Doug Watson enjoying new KZN Inland cricket job

2008-10-16 00:00

One is aware, when talking to Doug Watson, that here is a man who thrives on challenges.

The opening batsman, who represented the KZN Dolphins for many years, is in a new role as player/coach of KZN Inland.

“It is a huge challenge, but one that I am enjoying as it takes me into a new frontier as far as first-class cricket is concerned,” he told The Witness this week.

Watson, who was not offered a new contract by the Dolphins at the end of the 2007/08 season, found himself in relative no man’s land for a few months.

As a married cricketer with young children, Watson’s livelihood is earned from the game, and the uncertainty that befalls all full-time professional sports people when contracts are not renewed is not one to savour.

The Highveld Lions, recognising that Watson still has much to offer at the top of the innings, offered him a contract for the 2008/09 season.

“It was an attractive offer and I was tempted, but the prospect of having to leave my home, wife and school-going children for six months was not,” he said.

Then virtually out of the blue another opportunity arose. Watson heard that KZN Inland, who didn’t win a game in 12 during an unhappy 2007/08 season, were scouting the market for a coach.

Watson immediately contacted KZN Inland president Yunus Bhamjee — and the rest is history.

“We talked and I accepted the KZN Inland post as player/coach, and it meant that on many fronts my life and that of my family would remain much as it had been.”

The contract covers the 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons, and also affords Watson the chance to maintain his links with Westville Boys’ High, where he is head coach of the first XI and also runs his coaching school.

“Westville have been understanding of the opportunity Inland have given me and support me.”

In Watson’s case, this turn of events also presented him with a unique opportunity, for it is exceptionally rare for a first-class cricketer to go straight into a position as coach of a first-class province.

“New doors have been opened and the challenge at Inland is to weld together a group of talented cricketers who work for each other. The team spirit is good, which is half the battle.”

The SA Airways Provincial Challenge has been modified this season into what is a far more enticing competition.

No longer are there “Coastal” and “Inland” sections. The new set-up sees the likes of Inland and WP testing their skills against strong opposition in Free State and Northern Gauteng.

Watson recognises that Inland do not have it easy.

“Our next opponents, Free State, are coached by Rudi Steyn with input from Corrie van Zyl.

Western Province have Eric Simons. There is young talent at this level pushing for franchise recognition. But that’s the challenge for us and I have confidence in my players.”

Watson had no idea that he would be up for a Special Tribute award at next Monday’s annual SA Cricketer of the Year banquet in Johannesburg.

“It was a shock. I read it in Tuesday’s Witness. It is a great honour for me to be recognised in this manner and I am really looking forward to it.”

For Watson, the new season is turning out quite nicely.

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