The Popping Crease had the opportunity to have a chat with former Proteas bowling coach, and current head of the High-Performance Centre, Vincent Barnes. I asked him for his thoughts on some up-and-coming players and his time as bowling coach with the Proteas. 

Burning questions with Vincent Barnes...

TPC: You work with the A-side and emerging players, given the fact that AB de Villiers has retired and Hashim Amla may be nearing the end of his career, who do you think can rise up to the national side to fill these roles?

VB: Currently, with the Proteas in Sri Lanka, we have Theunis de Bruyn and Heinrich Klaasen who I rate quite high. We also have some good batsmen coming through the system that will be touring with the SA A team to India. Pieter Malan and Zubayr Hamza have had outstanding domestic seasons.

TPC: What is it about coaching that you like the most? What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in your time, either as national bowling coach, head coach of the A-side or in your role now as manager of the High-Performance Centre?

VB: I love the game and started the love for coaching at an early stage in my career. I got my coaching qualifications while playing cricket in Scotland and England. What I love about coaching is that you have the opportunity to make a difference in a players career and building those relationships. Coaching at any level is a highly pressurized environment and expectations are high. The team is expected to win, to perform every time they take the field. As a coach, you have to ensure that the players are prepared for the battle. Handling the pressure is probably your biggest challenge, but I’ve never stepped back. I’ve embraced it and dealt with it.

TPC: You were fortunate enough to work with two of South Africa’s best fast bowlers, Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn. They were both very young and raw when they came into the national side, how was it to work with them?

VB: I was fortunate to be coaching some of the best bowlers in the world which made my job a bit easier. Understanding your body and your action is key to the development of a fast bowler, and with both of them, they were very aware of that. They knew their strengths. Although different bowlers and different personalities, they complimented each other so well. Both worked exceptionally hard to establish themselves as two of the best in the world.   

TPC: Steyn has made a remarkable comeback to Test Cricket, after that shoulder injury it looked like he might never play again. What has impressed you most about Steyn, and his desire to still want to play Test cricket for South Africa?

VB: As long as the fire burns inside Dale, he will continue to play and perform. With a major injury like that, most bowlers would probably have retired, not Dale, he has a milestone to achieve as SA’s highest Test wicket-taker and he loves playing for his country.

TPC: At only 21 years old, KG Rabada was tasked with leading the bowling attack, and he’s recently become the youngest South African to reach 150 Test wickets. How has it been for you to see him thriving as he is?

VB: I remember him coming through to the National Academy and after watching him bowl, I knew he was the real deal. Within a year, he was playing for the Proteas. He has been simply amazing.

It was a pleasure to speak with such a vastly experienced campaigner and to get his take on these burning questions. Many thanks, Vincent Barnes!