Proteas Assistant Coach, Enoch Nkwe believes the forced break upon the cricket world over the past six months may have been a blessing in disguise, saying some of South Africa’s players were in need of it after a jam packed 18-month schedule. The sport has slowly begun resuming in a ‘new normal’ of bio-bubbles, bio-security and no fan attendances in stadiums as the after-effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt.
The last time the national team took to the field was against Australia back in March, before the pandemic lockdown was enforced.
Nkwe used Kagiso Rabada as an example of a player that was in need of time away from the game after the young paceman spent nearly 15 months consecutively from the start of 2019 playing cricket.
“After such a heavy schedule leading up to the World Cup, someone like KG needed a break,” he said. “He’s carried some niggles, which maybe is a sign of fatigue and he needed to step back. You’re always going to need a break when you’re competing at such a high intensity all the time.”
Nkwe pointed out that Rabada was one of many examples of all-format players that needed to be properly managed in order to safeguard their future in the game.
“You’re on the road and it’s not just the physical side of things, I think just mentally (taxing) as well. Just getting away from the game and doing something different and reconnecting with your own hobbies and just focussing on yourself is exactly what is needed sometimes,” the coach explained.
“That’s something I think we sometimes do take for granted. We saw in the latter part of the season how some players around the world were starting to get affected from a mental health point of view and that became very worrying.
“Players internationally compete for long periods of time, we’re talking twelve months a year for some, so there’s hardly any family time of time for themselves. I think this break – it was never planned – but it came at the right time.”
Having spent time with the Proteas during their culture camp in Skukuza in August, Nkwe says he can see that the players have a renewed energy following the lockdown.
He continued: “Now, looking ahead to what’s to come, is very exciting. The energies are so good, the players are looking forward to rising to new levels and it was a good time for all of this to happen.
“We’re just happy that most of our players used this break well and now they can really get back on the field and compete. Even just chatting to them, you can see it (the COVID-19 lockdown) was almost a blessing in disguise and they look forward to what lies ahead.”
South Africa were touring India when COVID-19 struck to prematurely end their season. The virus also ended the domestic campaign early.
While Cricket South Africa (CSA) is working vigorously to bring a return to play and finalize dates for both the domestic and international seasons, some of the Proteas have returned to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Nkwe said it was good to see some our star names back on the field again, adding that he was looking forward to what is expected to be a busy 2020/21 term ahead.
“We’re really excited to see our players back again,” he went on. “That will certainly help them and us as well. It is important that the players make the most of their opportunities. Obviously the season is expected to be starting up soon and the more game-time they can get then the better it is for us,” Nkwe concluded.