In a major coup for cricket in Sweden, South African legend Jonty Rhodes has agreed to join the Svenska Cricketförbundet (Swedish Cricket Federation) on a full-time contract, preceding a permanent move to the country.
While Rhodes has been appointed as Head Coach, the 51-year-old will likely undertake several roles, overseeing coaching and development initiatives, from the grassroots level all the way up to the senior national teams.
Rhodes, currently on assignment at the IPL in UAE as Fielding Coach of Kings XI Punjab, is eager to impart his cricketing knowledge in the emerging game, all with family life in mind.
“My reach out to the Swedish Cricket Federation was literally three months ago, so a great deal has happened in the past three months,” Rhodes told Emerging Cricket from the tournament’s bio-secure bubble in Dubai.
“I’m relocating with my family, so it’s not a consulting role. It’s something I want to do obviously long term.”
Swedish Cricket Federation Performance Director Benn Harradine, also a three-time Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist in Discus, expressed his optimism for the future of cricket in Sweden with Rhodes’ experience driving the game forward.
“It’s just been really good to get to know him, the person, not the cricketer, but Jonty as a man, and I’m really excited to get him over here to Sweden,” Harradine told Emerging Cricket.
Swedish cricket has seen huge growth in recent years, with migration trends and the advent of streaming resulting in a number of clubs popping up around the country, as well as record player participation.
“One thing that we didn’t envisage (in Sweden) was the growth. It’s been just bananas. In the last two years we’ve gone from 17 clubs to 78 clubs,” Harradine outlines.
“We’re basically trying to manage first how we control the growth, or how we can place resources around this growth, because it’s going boom, and this is where Jonty comes in.”
Rhodes will travel to Sweden at the conclusion of the IPL in November, with documentation for residency in the country already completed for both himself and his family. Moving away from his native South Africa, Rhodes and partner Melanie cite quality of life and Sweden’s style of education as reasons for the start of their next chapter.
“With children at this stage in the house who are 13, 10, 5 and 3, we just said ‘if there’s ever going to be a move, it needs to be now.’
“My wife (Melanie) has been a massive fan of the Swedish schooling system and I’ve been following European Cricket quite closely.”
Rhodes intends to fulfil current coaching and commentary commitments either remotely or on short-term assignments, while basing himself in Sweden to undertake duties for the Cricket Federation. On top of IPL duties, Rhodes also commentates at events such as the Pakistan Super League, and provides remote consultation for other sporting organisations.
For his role in Sweden, Rhodes hopes his enthusiasm for the game rubs off on the number of coaches assigned to run clinics across various programs in the country.
“We want to have a very clear and present pathway not only for our players but our coaches and the people who are working around cricket.
“A big part of my focus is not just how do we make the high-performance end of it work, but how do we ensure that, from a coaching standpoint, do we make sure the coaches themselves are excited about imparting cricket skills to kids, and making sure that they do the basics really, really well?”
Rhodes, with 52 Test matches and 245 One Day Internationals to his name, averaged over 35 with the bat in both formats, and is widely regarded as the best fielder of his generation. Carrying a weight of experience in both Full Member and Associate cricket, Rhodes also turned out in a ICC Associate Development Programme stint for Ireland in 1999 as a player and coach, and has run initiatives in Nepal, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Even with an impressive resume of coaching roles over the last ten years, Rhodes has always gravitated to game development and junior projects.
“The last two years I have loved (coaching) grassroots and in the growing of the game just because I think my roots have always been around teaching.”
“I’m not looking to burst in and take jobs away from people. I just want to help grow and develop the game.”
Sweden’s men’s team are currently ranked 43rd in the world, with their last tournament appearance of note back at the T20 World Cup Europe Region Qualifier in 2018. Sweden also are a member of the European Cricket League, and will have a representative in future iterations at the tournament.
For the full interview with Jonty Rhodes and Benn Harradine, tune into the Emerging Cricket Podcast on Friday across the usual listening spots.
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