• QnA with Ray Jennings

    November 7, 2014

    SA Cricket magazine spoke exclusively to former Proteas and South Africa U19 coach Ray Jennings about character versus technique, his tough approach to the job – and more.

    SA Cricket: You often acknowledge the ‘formula you have as a coach’. Tell us more …

    Jennings: A lot of the coaches work on a lot of cricket technique, but my skills lie in the technique, in how you think and character. I call it as I see it. I look for character more than talent. I think you need character, a way of life, before you can use your talent. A lot of guys think it is talent first and character second. I have seen a lot of top players not make it because they don’t have that character, but they have lot of technique. Richard Levi to me has been one of the most talented guys I have worked with, regarding eye and hand coordination – and hand and bat speed. When you look at his character, he is not as connected as he maybe should be. Then you find the results are not as good as they should be. That to me is character lined up with talent – and character to me always comes up first.

    SAC: Your approach is, at times, contentious …

    Jennings: I am probably known as a lot tougher than many other coaches. I just find that, if you’re talking about national U19 cricket, where I have been involved for eight years, you have to try fast track or speed up the process as quickly as you can. To do that you have to be a lot tougher and have a lot of attention to detail in what you are looking to do. On that basis, you actually find that the guys improve a lot quicker. It depends on what level of coaching you do – be it at national level, in the Indian Premier League, at U19 or school level, you have to pitch your coaching technique at a certain level.

    SAC: Plenty of Proteas stars have graduated to the big stage through your tutelage at U19 level …

    Jennings: I have made an impact on some guys, like Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock, Levi, Dean Elgar – there is no difference in all those guys in terms of my coaching to them. My whole thing is to make an impact on them and make sure they know what it feels like to be earning a salary from South African cricket, to live up to the expectations of 40 million people, to deliver the goods consistently and to make sure they can hold their heads up high. Rather be tougher on them when they are 18 years old – for them to learn the hard way. When it gets tougher, or even softer, at a level up, they have been educated and programmed in some sort of formula.

    SAC: You, unfortunately, were removed as the national U19 coach despite winning the World Cup earlier this year …

    Jennings: The sad thing for me is that if people don’t want you in a particular job or relationship, what is the point of hanging around? It is their prerogative to say they don’t want me any longer. I’ve got to believe in myself, take the knock, move forward. Working with high school cricket gives me as much thrill in my life as working with the national U19 side. I don’t have to coach a national side to get a reward for what I am actually doing. I don’t hold any grudges, if Cricket South Africa felt they need to move on, then so be it.

    SAC: You’ve maintained a working relationship with Cricket South Africa …

    Jennings: It was quite tough to get that four-day notice period. I now have 80 days work per year with Cricket South Africa, as a master coach. But the 80 days doesn’t cover costs for the entire year. I have a look at the talent in the younger set-up. I work with the amateur coaches in the set-up. I pass on experience, pass on tactics and some of the things I have come to know over the years – they can use it or lose it.

    SAC: Lions head coach Geoffrey Toyana was one of your protégés …

    Jennings: I employed Geoff at Easterns when he was a player. I am well connected in South African cricket with coaches and players; every person playing in the set-up has touched based with me at some stage. Geoff also worked with me as an assistant coach with the South African U19s – and has gone onto new levels. We stay connected, when he needs me he will find me, and hopefully I can make a positive difference.

    SAC: You were in the running for the Sri Lanka head coach position recently …

    Jennings: Sri Lanka Cricket were talking to me. My heart was not in that possible job at this stage of my life. I feel I can still offer a lot to my own country. I love my country and I love working in South Africa. To pack up and go experience another sub-continent side would be a tough ask for me at this stage of my life.

    SAC: Coaching the Royal Challengers Bangalore must have been a great experience …

    Jennings: I am finished with the Indian Premier League. I did it for five years, which is enough. I’ve had my fun in the IPL, that type of experience was life changing – for my life and my cricketing career. I treasured that experience, I did my five years – but it is time to move onto new ventures.

    SAC: Where to from here?

    Jennings: Working with Powerade and doing some coaching at school level during specific coaching clinics – that basically has given me a thrill and confidence again, putting some belief back into the game. I am hopefully going to start up my own academy. I am in the process of speaking to Dainfern College about using their facilities, so hopefully I can run my own academy and manage 40 or 50 kids to new levels. To see the passion and the enthusiasm in the players and the coaches I work with is very heartwarming for me – and very humbling.

    By Jonhenry Wilson

    Photo: Backpagepix



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