Shukri Conrad has seen it all. He played cricket before and after the apartheid in South Africa.
“Let’s say I played in the White side and yes, I played in the non-White side,” Conrad told The Hindu. “And then I was involved when unity came along. A little bit of everything. So yes, I have seen history.”
At the moment he is pleased that India couldn’t make history when he is the coach of the South African Test side. India could not conquer the final frontier — a Test series win in the Rainbow Nation.
The two-match series ended in a 1-1 draw. He is disappointed that there were only two Tests in the series.
“I would have loved to play India in a five-match series here in South Africa; that’s like a dream,” he said. “These are two quality sides and fans from both India and South Africa would love it too. And I would love to go to India and play five matches.”
But South Africa isn’t scheduled to play a lot of Test cricket. “Our players want to play test cricket, and if we had the resources that India, England and Australia have, we would play more Test matches,” he said.
Conrad loves Test cricket. His most cherished memory about Test cricket is watching Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin putting up one of the most spectacular displays of batting of all time, as they added 222 after coming together at 58 for five at Newlands, his home ground, way back in 1996-97.
“I sat in the Railway Stand there and I watched it, and I said to myself, I don’t think I would see anything better,” Conrad recalled. “This ground has not seen anything better. Neither have I.”
Though he absolutely enjoyed watching that masterly innings from Tendulkar (169), he rates Virat Kohli as the greatest batter he has ever seen. “I remember chatting to Rahul Dravid about it a few years ago,” he said. “I told Dravid I cannot believe that Sachin Tendulkar was better than Kohli. And he said to me, ‘Look, Sachin stays the master, Virat is great’.”
What about the coaches in cricket?
“Graham Ford got me involved many years ago and I had a stint with him as an assistant coach,” Conrad said. “I really admired Graham in terms of how he went about things. I knew the late Bob Woolmer reasonably well, he was a good coach, and he had a little bit to do with my cricket in some capacity.
“The late Hylton Ackerman, I thought, was a cricket brain second to none. So I always made sure that I kind of aligned myself with good coaches that I could learn from. But I think the biggest thing for me as a coach is that you have got to understand that you can learn from your players as well, you know. The coach being the only voice is long gone.”