Lance Klusener was one of the most exciting seam-bowling all-rounders of the last 30 years. He peaked during the 1999 World Cup but the tournament ended in agony for the South African heavy hitter when he looked on helplessly as Australia edged a thriller of a semifinal. Adjudged player of the tournament in 1999, Klusener is now involved in coaching and his expertise as a hard-hitting left-hander and his controlled pace bowling is particularly suited to modern cricket. The man nicknamed 'Zulu', the current head coach of Afghanistan, spoke to The Daily Star's Mazhar Uddin over phone and opened up about various issues. The excerpts of the interview are given below:
The Daily Star [TDS]: Not an ideal situation surely at the moment, but I must ask how life's going for you at the moment?
Lance Klusener [LK]:Obviously a lot of people around the world are battling due to coronavirus. From a personal point of view, I have been spending some quality time back in South Africa, although we have been under lockdown. I am looking to the future hopefully and hope by the year's end we can get back to getting on the park.
TDS: You had the opportunity to work in Bangladesh during the BPL for Rajshahi Kings in 2018. They also announced your retention for the next season. Tell us how was it was working in Bangladesh?
LK: Thoroughly enjoyed my time in Bangladesh, especially with Rajshahi Kings. First of all, it is a hospitable, friendly nation. I always enjoy my trips there, the cricket as well, the supporters of course. Certainly, looking forward to the Bangladesh experience, not looking forward to sitting in traffic and spending hours in the bus but that's a small price to pay for the wonderful people I have met and the close friends.
TDS: What are the areas that a young seam-bowling all-rounder should work on to become handy in both departments?
LK: For me the biggest difference is not the batting ability of our current all-rounders; it's the fact that they are bowling 125 kmph. All-rounders in the past from South Africa bowled 145 -- that for me is a big difference. That elevates you as a fast bowling all-rounder to be able to bowl consistently around 140 kmph.
I guess that's the challenge to becoming a world-class all-rounder like Ben Stokes. He can do that, he can bowl 140 kmph and is a fine batsman but therein for me is the slight difference -- something that young all-rounders may need to focus on, making sure that they are not just bowling medium pace. It's the pace that you need [to be] right up to be considered as a fast bowler as well as a handy batsman.
TDS: I am sure you have answered this question many times but I must ask you, does the 1999 semifinal still haunt you?
LK: No regrets and no nightmares about the 1999 World Cup, as I was in the form of my life. Of course, we would like to have won that game and gone through. During the 1999 World Cup, we were always under pressure with the bat. We never scored enough runs consistently and the top six never really performed consistently. We just kept leaving ourselves [with too much to do] towards the end in too many games and too much reliance on number eight, nine, 10 and 11 to get us through. You can get away once or twice but you can't leave too much for your number eight and downwards.
TDS: Do you agree with the tag of chokers that has been associated with the South African cricket team?
LK: Yes, 'chokers' has been tagged with South Africa but if you look at world cricket, teams choke all the time. There have been tight games where Australia also choked. That seems to be associated with South Africa and you have to live with that. As a team I think we have to deal with that and get over the line and win a World Cup or whatever and finally shake that off. It's a nasty word, however it does say that South Africa have put themselves in contention of winning big tournaments, hence I guess the significance of the word 'chokers' speaks a lot to their performance in big competitions. I think in the last World Cup, South Africa were extremely poor. So that's a good thing and I think we can use that as a positive. Yes, we have choked and couldn't get over the line and we have choked in big games, which counted for a lot.