Conditions… what conditions?

Gary Kirsten has never had a desire to be ‘different’. He has never enjoyed media attention and has always preferred a ‘below the line’ strategy for his thoughts rather than an ‘out there’ press conference approach.

But when he is compelled to front up, there is little he can do to stop his natural instinct. He answers questions directly and tells the truth.

What do you think of the pitch? Do you think it looks brown enough?

Kirsten turned around, 180 degrees, and declared from the boundary’s edge, “yes.” He had just arrived from Auckland and been driven straight to the Dunedin University Oval. He hadn’t even walked on the outfield, never mind seen the pitch. There was much laughter.

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter what the pitch looks like – or plays like. To be the best team in the world you have to perform in all conditions, everywhere in the world. Whatever the surface we are given here, that’s what we’re playing on. We can’t change it. We just have to play better on it,” Kirsten said.

His predecessors always made a point of discussing the pitch. And it was always relevant, and occasionally even interesting. But mostly it was a dull diatribe about a 22-metre strip of clay with some grass on it. Reflections and prognostications about how the organic world would affect the future of the match became dull many years ago. Kirsten’s current view reflects that.

“To win the match we have to play better on whatever we are told to play on. We have the players and the skill to do that. If we do not do that, then we are not going to blame the pitch. I would hope that the pitch will give the home side their best chance, as it should always do. That’s what ‘home ground advantage’ is all about.

“But a big part of becoming a champion team is assessing those conditions and adapting to them – and then playing to them,” Kirsten said.

“There’s no point talking about them and setting yourself up for complaints afterwards. South Africans have learned to play spin in the subcontinent and we obviously play seam bowling well on fast tracks back home, so we should be able to handle whatever New Zealand prepare for us. We are not scared. We should have the resources, skill and personnel to cope with whatever we are presented with.”

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