‘Excited’ Heath Streak looking forward to KKR stint

The 43-year-old former Zimbabwe captain and fast bowler will serve the club this season as its bowling coach.

Heath Streak (right) considers coaching in Twenty20s challenging but exciting.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

Heath Streak is bracing up for a new challenge in the Indian Premier League. The former Zimbabwe captain and one of the prominent fast bowlers of his time, Streak has been signed up by Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) as its bowling coach for the upcoming season.

The 43-year-old had impressed for the now-defunct Gujarat Lions in his previous stint, and he wishes to continue his good work with KKR.

Speaking exclusively to Sportstar from Harare on Tuesday morning, Streak, who is also the chief coach of Zimbabwe, spoke at length on a range of issues in contemporary cricket.

Excerpts

Q. Congratulations on your new job. Where do you see yourself as the bowling coach of Kolkata Knight Riders?

A. Obviously, I am very honoured to be joining such a reputable brand like KKR. It has some strong history, so I am very excited [to be a part of it]. Some great names of IPL have come out from KKR, so looking forward to coming on board and hopefully continuing to keep KKR going as the world-class brand it has been.

In a tournament like the IPL, the bowlers are always put to test. This time, Kolkata Knight Riders has some really talented pacers who played a key hand in India’s victory in the U-19 World Cup. As a bowling coach, how would you motivate those youngsters?

It’s very exciting to watch Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi and of course Shubman Gill during the U-19 World Cup. So, it is very exciting to be working with India’s future talents. They really look technically sound, so for me, it is about giving them good tactical support and helping them out. Playing at the U-19 World Cup is very different from playing in the IPL against highly-experienced players. They have got the skills and resources to be able to do that; it’s just helping them make smart decisions, especially under pressure. That’s what it is all about — playing in the big league.

At KKR, you will be reuniting with Dinesh Karthik. Both of you shared a good rapport during the previous stint with Gujarat Lions.

Definitely! DK is a lovely guy and he’s got a very astute cricket brain and I am looking forward to working with him. He’s had rich vein of form in the two years with Gujarat Lions and I am sure he will continue to be the same for KKR. He is a very open-minded guy, and is open to listening. The best thing is he loves the game, loves talking about it and he was a good friend in the two years we had spent at Gujarat Lions. I am looking forward to working with him.

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You played cricket at a time when there was no T20 cricket. Now, as you take charge as bowling coach of an IPL side, how tough is it to plan out strategies and get results?

To put things into perspective, in terms of the types of wickets these guys play on, nothing much has changed in terms of skill. A good ball is still a good ball. It is how you execute the skills under pressure and making a good decision. Most of the successful players have three or four good variations in their stock — may be a good yorker or a couple of good slow balls — then it is about using them at the right time. It is a challenge. The game has evolved and we have to evolve with the game.

You are also the coach of Zimbabwe. Under your coaching, the team has done quite well in the World Cup qualifiers so far. How do you see Zimbabwe’s chances of making the cut for the 2019 World Cup?

We have got three more games, where we play Ireland, West Indies and UAE. We need to win two games to keep ourselves in the hunt and if we win three games, then it pretty much guarantees our qualification. We got to make sure that we go out and play good cricket. We have got the capability, and we have shown it in the past. For example, we beat Sri Lanka last year. There are, of course, a couple of strong teams. West Indies are up there, then you have Ireland, Scotland,Afghanistan — though they have not carried many points forward from the qualification round. It’s going to be a tough two weeks.

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You belong to a generation when Zimbabwe had the best of the players. But now, it has to play a qualifier to reach the main stage of World Cup. How do you see this? Do you think the situation could have been different had cricket in Zimbabwe been handled differently?

Look, the difficulties that Zimbabwe cricket has gone through have been well-documented. Obviously, I feel had the things gone a bit better probably in the last 10 years, we would not have been in a situation where we have to play hard to qualify for World Cup. If you look at some of the exodus of players, we have lost guys like Colin de Grandhomme, Sean Ervine. If we could have managed to keep a few players, we would have been in a better position. In the past, we could defeat stronger teams. I feel we can still do it and can restore Zimbabwe’s lost glory. That’s a wish for me. I have got a son, Harry — who is 13-year-old — who may choose to take cricket as a career and as a father and a former captain I want him to represent his own country and not move to England, New Zealand or elsewhere. That’s my wish.

You have worked with international sides like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. But how challenging does the job get for a support staff in the shortest format like the IPL?

It is very challenging. In T20, a lot happens in such a short time, and there are so many more games and so many people around. You only have a handful of opposition to look at, but while playing in IPL, you have got all the other teams that you need to constantly analyse and watch what they are doing; see who the players are and what the batters are up to. It is challenging but it is exciting. It is fun to be able to do that and especially when your plans work.

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