Afghanistan would love to win a silverware against India: Lance Klusener

Lance Klusener has been part of the Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians coaching staff in the IPL, and in September 2019, bagged the role of Afghanistan’s head coach. Photo: PIT File.

Talk about the 1999 ODI World Cup, and one of the first names that come to mind is Lance Klusener.

The former South Africa all-rounder, and one of the best finishers in ODI cricket, Klusener ended the quadrennial event with 281 runs at an astonishing average of 140.5, and add to that 17 wickets.

‘Zulu’, as he is pet named, won four Man of the Match awards in the 1999 edition and also the Player of the Tournament trophy.

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After his retirement in 2004, Lance has been associated with several teams as part of their support staff.

Among other teams, he has been part of the Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians coaching staff in the IPL, and in September 2019, bagged the role of Afghanistan’s head coach.

The 48-year-old caught up for an in-depth conversation with The Federal on all things cricket:

You worked with Rashid Khan in just one series. How was his captaincy? And why has Asghar Afghan been reappointed as captain?

I thought Rashid was outstanding for a young captain learning his trade. He is experienced in T20 cricket. He delivered the results in his first series as captain in Bangladesh, delivered some silverware in the T20Is against West Indies. So yeah, the young man learned his trade well and, in my opinion, would turn out to be the best captain Afghanistan has had for a very long time.

As for Asgar, he helped the team beautifully. I think that was one thing that worked well for us that Asghar helped Rashid and guarded him and that is important in terms of continuity. As for why he has been reappointed, well, he has been reappointed by the chairman of the board and not me so I am not the best person to answer that question.

How big a boost is the T20I series win over West Indies in context to next year’s World Cup? Any specific plans for the Australian event?

T20 World Cup is still quite away, always nice to win any series against a big nation. Yeah, the ODI World Cup was not great and you know it is no secret that Afghanistan has not played well against top-tier nations. So, there is a lot of work to do in foreign conditions. In the subcontinent, they are more comfortable but not on bouncy wickets in Australia. We have to keep that in mind in the build up to the tournament.

As coaching staff, we hope players can deal with that. We have to challenge them to come out of their comfort zones and embrace extra bounce and bigger fields. They have to improve their fielding too. There are a lot of challenges ahead but it is not something we can’t do. A good attitude on the players’ part too will go a long way in making sure that we are slightly more successful in World Cups than we have been in the past.

Afghanistan came close to beating India twice. They also tied one game with India in the Asia Cup. Is it because they play a lot of cricket in India?

 Afghanistan is very competitive in white-ball cricket and we are the kind of team that can challenge any team that does not pitch up with their A game against us. India has not quite pitched up. Hopefully, if we get another opportunity against them (India), we can actually get over the line. And we don’t want to get over the line in just one game. We’d like to win silverware against them. That is where we want to go. India is a fantastic team and Afghanistan will always raise their game against a team like India.

How do you see Hardik Pandya’s future shaping up in the Indian team? Any areas you feel he needs to work on?

Hardik… I think if he can bowl a bit quicker and can add another 5-10 kmph on that bowling, that would make a difference. His batting has come on leaps and bounds and I think he is definitely having a great leadership in the Indian team. Just encourage him to have an open mind. Rather than learn from his own mistakes, have him learn from the mistakes of others. Just grab all the knowledge and use what he can use and split up what he can’t.

And India has been crying out for a fast-bowling all-rounder for a long time. Hopefully, Hardik can answer those cries and provide the glue in all forms of cricket at number seven.

How would you rate Shivam Dube as an all-rounder?

Shivam is learning his trade; definitely showing signs of being that all-rounder. It is hard to get a long run in the Indian team if you are not performing. So, he has got a lot of work to do. He has got some great heads around him for inputs and he is definitely someone India will be looking to. And if he can rise to that occasion and deliver with the bat and the ball, then he is definitely someone can be classified as an all-rounder.

Rishabh Pant is constantly compared to MS Dhoni. What do you think is the future of India’s wicketkeeping landscape without Dhoni?

Rishabh is absolutely outstanding but he has a lot of learning to do. He is still young and is happy to play by the seat of his pants. He was with me in Delhi (Daredevils). He just needs to absorb all the information and learn as much as he can. He has got the backing and confidence of the selectors. Just let him play, he is going to be a marvellous prospect and he has shown that already (in the ODIs against West Indies). As MS starts to wind up his career, I can’t really see a better keeper-batsman in white ball cricket, than what you have in Rishabh.

Why do you think India is not a very strong T20I team? We currently rank fifth on the ICC rankings.

I think it is one of those stats that do not give justice to how good India is. I don’t think there are a lot of points in it but as you said, rank fifth doesn’t look good. India is a much better team than and the ranking is deceiving. Any of those top four to five teams are just as good as the other on any given day.

How was the experience of working with Sachin Tendulkar in the IPL?

Sachin, just a true professional till the end. Always the first in the nets and the last to leave and that is what makes champions you know. They are prepared to work hard and always got a very acquiring mind. Sachin was always trying to pick my mind.

Hopefully, I could pass on some knowledge and certainly some of my knowledge in terms of chasing scores and what it is like to bat in the past 10 overs, which, you know, if Sachin was still there he was probably better than me anyway. But I really enjoyed it and I wish him happy days while he is putting his feet up. He is a busy man and I hope to catch up with him soon in India again.

Being one of the best finishers of times how do you view MS Dhoni’s current situation? Do you think he has fuel left in the tank?

Of course. Let’s not forget MS Dhoni has had a long career so he is winding down a little bit. Does he still have it? Of course, he has. Does he still want it? That is probably a question only he can answer. He is a very special cricketer India should hold on to until his mind and body is willing.

Dhoni has been a wonderful servant and an amazing captain and I am not going to say more than that. Indians need to be happy and blessed with that. I just think we should leave him alone and let him do what he does best. How many games has he won for India, and how many big games? Many.

Ever since that epic semi-final against Australia in the World Cup of 1999, South Africa has been mocked as chokers. What do you think they need to do to remove the chokers tag?

Jacques (Kallis) is going to hang around for I guess as long as it takes South Africa to win one of these ICC trophies. It (the chokers tag) is one of the marvellous marketing tools that caught the media by storm in 1999, 2000 and the only way they can get rid of it is by winning an ICC trophy and at the end of the day it is the World Cup.

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