England’s Kirsten loss could be SA’s gain…

Back in the days when Gary Kirsten toured under the captaincy of Kepler Wessels and Hansie Cronje he would occasionally yearn for a day off, especially after four or five weeks on the road when it was abundantly obvious that the majority of the squad were going through the motions in the nets and gaining little benefit from the training.

So Kirsten would have been impressed with Faf du Plessis and the decision of the Proteas management team to have a complete rest day before the second Test starts in Pune on Thursday morning.

“The extreme heat in Vizag took a lot out of the players, we lost a lot of fluids, so it made more sense to rest and do everything we can to ensure that we are rested and refreshed for the second Test,” du Plessis said yesterday.

“Besides, there isn’t anything we can gain by another day in the nets. All the work that needed to be done was in the preparation before the tour and in the warm-up match.”

Kirsten, meanwhile, had an interesting trip to London last week where he was interviewed by England’s Director of Cricket, Ashley Giles, and a panel of three other executives for the position of head coach.

It was a formal affair and, by all accounts, Kirsten’s approach was a good deal more relaxed. In a sporting context, surely the appointment of a head coach is more dependent on his record and the testimony of references than what the candidate has to say during an hour in an office. It was Kirsten’s belief that it is more the responsibility of interviewers to do research and preparation than it is the interviewee.

And he has significant experience on both sides of the table having served on the interview panels with appointed Ottis Gibson and Steven Rhodes as head coaches for CSA and the Bangladesh Cricket Board. He spoke to several players and coaches, past and current, who had worked with both men previously and felt he ‘knew’ them before the interview took place. He assumed the same would be the case with the ECB panel.

Kirsten was told by Giles the following morning that the stumbling block had been his desire to spend as much time with his family as possible during his tenure, should he be appointed. That, too, was puzzling as he had assured Giles that, although he understood that not wishing to be separated from his young family for prolonged periods might be seen as a ‘red flag,’ they had discussed it and resolved to “make it work.”

It would appear that the infamously corporatised ECB found Kirsten’s “honest and authentic” approach to the interview to be undesirable. If he had worn a suit and come armed with a Power-Point presentation, he may well have fitted in. But then, that would have been neither honest nor authentic.

How does a cricketer with 101 Test caps, most as an opening batsmen, answer a question about England’s troubled top order when he has not seen enough of them in action or spoken to them or their team mates?

On the plus side, it means Kirsten can now spend more time – including Christmas – with wife Deborah and their three children. On another plus side, he will definitely still be part of the Mzansi Super League as head coach of the Durban Heat. Perhaps, and this may be wishful thinking, he could become a little more involved with South African cricket. Maybe even a lot more involved. Possibly even as Director of Cricket.

It will become the most important position in the South African game and it is critical that the right man – or woman – is appointed. Kirsten’s knowledge of the game, on the field and around the world, is unquestioned but he is also a businessman with excellent communication and ‘people’ skills.

The position really should be filled before the tour by England at the end of the year. If Kirsten’s other commitments mean he is unable to make the shortlist to be in front of the desk, CSA really should make sure he’s one of the people behind it when candidates are interviewed. At the very least, the interviews will be short. At that stage, just like the day before a Test match, all the work should have been done.

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