It seems the more Dewald Nel pursues a cricketing future as a coach, the more the former Scotland all-rounder’s playing exploits hold centre stage.
Capped 110 times by the Saltires, a record breaker in international Twenty20 and possessor of career-best bowling figures from a stint down south where he represented both Worcestershire and Kent, the 32-year-old has begun a spell back at his original Scottish club, Watsonians, in eye-catching style.
Debuting a fortnight ago against Heriot’s, the club to whom he moved to and quickly gained international honours starting against Durham in 2004 – on his 24th birthday – Nel took charge in the final over with a mighty six which was pivotal in Watsonians’ highest ever successful run chase of 287. For an encore he then hit an unbeaten 47 to see his team home by three wickets against Scottish champions Carlton.
Moving up to date, a couple of Stoneywood-Dyce wickets at the weekend helped maintain ‘Sonians’ unbeaten league start.
While delighted with cricketing life back in Scotland, a balance has to be struck involving coaching commitments at both the club and George Watson’s College, while the summer holidays will feature seven successive weeks of training camps at Myreside, starting on July 2.
“I definitely intend to get increasingly involved in coaching and feel I have a lot to pass on,” says the man born in South Africa but who moved to Scotland with his family for the final two years of school when his father’s job entailed a switch.
“Watsonians have a nice mix of young and experienced players which is good to be part of but coaching is my natural progression,” he continued.
“When my professional career was cut short by a back injury (he finished the 2010 season by taking 6-62 for Kent against Yorkshire but was forced to retire early in 2011) I certainly didn’t fancy sitting in an office all day.
“It was disappointing and frustrating that my body couldn’t withstand the heavy demands of the daily county circuit but I have a lot to look back fondly on and draw upon with the intention of creating better young cricketers in Scotland.”
Those highlights include becoming, in 2008, the first player to bowl two maiden overs in a Twenty20 international when Scotland encountered Bermuda while his seam deliveries have accounted for, amongst others, Andrew Flintoff, Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq, who was his first ODI victim in a match against Pakistan at Raeburn Place.
“There is no shortage of young talent in Scotland these days and I’m pleased with the way Watsonian youngsters have developed into serious challengers to Grange and Carlton who traditionally dominate the youth scene in Edinburgh,” adds Nel.
“For every 20 youngsters playing cricket in Edinburgh just a few years ago there are a 100 participating today and that is an astonishing jump. My job is to oversee all the junior coaching recognising the massive voluntary input from parents who want to watch and encourage their boys and girls. Jean Symes organises all the sessions with the senior club and my role is mainly junior coach and player.
“That six which put us in a good position against Heriot’s was an all-or-nothing moment but a fantastic feeling and the buzz around the club is really good.
“I am certainly enjoying being back at Watsonians who started me out when I arrived from South Africa having played in local school competitions in East London against the likes of Makhaya Ntini and Mark Boucher who went on to play internationally. I have to admit that having reached 100 caps for Scotland my ambition was to join the ‘200 club’ albeit my time on the county circuit probably cost me 30 or 40 matches.
“But I have no cause for complaint, especially when you see the amount of talent starting to come through.”
• For more information on Dewald Nel’s summer cricketing camps, which are open to all, see 619coaching.com