TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
TIME was when Malibongwe Maketa was as good a bet to forge a significant international career than that other noted Dalian, Makhaya Ntini.
But Maketa, a SA under-15 cap in 1996, played only one first-class match. His only list A game was also his last at any level. He played it on October 14, 2007 – eight days after his 27th birthday.
Then he started coaching, first at Western Province Preparatory School, later at the Titans as Richard Pybus’ assistant, and then as head coach of Northerns, who won the one-day and T20 competitions under his hand in consecutive seasons.
Another spell at the Titans, as Matthew Maynard’s assistant, was followed by a move back home to be Piet Botha’s understudy at the Warriors. Botha’s resignation in December 2014 put Maketa in the top job. In September last year he earned his level-four coaching certificate.
Now he is about to take another step forward as coach of the SA A team that will play two four-day matches against their Zimbabwean counterparts in Harare and Bulawayo starting next week before travelling to Australia to take on the home aide in two more four-day games and a quadrangular one-day tournament that will involve two Australian sides and India A.
“We’ve got guys on different journeys – guys who are preparing for test matches, guys who are trying to get into test teams,” Maketa told reporters in Pretoria.
Cricket at A team level can exist in a limbo where winning and losing matters less than producing players fit for the highest level. Not to Maketa.
“These are test matches for our level so we want to go out there and win. It’s not easy (to stamp my own style on the team) but the common goal is performance. That makes it much easier.
“We measure everybody on performance, not on their personal journeys. Whatever markers we put down it’s all down to performance. In that way it’s much easier for me to measure myself and to measure the team on the journey we are taking.”
But the reality, that SA A is where the senior national team expects to get its next of generation of players from, is also not lost on Maketa.
“Everybody who’s here should believe they are the next best to play for their country,” he said. “Performance should be of the utmost importance. It’s a great opportunity for them to get the first showing in terms of our summer to say to the selectors we are here and ready to play test cricket.”
And what of Maketa? Now 35, he will never know the feeling Ntini knows having played 101 tests, 173 ODIs and 10 T20s for SA. But he could yet be part of a senior international dressingroom.
Should the opportunity come his way, sooner or later in these days of unpredictable fluidity, would he be up to coaching SA?
“I would be lying if I said no,” Maketa said. “In whatever career you are in you want to be the best. To coach a national team would be a benchmark for anyone who is out there coaching. I am no different.”