ICC World Cup 2019: India, Australia lose too; no one calls them chokers - Lance Klusener
The former South African all-rounder also spoke about the impact of all-rounders, wrist-spinners, and the chokers tag.Updated: May 29, 2019 09:10 IST
Lance Klusener knows about making an impression in a World Cup. Four consecutive Man-of-the-Match awards in 1999 was testament to the talent and never-say-die spirit that spurred Klusener to attack every ball and rip through batting orders with his seam bowling. He was the reason all-rounders regained relevance but Klusener’s legacy is also rather unfairly defined by a moment of insanity that gave us the best ODI of all time, and South Africa a day to forget.
A Level 3 coach now, Klusener is working with BPL side Rajshahi Kings and CPL franchise St Lucia Stars besides doing commentary. “I do have time to do a lot of fishing and hunting as well. I spend time out there (in the wild). It really relaxes me,” he said over phone.
What does ‘Zulu’ think of South Africa’s World Cup chances? How does he rate Ben Stokes and Hardik Pandya? In this chat, he spoke on the Proteas squad, the drama over AB de Villiers, and why playing for the country has assumed a new meaning now.
What do you make of the South Africa squad?
Yeah, it’s okay. In terms of the teams of the past, pretty comparable. Can they score enough runs consistently throughout the tournament to win will be the question.
Why do you say that?
There are a couple of out-of-form batters. I don’t think they have a settled, decent, dependable all-rounder, or at least two all-rounders. I look at the team and Dale Steyn can bat at No 8, and that’s the problem for me. There are a couple of questions around that. Other than that, it’s reasonably solid. Bowlers and pacers look pretty good. How fit they are I don’t know, with some injuries and niggles. But England is a tough place to go. The ball is going to nibble around early. Hashim Amla has been out of form. So, we are going to need big performances from big players.
What’s your take on Amla’s selection?
He’s got great experience in England. He has proved he can score big runs in England. I am a big fan. I would have Hashim Amla in my team every day. Sure he has been a little out of form, but he got a whole lot of class. And to win a World Cup, you need class. Those big players can get out of their slump in one innings and just go from there. Even though he was out of form, for me he is someone who should never have been questioned, especially in 50-over cricket. T20 might have been different but 50-over, no question.
Could AB have played one more World Cup? He was criticised for picking and choosing tournaments.
He should have. It’s a decision he will live to not regret but maybe think twice again as time goes on. If I were to answer the question, you are long time retired. To play in a World Cup is special. Any World Cup is special. We have two back-to-back World Cups coming up. I don’t understand what’s happening, maybe off the field. But from a purely cricket point of view, absolutely; he is still a young man (de Villiers is 35) and could have easily played. If that had been the case then this would have been a whole different South African team.
Who are your semi-finalists?
England, Australia, India, and—I’m going to go with my heart—South Africa. Other than that there are some dangerous teams like New Zealand and Pakistan. Let’s not forget Afghanistan, who have got a wonderful, and probably for me, one of the better attacks of the competition. They are a dangerous team as well. I’m not saying they are going to finish up there, but there is no easy game. So, I will just go with England, Australia, India, South Africa/New Zealand/Pakistan.
Does standardising pitches and size of bats make the game unfair to bowlers?
I don’t. T20 cricket has changed the game. Skills have improved. We have slower balls, slower ball bouncers which we didn’t see in our time. It’s just the awareness as a batsman, of what needs to be done. If Sachin Tendulkar or Ricky Ponting had the knowledge, and maybe the intention of playing like these players do today because of T20, they would have been phenomenal in T20 as well.
Is Ben Stokes the best all-rounder? How would you rate Hardik Pandya?
Stokes is an animal. England has produced some good all-rounders (Ian Botham, Andrew Flintoff), which is why they have always been a bit of a handful. Stokes playing well, batting at No 7 and bowling 10 overs, that’s the glue in any team. It’s a huge advantage for any team to have that quality. Pandya, I think to a degree, might be a little bit off in terms of 50-over cricket. But sure, a wonderful young all-rounder in the making.
Will this be a World Cup for wrist spinners?
I think so. I am a big fan of wrist spinners. In recent times there have been a lot of good wrist spinners with respect to when I played. We had Shane Warne and that was about it in terms of quality; also Mushtaq Ahmed. Every team now has a decent to a very good wrist spinner. So, definitely they are going to play a part. It depends on the conditions as well. If it’s a bit dry towards the end of the tournament, then wrist spinners will come to play a huge part in it.
What makes a perfect all-rounder?
If you can’t bat, you will still make the team as a bowler. If you can’t bowl, you still make the team as a batsman. A little bit like Jacques Kallis was for South Africa for so many years. That to me is a perfect all-rounder. Is there anyone like him now? Stokes. 100%. He is somebody for me who ticks those boxes. In South Africa, we have Chris Morris who is a bowling all-rounder. But if he couldn’t bowl, he wouldn’t make the team as a batsman. As I said, Stokes is an animal; England are streets ahead having somebody like him.
What was the pressure like playing for South Africa in 1999 and 2003? Has it changed?
We needed to win those days. Let’s not forget cricket was reasonably fresh for us because we had been in isolation for so long. Every game was a huge occasion. People used to turn up to watch, they used to follow. We don’t really have that following anymore. People just pay more attention on the results. For us, going through the ‘90s, with our readmission into world cricket, there was a huge excitement for the public. There still is pressure to win every game, but I think there’s a lot more cricket nowadays. If you don’t follow the news and results too closely, you can miss five days of news and probably three days of international cricket games. The pressure in terms of the public was a lot more.
What must be done to shed the chokers’ tag?
They have to win the World Cup, isn’t it? It’s not going to go away. It’s really unfair. We see India, Australia lose tight games as well, but no one calls them chokers. To me, it’s a bit of a stupid comment or tag. But at the same time, it’s something the media has coined and it’s not going to go away till South Africa wins one of these ICC tournaments.
First Published: May 29, 2019 08:58 IST