Gary Kirsten was careful to talk as little as possible about South Africa’s wretched record in ICC events when he took over the coaching role but that does not mean to say he wasn’t thinking hard about it.
The inevitable questions about the World Cup were easily deflected: “I’ve just started and you’re asking me about something that’s happening in four years’ time? I’ve only got a two-year contract!” he joked.
But he is all too well aware of the expectation of the country’s supporters and administrators – and of the players, for that matter! The lack of ICC silverware in the CSA trophy cabinet is an embarrassing scar on an otherwise impressive record.
The new coach is obviously not concentrating solely on the next global event – the T20 world cup – which takes place in Sri Lanka in September. But it is most certainly as much of a consideration at the moment as the current tour of New Zealand and the test series against England in July and August which will probably determine the number one ranking.
The first T20 in Wellington on Friday was disappointing but Kirsten is looking beyond results. In fact, he’s even trying to look beyond runs and wickets for individual players. He is looking to test players’ skills in different situations and to gauge their reactions and responses to unfamiliar challenges. He sees the T20 squad as a work in progress, a jigsaw which needs fitting together.
Albie Morkel is a success with the new ball for the Chennai Super Kings, but can he do it at international level? He did on Friday and Kirsten would have been looking at more than just his figures. Is Colin Ingram the right man for the number three slot? He was stumped second ball, but the coach may have seen that as an attempt to be unselfish and positive rather than irresponsible.
The Black Caps were brilliant in the first game and will be hard to overhaul now, but the Proteas are on a T20 journey of ten more games before September and, unpleasant as it may be to lose this series, the big picture is what really matters. Kirsten is looking for ‘signs’ of the future that may not be visible to the rest of us.
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