Johannesburg: Former South Africa pacer Vernon Philander believes that with his playing days behind, he now wants to take the game of cricket forward in a coaching capacity. He added that for him, who wore the colours of South Africa, it was a bit weird to wear the Pakistan jersey.

Philander, who debuted for South Africa in 2011, retired from international cricket in 2020, taking 224 wickets in 60 Tests, 41 wickets in 30 ODIs and four wickets in seven T20Is. In September, he was roped in to be the bowling consultant for Pakistan, who reached the semi-finals of the men’s T20 World Cup.

Post the mega event, Philander stayed with the team till the Omicron variant of Covid-19 wreaking havoc in South Africa caused him to leave after day four of the first Test against Bangladesh at Chattogram.

“It did feel a bit weird initially wearing the Pakistani kit. I said to Matthew Hayden (the Australia legend who was Pakistan’s batting consultant) that we are serving the game of cricket. It has been part of our DNA. Whether it is with Pakistan, SA, or Australia, you want to make sure the game of cricket moves forward,” Philander was quoted as saying by TimesLIVE.

Talking about his new mission, Philander remarked, “That is what we have devoted ourselves to after stepping off the playing field and we want to make sure the game moves forward and in the right direction. You go across, build up experience, pick’up what’s going on around the world and see how people do things from a team culture point of view. Hopefully, those are some of the things one can plough back into SA cricket in the future.”

The 36-year-old felt blessed to work with Pakistan’s bowlers, Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali, and Haris Rauf in the T20 World Cup. “For me, it was a big blessing to have worked with the Pakistani bowlers. There is a lot more than just dealing with the guy who goes out to play on the park. You need to understand the guy on a personal l’vel, what’s going on behind the scenes, how you can challenge him and at what sort of level can you challenge him to.”

Philander further gave an insight into the coaching world, which he learned from working with the Pakistan team. “It takes personal intervention and personal touch, the trust factor going both ways where you trust the player and he trusts you as a consultant and bowling coach. Any coach becomes that mentor, friend, tough buddy and you need to understand the people you are dealing with, and that is something I have learned being part of the Pakistani squad. It is about a personal touch; tomorrow you walk out of the job and people can still pick up the phone to call you and ask what they can do to improve themselves and their game.”

Philander signed off by saying that he is happy with consultancy roles instead of full-time basis work. “For now it will probably be consultancy. I want to be flexible because I have just stepped off the playing field. Getting a coaching contract will mean I am again tied down and will be travelling again. With consultancy, you can come whenever you are needed and it will afford me flexibility.”