India vs Zimbabwe 2016: Time for the ever smiling Makhaya Ntini to get a little serious
After the abysmal show by his team against India, Makhaya Ntini needs to cut down on his antics.
Makhaya Ntini was a maverick figure in his playing days. The first black cricketer to represent South Africa, Ntini had a reputation for going from sublime to ineffectual to sublime in a matter of a few deliveries. And yet, he kept his broad grin intact throughout his 101 tests long career for the Proteas, picking up 390 wickets in the process.
In his new avatar now, as the interim coach of the struggling Zimbabwe side, the 38-year-old still flashes the toothy grin but in his first series with the responsibility, Ntini has shot from the hip too many times to make a fool of himself than to earn the respect of his opponents, as he used to do in his playing career.
Chasing change in fortunes for the Zimbabwean unit, the management decided to sack coach Dav Whatmore ahead of team India’s tour to the country. Ntini, who was handling the responsibilities as the bowling coach of the team was asked to step in and fill the vacuum left by Whatmore’s sacking, albeit temporarily. It looked like a positive move when the man from Mdingi called up his former teammate Lance Klusener to take up the role of batting coach with the team. But then Makhaya Ntini went on the offensive.
In a press conference before the series kicked off, Ntini made some statements that bordered on being labelled ridiculous, albeit the evidence followed shortly. Just a day before the series in which his team were butchered by huge margins of 9, 8 and 10 wickets, Ntini quipped "If you send us a team that is not your strongest team, we're going to put them under the carpet.” The Proteas bowler then went on to sling some of the blame on his native land too, saying that the cricket board of the country wasn’t doing enough for cricket in Zimbabwe.
"The first thing I asked when I got here was what is CSA doing help and I picked up that South Africa is not keen on visiting here and they don't want much to do with Zimbabwe. It was sad to hear that, along with the fact that I was told they didn't want to come to Zimbabwe for the tri-series they played with Zimbabwe and Australia two years ago," Ntini said.
It didn’t take too long before Ntini had to eat his own words when the team failed to give any fight what so ever to a second string Indian unit. After the listless performance of the side in the second ODI, Makhaya Ntini, managing to keep his humor intact in the frustration, said. "If there was a tomato tree outside I would have hung myself in that tomato tree.”
In all the matches, the script played out the same way. Put into bat, the top order would flunk for Zimbabwe on a regular basis before someone in the middle order would show some resistance but eventually the team would succumb to embarrassing batting implosions. The team showed no heart in the bowling department either as they could pick only 3 wickets to India’s 30 in the series, conceding the series to the visitors 3-0.
As a cricketer, what made Makhaya Ntini the admirable figure that he went on to become in his career was his stomach for a fight. Nothing testifies it better than the fact that despite being a fast bowler who has the guile to be feared at the highest level, Ntini ended with 662 international wickets in his career.
However, coaching is a different ball game altogether. As a coach, it’s about making the right moves and sending the right vibes across the team. Ntini needs to mature quickly in the role. Coaching is a serious job and coaching a team that is scratching the base of mediocrity needs some real concerted efforts. Zimbabwe cricket has fallen on hard times and would do better to have a coach who possesses better skills of scouting talent than making noisy and laughable statements.
For now, Ntini can be absolved from the blame for being new to the job and a little too young for it at the age of 38. But the bigger picture isn’t about the coach or the statements he makes but the state of cricket in the country.
The fast bowler needs to look inwards and get the best out of the raw talent that Zimbabwe cricket is so full of but that doesn’t get translated to performances on the pitch. If he wishes to continue in the role any longer, he needs to shed the naivety and make no more of ‘put them under the carpet’ statements. Cricket enthusiasts definitely love such characters but right now, it is not about Makhaya Ntini, but Ntini, the coach of Zimbabwe cricket who needs to get his team to play more competitive brand of cricket than an embarrassing one.