The head coach of South Africa, Mark Boucher, talks about the new faces in the South African side, on his coaching staff which includes Jacques Kallis, on what he is doing during the lockdown and how does he keep himself motivated in an audio interaction with Cricket South Africa (CSA).
How do you sum up the summer so far?
Boucher: If I look back and I have had a bit of time to reflect at the summer and assess the team performances and progress especially against England and Australia, I think it was pretty disappointing to be honest, especially in Tests against England. We did not perform like we wanted to perform. In saying that, we as a coaching staff and as a new coaching staff asked some questions and I think we got some answers, some good, some bad. The nice thing for me about the whole summer was the light at the end of the tunnel, especially in the short formats of the game.
I think we have a lot of work to do in Test cricket still, we have got a lot of rebuilding with regards to our team. We had a couple of injuries as well which did not help the cause. But the exciting thing for me was more the white-ball cricket, to see the guys grow a bit. We gave quite a bit of opportunities to a couple of youngsters and they really started to gel together as a team and not just rely on one particular guy to carry them through. Our performance against Australia was the light at the end of the tunnel. But certainly, I know, it's not a finished product, there is still a hell of a lot of work to do so that is what we have to look towards going forward now. We didn't get to play in India which was unfortunate 'coz it would have been nice to judge ourselves as a young side against them. But yeah, that's my sum-up of the summer.
Have you been pleased with the new faces that have come into the side?
Yes, I am pleased with quite a few of the youngsters. It was always going to be difficult. I think one thing that we wanted to do as a coaching staff and management staff was to give opportunities to the guys where we saw that we could rest a couple of senior players, and in a way throw them into the deep end and see what they could do. I was pleasantly surprised which left us in a situation towards the back end of the season which was a nice situation to be in. A lot of the guys were in good form, a lot of confidence. You are now selecting effectively from a pool of 20-odd players which is a lot better than going into a side here you go OK well these are the 11 that are definitely going to play.
Now we have got quite a few options which I think is good for South African cricket. Yes, it does pose a couple of headaches going forward. But I think the communication from our side is important. I have communicated fairly well to the players that they are going to get opportunities and are going to get a decent run. If you perform then obviously the run will probably extend, while if you don't perform then unfortunately it is what it is and you will have to go to the back of the queue. From our side the communication to all those young players is that you are going to be given opportunities, we are resting a senior player, it is his position that he holds so when he does come back, no matter what performances you have put in, he rightfully owns that position. That's the way we went and found ourselves in a strong position.
So, hopefully going forward after this lockdown, I don't know when the next tour is going to be. Hopefully, we can take that into the future tours as well, an understanding that when you are going to give opportunities to youngsters, you don't give six or seven youngsters opportunities, you give one or two an opportunity and get some senior players around them. I certainly know no senior player in the franchise system, not to worry about age at the moment, is being overlooked. If you perform well at the franchise level, then you should be able to get a chance at Protea level, if we are looking to rest a few players.
On working with his coaching staff
Yeah, and I really enjoyed working with the guys, you know, obviously spent a lot of time with Jacques (Kallis) and got Paul Harris as guys helping out in the system and they've done great work. You know, I'm not too sure what's going to happen going forward of them.
It may be stupid for us to lose out on two cricket brains like that so hopefully we can sort something out contractually for both and moving forward as well as maybe a couple other guys coming in with some good fresh ideas as well. You know, I think the core of the coaching staff is sort of myself and Enoch (Nkwe). And then you get Langa (Charl Langeveldt) from the bowling side of things, he's being brilliant and Onto (Justin Ontong) you know, although, he’s a fielding coach, I think he adds a lot of value in the batting department as well. I mean, he's also a guy who played for South Africa, so it'd be stupid not to use him in all disciplines.
And then, you know, we also got Greg (King) as our strength and conditioning coach as well. He's learning as well but he's open to fresh ideas and it's very exciting for him. Going forward with some new sort of machinery that we're bringing through towards the players as well. So, yeah, it's been great for myself and Enoch. We've had some great conversations. I think we understand each other very nicely at the moment. I think our heads are in the right places, we've got the same ideas going forward and how we need to do it. We've got some hard calls to make, absolutely. But we were not scared to do that. I think we complement each other very well. Enoch has got a lot of good relationships with players that I haven't really got to know properly yet.
He's very understanding of the situation of trying to take a load off my hands every now and again. And I'm really appreciative of that. I always understand where he is as an assistant coach. But also, you know, from a family perspective, his family are living overseas. So it's about trying to get the best out of both of us, him for me and me for him. So, you know, we're just gonna keep working hard together and hopefully keep building our relationship and keep driving a vision that both of us share on.
How has COVID-19 disrupted your plans?
I don't think it's really disrupted our plans, to be honest. I think we are quite lucky in the fact that we were always going to be having a break at this particular time as well.
So the plan was to give the guys a bit of off-time, you know, maybe get to travel a bit if they wanted to spend some time with the families. You know, they're certainly spending a lot of time with families now. Not being able to travel, unfortunately. Maybe a chance to get rid of a few little niggles that their bodies have picked up of a very hectic schedule that we're on. I think that the key is, you know, the first two, three weeks is always gonna be key, just to rest and sort of refuel yourself mentally, physically as well. We've put in some programs with regards to our guys on how to keep yourself sort of fit and strong around your household.
You know, people might say it's very difficult, but I think if the guys will understand that they're very professional and maybe want to go as a team, They need to keep their discipline about them. They will be testing after the lockdown period. So all the guys are well aware of that. It's not only the contracted players, but certainly, you know, outside 30 to 40 players that we've earmarked for selection for Proteas and also SA-A side. Obviously a few tours that have been planned to Sri Lanka and the West Indies. We don't know what's going to happen to those tours in the near future, but plenty of opportunity for guys to get themselves fit, keep themselves fit and hopefully put their hands up for selection. Because of all that, the new fitness clauses that we're going to be putting in contracts, you need to be fit. I think in the past we've seen that in all the recent past, especially, we've seen that players, they're not fit enough, don’t get selected. So that shouldn't be an excuse to play as professionals and they need to do what they have to do, albeit in difficult circumstances. They need to do what they can to stay fit and pass the test that they need to pass in order to be available for selection.
How's he spending his time during the lockdown period?
I've cleaned up my garage, tried to stay a bit fit as well, it is been quite difficult not being able to get out. I made a couple of plans that I wanted to maybe get away for a while. Take the family somewhere and maybe go play with a golf somewhere, go to the bush. But obviously that hasn't been possible. So just bide our time, trying to clean up our house. We were doing a bit of renovation work at our house in any case, it is a good time for me to just work out a couple of things and stay at home. It has been a good time with family. I've got a just under two-year-old, so he's been keeping myself and my wife pretty busy running around the place. Not much time to rest, to be honest. I haven't watched a lot of TV, no sports on TV, so there's not much TV to watch. But I'll keep myself busy.
How do you stay motivated?
I think, like I said, you know, we've got our plans in place on where we want to go as a team. We were always going to have this time to rest. So, you know, we were always banking on just basically forgetting about cricket for a while for the first three-four weeks. And then moving on to things, we had to organise a training camp in April, which I'm not too sure is going to go ahead anymore. So we'll have to rethink about that. Where we want to go at the moment and sort of still think it's like the rest of the world. We just sit back and, you know, try to keep fit. Try keep strong. Do what you can do. There's not much you can do as a cricketer now. But like I said, it is during our break time in any case and then wait to see what's going to happen with these future tours.
You know, there's a lot of different thoughts going through my head at the moment. We've been on a couple of conference calls about how we want to move cricket South Africa forward. So we're doing exactly what we can do at the moment. There's not much else we can do. We're just waiting to see when we can physically get involved. From a mental perspective, I think we are all there, we've done enough talking. We've looked after the space as much as we can, at the moment now, it's just a matter of getting a nod from the people that are making all the big decisions to say we’ll be going and at what time of the year. So we will wait for that. But certainly, you know, without playing games and all that type of stuff and having a bit of a break, you certainly do get pumped up for the new season. And I'm sure that not only the coaches and our management staff, but our players also, you know, getting really pumped up to see what they can do in the near future. I think the one thing about this lockdown, it sort of freshens everyone's minds and makes you appreciate what you got. And I think our players and the Proteas and Cricket South Africa will feel no differently about that.