjoyed whether it was for franchise or country. I always celebrated every wicket like it was my last.”

Nel used to ascribe his more wild side to his alter ego, Gunther a guy who “lives in the mountains and doesn’t get enough oxygen to the brain and that makes him crazy.

As to where Gunther is today, Nel says he still comes out but only in the middle of the triathlons he competes in these days.

When asked where Gunther was Nel said: “I think he is long gone. I think he sometimes comes out when I do triathlons, sometimes. I do a lot of triathlon’s these days. I have done about five full Ironmen and eight half Ironmen, so sometimes when my body is in pain I use Gunther to comes out again but otherwise he is long gone.”

As for the abbreviated ten-team format the World Cup has reverted to for the first time since 1992, Nel feels that it will be good for the global showpiece to be a contest of ‘strength vs strength’.

When asked if he though a ten-team World Cup would help to grow the game, Nel said: “I think it is good, you know sometimes you want the World Cup to be so long that it is dragged out and you get some dead rubbers so I think yes ten at the moment is good.

“I think there could be a minor teams Cup or an ODI league with promotion and relegation which is set to be put in place. So they have got things going to grow the game but ten teams for now is a good strength against strength contest. Guys pay a lot of money for World Cup tickets and sometimes it is not the best cricket playing against the weaker sides.”

When it comes to the Proteas chances Nel feels that consistency will be the key.

The ten-team World Cup has an open pool stage meaning teams will have to perform at their best across nine matches to make it to the knockout stages.

Nel said: “They [the Proteas] have just got to go and do the simple basic things right, you know, any World Cup you need to have a bit of luck on your side but you also need to play consistently good cricket.

“In 2007 we didn’t really play good cricket, we had a must win game against England to make it through to the semi-finals in Barbados but we didn’t play consistently good cricket.

“The Proteas will need the senior players to stand up and perform and also the youngsters to chip in and not just rely on three or four players to get you through the tournament.

“I have the feeling it is going to be a very open World Cup, there are a lot of good sides and a lot of great match winners. The guys who play that consistently good cricket as a unit will get close to winning a World Cup.”

The overall future of South African cricket could be given a boost if the game accelerated the process of professionalization. It is in this area that Nel feels that England and Australia gain an advantage over South Africa.

Asked if there was anything South African cricket could learn from the county cricket set up, Nel said: “I think they are just a little bit more professional, they have a lot more staff that assist them, the hours they train are a little bit longer.

“In the little bit of time that I’ve been here it seems a lot more professional than South African franchises, I’m not saying that the South African franchises are not professional but they aren’t as professional as they could be, they could be more efficient.”

“They have got a scouting system that is a lot better than what we do, sometimes our young cricketers slip away because they are not looked after properly. They have this scouting system where they go out and identify talent and look after them. Sometimes we don’t do that as good as we could [in South Africa].

“I’m not trying to say South Africa is bad, it is a really good country for cricket but there are small things we can do to make ourselves even better as a cricket playing nation.

“We are on the right track and we have got a lot of things right but we could possibly learn from them [England] to be slightly smarter in the way we do things. We’ve often been trying to play catch-up with the Australians or the English because they have been doing this for so much longer and I think they use their pool of players a lot better than we have done.

“We are a really good country with really good players we can just be slightly smarter in the way that we do things sometimes.”

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