Proteas Coach

Interviews start on Monday, May 16. There are four contenders. The interview panel, almost inevitably, contains nobody suitably qualified to judge the credentials of the man who will take charge of the Proteas. If it did, they would be sitting on the other side of the desk.

A close friend and colleague in India wrote to me recently with the following, pithy observation: “So CSA have got Boeta Dippenaar interviewing Gary Kirsten about his suitability to coach the Proteas? Maybe the fact that he’s just coached India to the World Cup might be worth more of a reference than what he has to say to an interview panel?”

Actually, Dippenaar’s presence on the panel is more worthy than any of the others. Administrators and executives owe their ‘right’ to question the applicants to their position in the hierarchy whereas Dippenaar knows all too well what is required to perform at international level.

Andrew Hudson, of course, as Kirsten’s long-time opening partner, close friend and successful banker, is completely qualified in both cricketing and business terms to judge the merits of the next Proteas coach. The rest of the panel naturally bring their own particular brand of skills to the equation.

Vinnie Barnes is a popular and successful coach, and as a member of the Proteas management team for eight years (under three head coaches) there isn’t much he doesn’t know about the requirements of the job. With a batting guru and strong management around him, there’s no reason why he couldn’t be a success. The panel, however, will find it hard to see beyond his many years as an “assistant”. After a while, the label sticks.

Richard Pybus has not only done more than could be expected of a domestic coach, he has exceeded expectations. A multiple winner of domestic trophies with the Titans, he tasted immediate success with the Cobras after his move to the Cape.

The “psychometric testing” which has been so enthusiastically advertised by CSA as part of their interviewing evaluation process could be interesting. Pybus has a reputation for quick and forward thinking, yet his preference for more discipline than ‘big name’ players prefer might count against him. Or maybe not. The current wave of opinion against Graeme Smith might count in Pybus’ favour.

And then there is Kirsten.

What would he have chosen after winning the World Cup with India? In an ideal world…probably that he could develop his dream of an academy in Cape Town for five or six years years (until his sons were well into their teens) while continuing with international coaching consultancies. And then be offered the Proteas job.

But life doesn’t work like that. It’s hardly ever perfect. And you hardly ever get offered a “once in a lifetime” job more than once in your life. So Kirsten, almost by default, believes he must throw his heart into the job – or at least the application. There is no way on earth he could accept the position on ‘conventional’ terms.

Many changes would have to take place. The ‘head’ coach would no longer be required to travel on every tour – not for the sake of the head coach, but for the sake of the assistants and the players who would all benefit from changes of face and routine. The head coach would empower people, not alienate them.

The head coach would do things very, very differently in the future. If he was Gary Kirsten. Otherwise he’ll probably be Richard Pybus. And that wouldn’t be so bad.

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