Series 4: Forgotten 90’s cricketer - Lance Klusener
1999 World Cup semi-final, Australia was playing against South Africa to seal a berth in final against Pakistan. Australia batted first and had a mediocre outing with the bat with Steve Waugh and Bevan scoring 56 and 65 respectively. Australia was all out for 213. The chase wasn’t well planned as the Proteas lost the wickets regularly. It was all down to final 2 overs with South Africa requiring 18 runs with 3 wickets left. They further lost 2 wickets in that over scoring 9 runs. 6 balls 9 runs were required. The first ball raced to the boundary line. 5 runs of 5 balls, yet another four. The scores were level, next ball was a dot with a missed run out chance. The semi-final had all its moment to be remembered forever. The batsman at the striking end was phenomenal and was determined to take his team to the final. He scored 31 runs with an attacking strike rate of over 200. 1 runs 3 balls, the batsman at the striking end hit it straight and was halfway down the crease but the batsman at non-striker end Allan Donald was watching the ball without running. It was a complete mess that led to Australians playing in the final.
The batsman at the striking end was Lance Klusener, the hero who almost took proteas to the final of 1999 World Cup. Allan Donald would feel bad for giving Klusener such a sad intro to his teammate. Klusener was born on 4th September 1971 at Durban, South Africa. He was fondly called as “Zulu” for his fluency in the Zulu language. Klusener turned out to be an all-rounder with attacking batting and fast swing bowling. All-rounder from Durban was at the peak in 1999 WC. He proved his finishing abilities by scoring 281 runs in 8 outings when coming to bat mostly at 5 down. He remained not out in most of the innings and carried his team across the rope. Eventually, Klusener was named as the Man of the Tournament of 1999 World Cup. His ability to clear the ropes at ease deserves a special mention. The pinch-hitting ability was very much visible with the strike rate at which he scored in the 1999 World Cup.
He got his test cap in the year 1996 against India, 8 months after making ODI debut against England. Klusener proved his mettle by making a stunning knock of 174 against England at Port Elizabeth. He was striking at the rate of 78.73 which proves his attacking ability. Klusener was equally an impressive bowler. He struck gold in his debut test match by claiming 8 wickets for 64 runs in second innings at Kolkata. India was bundled out for 137 while chasing 467 in that match. The left-hand batsman has the highest career strike rate of 121.0 in World Cups. Although injuries reduced his pace he still startled the batsmen with his off-cutters.
Klusener faced hard times after his form dip in early 2000’s and was removed from the team. He made his comeback in 2003 World Cup but was not at his best that led him to be dropped in the forthcoming series against England. Following which Klusener retired from test and ODI in late 2004. However, Klusener signed for Kolkata Tigers in ICL in 2007. He had his county stint with Northamptonshire club till 2008.
The explosive all-rounder started his coaching career with Dolphins, South African domestic side. He also coached for Zimbabwe side and applied for the coaching position for India earlier this year. Klusener is currently serving as the coach for Lyca Kovai Kings in TNPL.
Klusener was named as the Wisden cricketer of the year in 2000. The explosive left-hander will be remembered forever for his pinch hitting abilities that made South Africa an unassailable side in the 90’s. The 1999 World Cup of Lance Klusener will be a learning material for many upcoming batsmen. If Allan Donald had completed that single against Australia in 1999 WC successfully Klusener might have had a World Cup to his name, the biggest pride for a player. However, the semi-final against the most powerful Australian side and his attacking innings of 31 of 16 against the likes of Warne, McGrath will go down the pages of history for sure and will live in our memories forever.