Neil McKenzie appointed SA batting consultant
Neil McKenzie will join South Africa's support staff as a batting consultant following his retirement from cricket nine days ago. McKenzie is currently playing in the Masters Champions League (MCL) and will discuss the details of his contract on his return from the UAE.
"Yes I have accepted the position but will catch up with details when I get back," McKenzie told ESPNcricinfo. It is understood his first assignment will be with the Twenty20 squad in preparation for the World T20 in India next month.
Although Cricket South Africa is yet to confirm McKenzie's appointment, at least one senior batsman is pleased the former international is involved. "I'd be happy with that, Neil was one of the' names in the hat from what I hear. I played a lot with Neil, and I have very good memories of that," Hashim Amla said ahead of the third ODI against England in Centurion. "He was an excellent batter, great cricketing brain. If he's the guy who's joining us, that would be fantastic. I'm sure he would be [pleased] as well, to be part of the South African team again."
McKenzie will become the fifth batting consultant in Russell Domingo's tenure, which began in mid-2013 when the latter succeeded Gary Kirsten. At that time, Kirsten was signed on a 50-days-a-year deal with CSA, which ended in 2015. For the World Cup, South Africa employed the services of former Australia batsman Michael Hussey, who was also with them during the T20s in India late last year. Hussey could not stay on for the Tests, which is when South Africa's batting problems began. They did not manage a single century in the four Tests and put on a top score of 214, which they matched when they returned home for the Boxing Day Test against England.
In preparation for that match in Durban, Lance Klusener was roped in to work specifically with the lower order, even though the batting woes began at the top. Klusener, who is head coach at the South African franchise, Dolphins, was only involved for a couple of days and if he had any impact, it was negligible. Following the Durban defeat, and in the aftermath of harsh criticism, South Africa brought in former captain Graeme Smith, whom Amla believed would assist them throughout the rest of the series. Smith was also commentating for Test Match Special and SuperSport, and the conflict meant he only spent one net session with the team.
South Africa did not have any other batting coach through the England series but after the final match, which they won, Domingo divulged that they had been trying to sign someone for months. "We've been looking for somebody and we've got somebody in mind. We are waiting for him to commit to us. We've had a few people who said they were interested but they wouldn't commit to it simply because traveling is not that fun when you are away from your family for a long time, and when there is a lot of pressure and a lot of criticism you are faced with when things don't go well," he said.
Whether that person was McKenzie is not known. McKenzie had been playing for Lions in their List A competition, after retiring from first-class cricket at the end of last season and then retired from all domestic cricket last week when he traveled to the MCL. He played 58 Tests, 64 ODIs and 2 T20Is for South Africa. His overall career spanned two decades with 280 first-class games, 298 List A matches and 155 T20s.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent