InMobi

Botha targets dynastic success with Bulls, Heat

New men's head coach is an ultramarathoner who sees himself in for the long haul with Queensland

On the plus side for Johan Botha, only one squad has been able to wrestle one of the nine available domestic trophies from the WACA in the past three seasons, and he has just inherited it.

On the other hand, Botha has been appointed head coach of Queensland and Brisbane Heat's men's teams fresh off a first Sheffield Shield wooden spoon since 2007-08, and the Bulls' longest trophy-less run in the history of the one-day competition.

All of which will be ticking away in the mind of the 42-year-old ultramarathoner as he hits the pavement for his latest running challenge in Adelaide later this week.

"That's my thinking time," Botha said at Allan Border Field today. "Early mornings, I'm out (running) at 5am, and it gives me time to think … whatever format, that's my time to prep for the day."

For the first time in his fledgling coaching career, Botha will be the main man overseeing the fortunes of three squads in three formats. The 123-time South Africa rep has across the years learned at the heel of some highly-regarded coaches, from Tom Moody and Gary Kirsten and Darren Berry to the late Dean Jones.

Botha played five Tests, 78 ODIs and 40 T20Is for South Africa // Supplied

He recalled the enigmatic Jones once doing a "Phil Jackson – Dennis Rodman scenario" during a T20 domestic competition.

"He let (England wildcard) Alex Hales go back to Dubai for five days," Botha recounted. "I said, 'Deano, what are you doing? He's never going to come back'. But he said, 'Just trust me – he'll come back and he'll make some runs', which is exactly what he did. So that was a great example to trust your players."

After impressing in the interview phase, Botha was picked from a panel headed up by Queensland Cricket head of elite programs Joe Dawes, chief executive Terry Svenson, and board member and Test legend Ian Healy.

Renowned as an intense competitor in his playing days, Botha believes he has lightened somewhat since his retirement from the game, a claim he says was supported by Queensland and Heat captain Usman Khawaja, who has in the past decade been the strongest influence in developing a relaxed-yet-professional Bulls culture that has in some ways been developed in his mould.

"I had (Khawaja) in my team at Islamabad United in the PSL," Botha said. "Chatting to him, he was surprised at how different I was as a coach to a player. So he's had a little taste of me, and hopefully spread that to the group – that what you played against is a little bit different.

"I do think I'm a little bit different (as a) coach than I was as a player, (when I) didn't take a step backwards, I was always pushing and wanting to get the most out of myself.

"My preparation was my main thing, and that's what I'm going to do for the players – focus on good prep, (how) can we get the best out of our prep – (but) then it's over to them when it's game time.

"I don't want to be a coach that's over the top, and keeps pushing and telling. Let's learn on the side, or post-game, but once it's game time, they've got to make decisions themselves.

"When you get to international cricket, there's no-one holding your hand there to say what you've got to do next. So hopefully we can create those players that think for themselves, and when they do make that step up, they're ready to fully embrace it."

Highlights of Botha's handy cameo

Doubtless one mandate of Botha's will indeed be to create more Australian players, as Queensland have an impressive recent history of doing, and have done as recently as February with the international white-ball debuts of paceman Xavier Bartlett.

Yet just as pressing for Bulls and Heat supporters is the matter of domestic dominance, the like of which Western Australia are currently experiencing and which Queensland enjoyed either side of the turn of the century, when they appeared in 10 of 12 Shield finals, winning six.

And while legends from that era – including Botha's predecessor, Wade Seccombe, and former head of sport science, Martin Love – have both recently moved on, there remains Dawes, the former quick who played in six of those finals, and Andy Bichel, whose decorated career spanned that period and who now occupies the fast-bowling coaching role for both the Heat and the Bulls.

Botha breaks bat on the Gold Coast

It is a delicate balance Queensland Cricket is looking to strike; leaning into their glorious past and heeding the lessons of success, while not getting mired in history, or weighed down by it.

"That's ultimately what you want to do – you want to create something that's successful over a long period," Botha said. "Create something that other teams aspire to. That's where WA is the benchmark at the moment, and everyone looks at their example – what do they do?

"When we get to February, March, we don't want to be the odd team out, watching finals. That'll be the message for the group … 'Let's not peak in September and be tired when you get to November, December'.

"We want to keep building throughout the season and be ready for that second half of the season when, January, there's a (Big Bash) trophy up for grabs, and then two more after that."

From the Vault: Captain's knock from promoted Botha

Certainly on the fitness front, the Bulls look set to be well drilled. Botha, who literally runs days on end for fun, is in the best shape of his life, and is eagerly awaiting joining his squads in their fitness sessions.

"I think it's a great thing to do with the guys in training," he smiled. "I can easily go sub seven minutes (2km) still, and I'm happy to."

Botha and his family are set to make the move from Adelaide to Brisbane in June. From there, it seems clear, he will hit the ground running.

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