Lance Klusener (born 4 September 1971) is a South African cricket coach and former cricketer. He was known for his aggressive batting and his fast-medium swing bowling.
He is nicknamed “Zulu” because of his fluency in the Zulu language. Since his retirement he has occasionally commentated on cricket in both Zulu and Xhosa, as the two languages are mutually intelligible.
His ODI batting average of 41.0 and ODI bowling average of 29.0 places him among the ranks of South Africa’s most accomplished one-day players. He also has a particularly impressive first class record, with a batting average of 43.0 and a bowling average of 30.0.
Klusener played for KwaZulu-Natal (Nashua Dolphins) in the domestic level in South Africa between 1991 and 2004. In 2004, Northamptonshire County Cricket Club signed him on a contract running until late 2008. At Wantage Road he impressed with his fired-up seam bowling and his hard-hitting in the low middle-order. Due to family bereavements back home, it was announced that his contract with the county will not be renewed at the end of the 2008 season. In late 2007, he started playing in the Indian Cricket League Twenty20 tournament in India for the Kolkata Tigers team.
Klusener made his Test debut for South Africa against India in Calcutta during the second Test in 1996/97. Klusener, at the time playing primarily as a bowler, took some fearful hammering at the hands of Mohammad Azharuddin, who at one point hit him for five consecutive fours, in his first innings of his debut but returned career best figures of eight for 64 in the second.
Klusener will be remembered mainly for his contributions in One Day Internationals, in which he became feared as a hard hitting batsman and was voted as Man of the Tournament during the 1999 World Cup. He showed glimpses of his big-hitting in the years leading to the 1999 World Cup. His baseball-style backlift and thunderous hitting symbolised the tournament and his heroics nearly took South Africa to the final. He was also voted as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2000.
His international career has tapered off since then, due mainly to persistent ankle injuries, as well as a public dispute with the then South African captain Graeme Smith, who at a breakfast meeting shortly after his appointment to the captaincy described Klusener as a “disruptive force” to the younger players within the South African national cricket team, with the quote ending up in the South African press. However it seems that Klusener and Smith have patched up their differences.
He had scored 1,906 runs in 49 matches with a highest score of 174 and 80 wickets with best of 8/64 in Test Matches. In ODI’s he scored 3,576 runs in 171 matches at an average of 41.1 with a highest score of 103 and took 192 wickets with a best of 6/49.
1999 World Cup
In the 1999 Cricket World Cup, South Africa had progressed to the semi-finals, and Klusener till then had an excellent tournament, taking 17 wickets and scoring 250 runs (including two half centuries) in 8 matches and building a reputation as a hard-hitting batsman in tight situations.
He won four Man of the Match awards out of the nine matches South Africa played in the tournament. The four awards were consecutive with respect to South Africa’s wins (one match in between was won by Zimbabwe). The only other South African to win this award in this tournament was Jacques Kallis.
The second semi-final was played between Australia and South Africa in Edgbaston, England. Australia, having been put in to bat, set a target of 214 for South Africa to chase in 50 overs. Klusener came in to bat when South Africa were 175/6 in 44.5 overs, and by virtue of his big-hitting (along with support from other batsmen), South Africa entered the final over at 205/9, needing nine runs to win with only one wicket remaining. The two batsmen at the crease were Klusener (on strike) and Allan Donald.
Klusener scored consecutive fours in the first two balls of the over (bowled by Damien Fleming), levelling the scores and leaving South Africa with only 1 run to win in 4 balls with Klusener on strike. The third ball was a dot, and Donald narrowly escaped getting run out when he backed out too far and tried to get back to his crease. The fourth saw Klusener mis-hit his shot to mid-wicket fielder Mark Waugh. Klusener went for the run, although chances of a run-out were high and two balls were still remaining. However, Donald at the other end, keeping his eyes on the ball and hoping to avoid another mix-up like in the last delivery, did not see Klusener sprinting down the pitch and did not hear the call to run, and Klusener was almost at the bowler’s end by the time Donald (who had also dropped his bat) began running. By then, Waugh had thrown the ball to Fleming, who rolled it to Adam Gilchrist who took the bails off at the other end, meaning Donald was run-out by some distance, thus ending the match with the scores level. However, a tie meant that Australia progressed to the final since they had beaten South Africa in the group stages of the tournament. As commentator Bill Lawry put it during the final ball:
“…this will be out surely – oh it’s out, it’s gonna be run out…oh, that is South Africa out – Donald did not run, I cannot believe it. Australia go into the World Cup Final – ridiculous running with two balls to go. Donald did not go, Klusener came – what a disappointing end for South Africa.”
Australia went on to win the tournament; although Klusener’s heroics weren’t in vain, as he was voted the Player of the Series.
In 2014, Klusener stated in an interview that Donald was not to blame for what happened. Klusener stated that he became impatient and, although he made it to the bowler’s end, there was genuinely no run. After the match, he was cross at himself and regretted making that run.
Klusener severed all of his ties with the Indian Cricket League in late 2009 and then completed a Level-three coaching course provided by Cricket South Africa in Spring 2010. Klusener confirmed he was in negotiations with the Bangladesh Cricket Board about becoming the team bowling coach. However, in early September 2010 the Bangladesh Cricket Board confirmed that they were still awaiting a response from Klusener. Lance Klusener had finally turned down the offer to take over as Bangladesh’s bowling coach, replacing Sri Lanka’s Champaka Ramanayake. Klusener was reportedly unable to convince his wife about a permanent move to Bangladesh.
In 2016, he started as batting coach for the Zimbabwe national team. He also coached the Lyca Kovai Kings in India.
Lance Klusener enjoys fishing. He is also an avid hunter.