David Knowles

2012-07-28 00:00

IMPOSING, confident, aggressive. These words describe Lance Klusener when, as a respected cricketer at provincial and international level, he took to the field to bat, bowl or chase the ball. In all aspects of the game, he played hard, never admitting defeat and fighting to the bitter end.

As newly appointed coach of the Dolphins, these are the qualities he wants to instill in the players, toughening them up to strike fear into the opposition.

“I want to make the Dolphins a horrible team. The players must fight up, be competitive and respected. The Dolphins must not simply been seen as another team where easy points are gained. Other teams must see us an ‘in your face’, we mean business outfit, proud of who we are and what we represent,” Klusener told Weekend Witness.

Klusener has a two-year contract and in that time he believes he has the talent and the players to bring some long-lost silverware to Kingsmead.

“It’s a process and my biggest challenge is to get the passion and belief I have in Dolphins cricket across to the players. We need to build a culture, a pride, a passion and feel we want to and can win.

“We must set goals and take steps towards them. The Dolphins have been too ‘nice’ in recent seasons and players need to get out their comfort zone and be invested in success and achievement,” he said.

With dust gathering for many seasons on a bare trophy shelf, Klusener’s key to success this season is to get a good start in the various competitions and be smart in approach.

“Obviously, before the season begins, we are looking at all formats of the game — SuperSport Series four-day games, 50 overs and T20 — and rating our chances. We kick off with a bunch of SuperSport matches and believe me, these are tough encounters. We need to start well, hold steady and finish strongly, identifying key sessions along the way. My goal is to rejuvenate a winning feeling through profound belief, thereby creating a team that wins and is able to bounce back when things go wrong,” he said. Although not officially announced, it’s virtually a given that keeper Daryn Smit will take over the captaincy this season, directing affairs from behind the stumps. Imraan Khan has stepped down from the role, something Klusener believes will benefit his game and contribution to the side.

“He’s a great servant of Dolphins cricket and we have chatted on a way forward this season. He’s great in the four-day game, but admits he needs work in the quicker, shorter formats of the game. I have told him I wish to make better use of him as a bowler this season, developing him into a vital cog in the team. Freeing him of the captaincy allows him to focus on these aspects.”

On paper, Klusener is satisfied with the players at his disposal this season. He welcomes new signings Jonathan Vandiar, Lenwabo Tsotsobe and Craig Alexander, while needing the more established players to stand up and be counted.

“We need some bowling firepower and Vandiar’s return gives us a solid middle order with himself, Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Dave Miller. While Tsotsobe’s appearances will be limited due to international duty, his presence will undoubtedly spur on the likes of Saidi Mhlongo and Mthokozisi Shezi. I want players to challenge for their place in the side, constantly proving their worth.”

On the spinning front, Klusener was quietly confident. “We have lost Imran Tahir, but have some strong youngsters coming through. Besides Khan, there is Keshav Maharaj, leg spinner Abdul Razak and Prenelan Subrayen. They can all take wickets and, most importantly, tie up an end. In most instances, they will be used to restrict scoring, but will have a clear gameplan, knowing what is expected of them.”

As a cricketer who has played at the highest level, Klusener is equipped to advise his players on how to play at altitude and on different wickets. He believes this is the changing face of cricket coaches.

“I believe the game is heading this way. More and more teams, such as in the IPL, are appointing coaches with playing experience, rather than coaching papers.

“I have experience in playing and winning, which I must impart to my players. The Cape Cobras have gone that route with the appointment of Paul Adams as coach. It brings experience and different perspectives from a playing viewpoint.”

It’s now a matter of putting the pieces together to reap the rewards.

Off-season training has seen the squad in the gym and running, working on fitness. Hitting balls starts on August 6 and there are some warm-up matches before a long season starts on September 29 with a SuperSport clash against the Lions at the Wanderers. “No more lip service about how great it will be to win something. It’s time for the senior players to stand up, the youngsters to grab the opportunity and the Dolphins to get to business on the field, where it counts. Talking cricket doesn’t win matches,” said Klusener.

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