Home Sport Proteas coach Malibongwe Maketa admits tour to Australia is a ‘big challenge’

Proteas coach Malibongwe Maketa admits tour to Australia is a ‘big challenge’

Proteas coach Malibongwe Maketa admits tour to Australia is a 'big challenge'

Johannesburg – Malibongwe Maketa has barely had enough time to breathe since being named as the temporary head coach of the Proteas for the team’s tour to Australia.

He was back at one of his old stomping grounds this week, SuperSport Park, where his coaching career started at the Northerns Cricket Union a decade ago.

In between hugs from old colleagues, there were numerous meetings; one with Director of Cricket, Enoch Nkwe, another with the Proteas’s manager, Volvo Masubelele, still another with Test captain Dean Elgar and further engagements with Cricket SA’s medical staff about strength and conditioning and the mental well-being of the players who’d just returned from the World Cup.

The look on Temba Bavuma’s face at the airport on Wednesday suggested the players have taken that shocking exit at the T20 World Cup very hard. Bavuma said he will need more time to process it.

Maketa doesn’t have much time. The Test squad leaves for Australia on December 1. He needs to assess players, while admitting that he’s mindful of giving those just returned from Australia a bit of breathing room.

There’s a lot to deal with. “I won’t say it is nerve-wracking, it's not overwhelming, but it is definitely a big challenge,” Maketa said.

“There is no talking it down in terms of the demands of the job. International cricket is not about building teams, it is about winning. It brings a lot of expectations and pressure in the sense that you have to go out and perform, because you are representing your nation. It is an exciting one as well because we all work towards working at the highest level and when you do get the opportunity, it’s exciting.”

That opportunity fell into Maketa’s lap. Cricket SA had very few options once it had accepted Mark Boucher’s resignation, and with mere weeks between the World Cup and a high profile Test series, there was simply no time to advertise and got through a full process of appointing a new coach.

Maketa’s journey with the organisation has had its own ups and downs. He was appointed as Ottis Gibson’s assistant in 2017, and went to the World Cup in that role in 2019. When Gibson’s tenure ended after that tournament, Maketa disappeared down a CSA vacuum. He wasn’t part of Nkwe’s coaching staff for the tour to India in 2019, when Nkwe was put in charge on a temporary basis and there was no talk about him when Boucher was made head coach in December of that year.

He’s been the SA A side’s coach recently. “Things happen when they are supposed to happen,” he said about his latest role. “I’m a big believer that we don’t get opportunities that we are not ready for. From that point of view, as much as there was disappointment in the past, maybe someone upstairs was looking out for me.”

“I’m big on taking ownership of myself, first and foremost, and for me it's always about ‘what can I do to get better,’ so that people can see me being good enough to get the opportunity.”

His plans for the Australian series, which starts in Brisbane on December 17, revolve around improving the batting. “We can’t hide from the fact that (our batting) hasn’t fired. We are looking for solutions, in terms of how we get 400 runs in the first innings.”

Maketa is aiming to build depth in that department, and will take two extra batters in the squad.

“Looking at the formula that has won there, I’m leaning towards (playing) an extra batter,” he said.

South Africa is defending a proud record in Australia, having won each of the last three Test series’s Down Under. However those were all very strong and stable squads, something that can’t be said about the current group.

Maketa has to build cohesion, and to do so he’ll need those who’ve just returned from the World Cup to get over their disappointment, and start looking ahead.

@shockerhess

IOL Sport

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