Sport

Side Entry: A new coach isn’t voted in by us via text – it’s not a reality TV show

2019-08-18 08:35

At some point this week, I caught the end of a fascinating episode of Survivor, during which, as happens every week, a contestant was voted off.

To those rolling their eyes at the blinding bit of obviousness in that opening statement, I know that people get voted off every week until one person is left standing.

But – and my grasp of Survivor is feeble at best – it seems the woman who got voted off had one of those immunity thingies that could have saved her from elimination.

It turns out that she was relying on her popularity to see her through that round, so she decided to save the immunity thingy for a rainy day that never came.

Looking at the recent appointment of Enoch Nkwe as the Proteas’ caretaker team director, I couldn’t help but think that those in charge must feel like making decisions on coaches is a bit like being on a reality TV show.

There was no shortage of popular but uninformed advice, and had Cricket SA – or, more to the point, acting director of cricket Corrie van Zyl – been more susceptible to being popular, anyone but Nkwe would have been chosen to be the caretaker team director.

The advent of social media has increased the black and white noise traditional media usually provides as a background to such key decisions – to a point where, when there is a new coach to be installed, people act like all they have to do is register their vote by updating their online status and stating their choice, who should then automatically be installed.

I say black and white noise instead of the usual white noise because the favourites tend to almost always be decided along racial lines.

That’s why many took one look at Nkwe’s name and panned this as a political appointment – but they didn’t bother to check his credentials.

My biggest issue with much of the criticism that has come Nkwe’s way is that it appeared the people doing most of the chirping didn’t even know who he was, which made it easy to be disparaging about him.

But if you don’t even know a coach who won three trophies in his first season as a franchise coach, should you even be in a discussion about cricket?

Forget the three trophies. A massive part of the reason Nkwe didn’t have a prolonged first-class career was that he suffered a gash on his left wrist that nearly killed him due to blood loss. This forced him to retire at 27.

But that also means he’s been a coach at every level for almost a decade, which makes him a lot more experienced at coaching than has been suggested.

On the other side of the popularity fence, former Proteas wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, now successfully coaching the Titans, came in for stick for not having a level three coaching certificate – this was ostensibly the reason to deny him the nod.

In the end, he wasn’t even approached, but the concerted effort to ensure he wasn’t left a sour taste in the mouth.

There’s nothing wrong with not fancying a candidate, but rubbishing everything they’re about – Big Brother or Idols style – in the process isn’t exactly cricket.

Besides, had the search for Ottis Gibson’s successor commenced a couple of years ago, Boucher would very much have been in pole position for the appointment, and the fears from the more rational among us would also have centred on his inexperience as a coach.

Nkwe is not only at the right place at the right time, he is also well qualified and in possession of the level-headed temperament Van Zyl is looking for.

The rest of us need to stop treating these important decisions like reality TV shows, where our votes actually count. 

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September 15 2019