Cricket South Africa (CSA) has appointed former Mumbai batsman Amol Muzumdar as batting coach for South Africa's three-match Test series against India, which starts on October 2 in Visakhapatnam.
The 44-year-old last played at the first-class level for Andhra in 2013 and has since held several coaching positions, besides being a TV commentator. Muzumdar's specialist role for this tour mirrors the one former Sri Lanka batsman Thilan Samaraweera played for New Zealand during their Test series in Sri Lanka last month.
Muzumdar will join team director Enoch Nkwe's coaching staff, which comprises Vincent Barnes (assistant bowling coach) and Justin Ontong (assistant fielding coach).
Muzumdar got the offer last week from CSA acting director of cricket Corrie van Zyl, and accepted the interim role readily, looking at it as an opportunity to work with an international team.
Asked whether it would be a challenge for him to coach at the highest level despite having never played international cricket, Muzumdar told ESPNcricinfo, "This is a myth that people carry in India and I would like to break it. I don't think experience of playing at international level matters if you know the subject very well. I am dealing with batting at all levels, which is a subject for me. And if you know your subject thoroughly then the experience and all doesn't matter."
Muzumdar's 20-year career as one of the most prolific run-scorers in Indian domestic cricket - he made 11,167 runs at 48.13 - is expected to help on that front.
"Amol is a perfect fit for us," van Zyl said. "He brings an intimate knowledge of Indian playing conditions and the challenges our batsmen are likely to face. He also assisted us at the spin bowling camp we held recently in India and thus has already built up a good working relationship with Aiden Markram, Temba Bavuma and Zubayr Hamza."
"I know what a team environment requires and how champion teams operate. It won't be easy, but I will accept the challenge" Amol Muzumdar
South Africa last toured India in 2015-16 and found it particularly difficult to tackle India's spinners, going past 200 in only one of the seven innings they batted in. A full encapsulation of their struggle against spin came in the last innings of the fourth Test, when they made an all-out commitment to defence, batting 143.1 overs as they were eventually bowled out for 143 chasing 481.
Muzumdar agreed that the challenge for the South African batsmen this time would be even greater, because the Indian bowling attack has grown to become ruthless in the last two years both at home and overseas. "That is exactly why I will not stress on spin. Because, at the moment, India have a potent bowling attack. Their entire bowling attack is a good one and it will be a challenge and we will have to come up with the plans."
As for the personal challenge of settling down quickly in the South African dressing room, Muzumdar was more confident. "Having played first-class cricket for 21 and years and a major part of it for a champion team (Mumbai), I know what a team environment requires and how champion teams operate. It won't be easy, but I will accept the challenge."
Despite ending his career as the second-highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy, Muzumdar never played for India. A contemporary of Sachin Tendulkar [both of them were coached by the late Ramakant Achrekar], Muzumdar won the Ranji title eight times with Mumbai including once as captain, in 2006-07.
Muzumdar holds high-performance coaching certificates from the BCCI, Cricket Australia as well as in the UK through both Lancashire and Yorkshire, also was the batting consultant with Cricket Netherlands between 2013-15. He has been batting coach for Rajasthan Royals at the IPL, coached India's Under-19 and Under-23 sides at the National Cricket Academy, and was briefly a batting consultant for the Netherlands men's team. He had applied to be India's batting coach earlier this year but couldn't make the shortlist.
Muzumdar now joins a select group of Indians who have worked with other international teams in recent years, such as Sridharan Sriram (currently with Australia men's team), Sunil Joshi (spin consultant with Bangladesh men's team till recently), Wasim Jaffer (part of the coaching staff at the Bangladesh High Performance Centre) and Lalchand Rajput (worked as head coach of Zimbabwe and Afghanistan men's teams).