Enoch Nkwe feels the pressure as Proteas’ test series against England looms

Proteas interim team director Enoch Nkwe. Picture: Lee Warren / Gallo Images
Proteas interim team director Enoch Nkwe. Picture: Lee Warren / Gallo Images

Proteas interim team director Enoch Nkwe – who is in Holland with his family while the Mzansi Super League takes over the domestic calendar – moved house this week.

Given the temporary nature of his employment with the Proteas, one hopes that’s not a metaphor for his grasp on the job – his first test series in charge, against India, was lost 3-0.

He speaks about the experiences so far and the pending series against England.

You’ve had time to think about what went wrong on the tour of India. What have you come up with?

I know there’s been a lot of focus on the test performances, which were very poor, but there were quite a lot of positives that came out of the tour of India.

If you look at the T20 series, there was quite a lot of freshness from the new crop of players, and guys were determined to put their hands up. Maybe it’s got something to do with the T20 World Cup next year ... but whoever played made sure they took their opportunity.

The tests were always going to be a challenge; we tried different strategies and methods, but things didn’t work out.

They’re the best team in the world and they were really on top of their game, and it helped that they played a series against the West Indies before playing us.

You could see by the way they played that this was a team that had spent time together, whereas we were a little on the back foot. I thought we weren’t far off in the first test as the guys responded, but we need to do better in future.

It was almost like a repeat of 2015, when, straight after a World Cup, we were knocked out of the semifinals and had a series in India where we didn’t do well. We need to make a better transition from not winning the World Cup by helping the players to be in a better space mentally and do a lot of the technical work that needs to be done to win there.

Technically, I felt we weren’t the greatest on all fronts – that and the mental aspect were what we identified.

As interim team director, your big concern is the Boxing Day test against England. Will there be changes to the team based on what happened in India?

We can’t judge players on those conditions knowing that they’ve done well in South African conditions. We can’t just look at the India performances; we have to look at what they’ve done over the years – where they are mentally – and allow the Proteas to get into that red ball space before the test.

With the test championship in 2021, we need to look at the experienced players we have and how to build a team around them because we’ve lost some experienced players. Most of them will form part of the squad, with one or two new faces.

Will your batting consultant Amol Muzumdar continue now that you’re playing in South African conditions?

He was great in trying to help us adapt as quickly as possible to those conditions, but once there’s clarity around the interim position, we’ve got to look at who’s available on a full-time basis so we can create a much clearer direction.

He’s in the mix, but we’re open to other batting coaches, especially a local coach.

From a personal perspective, how tough is it to work as if you’re in the role for the long haul when you might not be?

It’s very tough. You’ve got to think about the now, but also have a clear understanding of what the bigger picture looks like over two to four years.

Sometimes you’re thrown into positions and you have to deliver, and sometimes you need to execute a two- to four-year plan, which is aligned to what Cricket SA [CSA] wants. So I can’t just focus on the now. If I were to do that, I’d have to go and find players who would deliver only now. But I can’t turn a blind eye to CSA’s big picture and I have to deliver some kind of foundation work for whoever’s going to take the team forward.

Given how things have gone, are you still keen on the job, and if so, why?

To be honest, I see a lot of opportunity to get things right for the Proteas, especially now that we’ve accepted that we need to rebuild in all facets. We need to do it properly for us to be the team we know we can be.

I see the big picture so clearly that it excites me. I know people will talk about the Kolpak ruling, but there’s so much talent in South Africa ... we can tap into that as long as our plans are aligned and we execute them well. I think we can produce something unique and special. That excites and motivates me to want to be in this position to help South African cricket to be the best in the world in a couple of years’ time.

Did it encourage you to see England lose heavily in their first test against New Zealand?

It just goes to show that it’s not easy to go away from home and dominate. But we know how dangerous England can be – last time they were here, they beat South Africa. We know our own conditions, but the danger is that they’re playing red ball cricket now and we’re not.

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