Will Gary Kirsten be the Proteas’ next coach?

Just over two months after guiding India to the World Cup, Gary Kirsten could become coach of his native of South Africa.

  • Gary Kirsten in photos: 1994 — 2011

Cricket South Africa (CSA) is expected to announce the name of the new coach on Monday after the CSA board has considered a recommendation from a committee set up to search for a suitable candidate.

Before the official announcement, Test captain Graeme Smith has scheduled a media conference for Sunday, prompting Beeld to speculate that Smith was going to resign as Test captain.

Smith, who was appointed captain in 2003, has already given up the South African one-day and Twenty20 captaincy.

According to the Beeld newspaper, Kirsten would take over with a clean slate, with AB de Villiers likely to be appointed captain in all three forms of the game.

Kirsten and former Pakistan coach Richard Pybus are the two leading candidates for the coaching position, with Kirsten’s record as a respected former Test player and his success with India giving him a strong edge.

The main consideration for Kirsten is whether he will be able to juggle family life with the demands of being a full-time coach of a national team.

He is the father of two young sons and said in a recent interview with the South Africa-based SuperSport television channel that he did not want to be an absentee father.

‘A massive honour’
He said family concerns were the main reason he had not renewed his contract with India. But he also said: “I would love to coach the South African team — it’s my people. It will be a natural progression.

“I’d consider it a massive honour.”

Kirsten (43) played in 101 Tests for South Africa between 1993 to 1994 and 2003/04. His last 12 Test matches were played under the captaincy of Smith, with whom he enjoyed a good relationship.

Kirsten had no formal coaching experience beyond running a cricket academy in Cape Town before his surprise appointment as coach of India in 2008. But under his guidance India rose to become the number one Test team in the world, as well as World Cup champions.

Pybus (46) has had a more conventional coaching career. A former Minor Counties player in England, he settled in South Africa and coached the Border provincial team before being appointed for the first of two stints as coach of Pakistan in 1999.

He has been a successful coach with the Titans and Cape Cobras franchises in South Africa and had a brief spell as coach of Middlesex in England in 2007.

The importance of growing
Officials have refused to reveal whether Kirsten is on the short list of candidates due to be interviewed on Monday and Tuesday.

CSA chief executive Gerald Majola told Agence France-Presse: “We are not releasing any names because some of the people on the list are under contract in other jobs.”

Kirsten has been tight-lipped about his future plans.

“It is important to continue growing as a coach,” he said in an interview on the International Cricket Council’s World Radio Show.

He said he had received a number of offers, adding that his final decision would be influenced by “what is most appropriate from a career and family point of view”.

Kirsten said his options included a stint with an Indian Premier League team, which would involve only a relatively short time away from home.

Making decisions
He is also committed to heading the Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy in Cape Town, his home city, aimed at nurturing talented cricketers between the ages of 16 and 24.

Coaching South Africa would not be as disruptive to his family life as coaching India, but he would still have to spend plenty of time away from home.

Kirsten dropped a hint that he could be in the running.

“I’ve got to make a decision pretty soon,” he said.

That ties in with CSA’s timetable. Majola said he hoped the panel appointed to handle the application process would be able to make a recommendation following the interviews.

He said the chosen person would have to be approved by the CSA board at a meeting at the end of the month and no announcement would be made until then.

Andrew Hudson, convener of the national selectors and a member of the panel, said he hoped the appointment would be made soon because he wants the new coach to be part of the discussions around choosing a successor to Graeme Smith as South African one-day captain.

In good shape
Smith stepped down as ODI skipper after the World Cup, but Hudson said Smith would probably stay on as Test captain.

“Our Test cricket is in good shape. I am happy for Graeme to continue as captain.”

The short list is understood to be down to four names following the appointment of Cape Town-based former England coach Duncan Fletcher to succeed Kirsten with India.

Majola said strong applications had been received from South Africa and abroad.

Former Pakistan coach Richard Pybus, who guided the Cape Cobras franchise to two of the three South African domestic titles last season, is understood to be a contender.

Other names that have been mentioned include former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming and former Australian all-rounder and Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody.

Fleming, though, told a New Zealand newspaper after he was mentioned as a possibility for the India job that he was not interested in a full-time coaching position. — AFP

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Colin Bryden
Colin Bryden
Semi-active journalist and editor SA Cricket Annual.

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