Makhaya Ntini has disputed Zimbabwe Cricket’s assertion that he resigned from his post as the bowling coach and said he was asked to step down. In an interview with South African radio station Radio 2000, Ntini confirmed ESPNcricinfo’s report from September, which revealed that players were unhappy with his coaching methods and that Ntini would likely be released before the World Cup Qualifiers.
“The honest truth is that I didn’t resign,” Ntini told Radio 2000. “I received a text message from the MD, saying that he would like to talk to me. The first thing that he mentioned, he reminded me that we had a chat about four months ago regarding some of the players’ unhappiness. Some of the players and the staff members went to see him and reported that they are not happy with the job I am doing and that the job that I was given was not meant for me.”
Ntini claims he was then informed that he was “not going to be part of the tour that’s coming up, the Bangladesh tour,” and was asked to step down. His contract was up for renewal this month, after he was appointed on a two-year deal in January 2016.
Zimbabwe Cricket had earlier in the day sent out a release in which they said they “reluctantly” accepted Ntini’s resignation and thanked him for his service. “Charismatic, ever-helpful, hard-working and always full of energy, Makhaya’s experience and immense knowledge of the game have helped to bolster the ZC national team into a competitive outfit that went on to record Zimbabwe’s first ever away one-day international series win over Sri Lanka in 2017,” the release said.
While Ntini was similarly affectionate about his relationship with Zimbabwe and called it “the country that I fell in love with,” he admitted to being shocked that there were complaints about him because he “never had an assessment” and “never had a problem with Heath (Streak – head coach) and I never had a problem with Lance (Klusener – batting coach.”
On initially hearing that there was unhappiness, in September, Ntini approached the squad and not only did no-one come forward with any issues, but many of them were surprised that there had been words sent against Ntini. “After I had that meeting with the MD, I called them straight away, the players and the staff and I asked them. I said guys I just came back from the MD and he says that some of you said the job that I was appointed for was not meant for me. Who is that person? And that person, if he had a problem with me, he should have approached me. None of them actually had owned up,” Ntini said. “They were so shocked that was said about me.”
ESPNcricinfo has learned that there were problems with Ntini’s coaching style. As an extreme disciplinarian, Ntini was particularly strict on fitness and often demanded excessive training for players, even if they were injured. Ntini does not hold a coaching certificate apart from the Level 2 accreditation given to all former internationals and was also said to be lacking in tactical acumen.
Asked whether his future would include more coaching, Ntini gave little away but said he had enjoyed his time with Zimbabwe and was proud of what they had achieved. “I don’t regret anything about me going to Zimbabwe. When I took a decision of going to Zimbabwe, I knew what was needed,” he said. “There is so much to be proud of that I took the decision to go to Zimbabwe and I can tell you now that anywhere Zimbabwe goes and plays, they get respect. You must understand that Zimbabwe can now bowl teams out, to take 20 wickets in a Test match.”
However, in Ntini’s last match in charge, the inaugural four-day, day-night Test against South Africa, Zimbabwe only took nine South African wickets and lost inside two days. However, the performances of debutant Blessing Muzarabani and veteran Chris Mpofu were encouraging and Ntini is hopeful they will help Zimbabwe qualify for the World Cup.
Zimbabwe Cricket are expected to provide further comment on this issue in the coming days.