The Hack: McKenzie the right man for the batting job

While it’s yet to be confirmed by the powers that be there was plenty of talk this week about the role that Neil McKenzie is set to fulfil within the Proteas camp.

At this stage the former Proteas batsman has been quoted as saying that he’s accepted the position as batting consultant to the national side but that terms have yet to be agreed upon.

A gentleman’s agreement at this stage until pen is put to paper which likely explains by Cricket South Africa haven’t offered much as far as admitting that the position has been filled.

But it’s a big step in the right direction.

If the batting woes in India were attributed to dodgy pitches and the demons within them the performance with the willow in both the Kingsmead and Wanderers Test matches against England didn’t do much to back up that argument.

But perhaps they did highlight the need for a more hands on approach and a position for someone dedicated to the role on a more permanent basis.

While Lance Klusener was brought in for a day and a bit in the lead up to the Boxing Day Test to work with the tail-enders and Graeme Smith, for a single net session, used before the Cape Town clash there was, realistically, very little they could achieve in such a short space of time.

It’s not yet known what sort of time frame McKenzie will be used for but whispers are that he may get a deal that runs to April next year when the rest of the coaching contracts are up for renewal.

There’s also no clarity as to whether or not he’ll travel with the side for their overseas assignments, which include trips to the West Indies and Australia, later this year. Would a guy with a young family be willing to spend that much time away from home?

There’ll be a lot more clarity when he returns from the Masters Champions League next week.

A look at McKenzie’s playing career, which he called time on recently, tells you that he’s the right man for the job. His averages across all three formats of the game are superb. He’s also not shy to impart advice on bowlers and batsmen alike.

I’ve often watched him at Highveld Lions net sessions, long after he’s had his throwdowns, having a word or two with the young players within the setup and trying to better their game.

In discussions with former players they’ve all hinted at the fact that some of the players and the national setup are almost uncoachable and it was always said in the most positive of ways.

Do the likes of AB de Villiers, who bats a lot on instinct, and Hashim Amla whose technique is one of the best in the game need someone telling them how to improve? Probably not. But players are never too old to learn.

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