Klusener warns of the great divide in Test cricket

"The gap between the top four-five teams and other teams is increasing too much. It is eventually going to come to a point where the top teams will refuse to play the bottom teams," says the former all-rounder from South Africa, Lance Klusener said.

Lance Klusener is associated with the Zimbabwe cricket team as its batting coach.   -  K. V. Srinivasan

Lance Klusener will always be remembered as one of the most destructive all-rounders to have played the game. The South African was a game-changer with both bat and ball. He is currently in India, coaching the Tamil Nadu Premier League team, Lyca Kovai Kings.

“I was easily convinced as it was a great opportunity to work with youngsters. I really like the concept and it can be emulated by other states to find young talent,” said Klusener about his coaching assignment with Kovai Kings.

Speaking of his team’s star player, Murali Vijay, Klusener said, “He has got a lot of competition to nail down a spot in the national team. He has done well until now, but I would like to see him nail that spot and get a longer run in the Indian team. The TNPL can help Vijay enhance his reputation not only in the IPL but also in the national team. Even if he can get 5% better or just learn something from this tournament, then it will be very good.”

Klusener was involved in one of the greatest World Cup matches, the semifinal against Australia in 1999. South Africa was nine down and needed nine runs from the final over. Klusener scored two boundaries off the first two balls but one ball later, Donald was run out and match ended in a tie. Consequently, South Africa was knocked out as it had lost to Australia in the round-robin phase.

Looking back at the match, Klusener said, “It was nice to be involved in a game like that; we could have been more patient but I could have also had my stumps knocked over the next ball.

“I feel we didn’t play well in the build-up to that game. We lost to Zimbabwe and had to play Australia twice. We could have had an easier route to the final. The loss to Zimbabwe really hurt us. Also, we should have batted better in the tournament with the kind of talent we had.”

Ever since that game, the tag of ‘chokers’ has been associated with the South African team, and according to Klusener, the tag will stay until South Africa wins an ICC tournament. “We have underachieved in ICC tournaments. We are too desperate to win something and have forgotten about the enjoyment factor. We should play with a lot more freedom,” he said. Klusener was also one of the coolest cricketers known to handle the pressures very well. “Handling pressure is a lot about preparation. You have to make sure that you are well prepared for what you are going to face on the day. You have to be ready to face the crowds and eventually you will have to bowl a tough over, but if you are well prepared from the skills point of view then you will be a bit more relaxed,” he said.

Currently Klusener is associated with the Zimbabwe cricket team as its batting coach. Talking of the struggles faced by Zimbabwe cricket, Klusener said, “The team needs to play more cricket. The two Test matches against New Zealand were our first in two years. It’s very tough to improve if you play two games in two years. We need to play more international cricket even if it is against teams like Bangladesh, Ireland, Scotland and Afghanistan.”

He was also worried about the Test cricket between the top teams and other teams. “The gap between the top four-five teams and other teams is increasing too much. It is eventually going to come to a point where the top teams will refuse to play the bottom teams,” the South African said.

Talking about the changes in Test cricket, especially the introduction of pink ball cricket, Klusener did not sound too optimistic. “I know the main objective of this is to get the crowds back to the game, but the condition changes too much from day time to night time. For example, because of dew the spin factor gets negated. Also with the cool conditions, the pitch won’t wear and change as much. Pink ball cricket has its challenges but it is worth exploring. I would certainly love to see more crowds at Test matches,” he said.