Maketa brings out the War­riors in his team

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­press.co.za

Ten years ago, Mal­i­bongwe Maketa was prac­ti­cally in hid­ing in the UK, run­ning the risk of be­com­ing “a bum who used to bowl fast”, as he neatly puts it. Af­ter call­ing time on a cricket ca­reer dur­ing which he had lost count of how many times he was told he would “one day play for South Africa”, a gut­ted Maketa, at the age of 26, was adrift in Eng­land, do­ing me­nial jobs like work­ing in print­ing and con­struc­tion. Then he got a call from his old head­mas­ter at Dale Ju­nior Col­lege, Mike Hosty, whom he’d done a lit­tle coach­ing for when he was a con­tracted player at Bor­der. That was be­fore the fran­chise sys­tem forced him to try to re­vive his ca­reer by play­ing for More­cambe Cricket Club in Lan­cashire.

Hosty had moved and wanted Maketa, who now coaches War­riors, to head up cricket at his new school, Western Prov­ince Prep.

“When he called, he gave me a life­line,” says Maketa – whose War­riors on Fri­day ran the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, Ti­tans, to within six runs in the T20 Chal­lenge fi­nal. Up un­til the wa­ter­shed mo­ment of that tele­phone call, the 36-year-old’s ca­reer in cricket had been a study in un­ful­filled prom­ise.

“I’d grown up in my town­ship [Zwelit­sha, out­side King Wil­liam’s Town in the East­ern Cape] with the la­bel that I’d play for South Africa, and I be­lieved it.

“When I re­alised it wouldn’t hap­pen, it was a big knock for my self-es­teem. I didn’t know who I was, as I’d put all my eggs in that one bas­ket. The re­al­i­sa­tion shat­tered ev­ery­thing, and I went to Eng­land to es­cape, and be away from the peo­ple who would re­mind me of that [my fail­ure].”

Just a touch taller than 1.70m, Maketa had grown up bowl­ing freak­ishly fast for some­one his size. Then the biome­chan­ics caught up with him, as early as when he played for a South Africa Un­der-15 side (which in­cluded An­drew Puttick, Jonathan Trott, Du­misa Makalima and Bur­ton de Wett).

He suf­fered the first of many stress frac­tures to his lower back, an in­jury that would fi­nally lead to his re­tire­ment from the sport af­ter just one first-class game – against a Free State side con­tain­ing the likes of Al­lan Don­ald.

“By the time I left school, I’d lost a lot of pace, which is why I tried to rein­vent my­self as an all­rounder,” Maketa says.

“When it came out nicely, I was bowl­ing at about 130km/h, which is slow at this level. I bat­ted six or seven when I cap­tained Bor­der B. But when East­ern Prov­ince and Bor­der merged, I wasn’t of­fered a con­tract.”

The job at Western Prov­ince Prep led to as­sis­tant coach gigs with the South African A teams (three times), the Ti­tans and the head coach job with the South African A team this year on their tours of Zim­babwe and Aus­tralia.

How­ever, the mak­ing of Maketa as a coach was at Ti­tans, where he coached un­der his ex-Coke Week and for­mer Pakistan coach Richard Py­bus.

“I still fall back on him for ad­vice. The big thing with him was iden­ti­fy­ing how peo­ple learn, and pass­ing the mes­sage on as clearly as you can.

“Al­though it was his [Py­bus’] head on the block, he al­ways chal­lenged me to think and be­have like a head coach, even if our opin­ions dif­fered. As a re­sult, I haven’t had to make a big change as head coach be­cause the only dif­fer­ence is the buck stops with me.”

Hav­ing ma­tured at Ti­tans, Maketa was sur­prised to be over­looked for the head coach job three years ago, ne­ces­si­tat­ing a move to the War­riors, where he had been as­sis­tant coach to Piet Botha (and then re­placed him).

“When they [Ti­tans] ap­pointed Rob Wal­ter, I re­alised that maybe they didn’t see me as a head coach. I de­cided I’d be sell­ing my­self short if I stayed.”

As a man with an un­ful­filled play­ing dream, he loves be­ing a coach.

“I thor­oughly en­joy watch­ing peo­ple grow as crick­eters. It’s re­ward­ing in the sense that you write your ex­ams every week. You grow dur­ing the week and get to eval­u­ate your­self al­most im­me­di­ately.”

In the mean­time, his team is be­gin­ning to look like a team made in Maketa’s image: re­silient, re­source­ful and de­ter­mined not to drift again.

PHOTO: MICHAEL SHEEHAN / GALLO IM­AGES PHOTO: JOHAN RYNNERS / GALLO IM­AGES

RE­DEEMED Mal­i­bongwe Maketa guided the War­riors to within six runs of the T20 Chal­lenge ti­tle on Fri­day against the Ti­tans, in what turned out to be a close win VIC­TORS Ti­tans cel­e­brate their T20 Chal­lenge fi­nal vic­tory over the War­riors at Su­perS­port Park on Fri­day even­ing

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