Gary Kirsten’s tenure has been marred by a regression of the ODI team, writes Khanyiso Tshwaku.
As a player, Gary Kirsten had to watch from the bench when South Africa hustled their way to winning the inaugural ICC Champions Trophy in 1998.
The following year, his wild sweep shot against an ascendant Shane Warne in the unforgettable 1999 World Cup semifinal was as irresponsible as the ugly smear AB de Villiers played when losing his wicket to Stuart Broad on Wednesday.
Both were blows that knocked the stuffing out of South African ICC campaigns at crucial stages.
While it has to be said that as a coach he took a good test side and made it great, his regression with the ODI team will always be the low-water mark of what has been South Africa’s most stable time in cricket since readmission.
The cricket was brave and aggressive and the bowling made batting for the opposition an unenviable task.
When South Africa’s test team floundered, which it did after Kirsten’s retirement in 2004, ODI cricket, barring in ICC tournaments, was always the saving grace home and away.
That veneer has all but vanished and, in his frank manner, Kirsten admitted that 10 steps backwards were taken.
“I don’t know if I’ve left them better off because I would have liked to have taken the team to at least the final, which I haven’t been able to do,” Kirsten said.
“Did I leave the team in a better state? I don’t know. We haven’t improved and that’s where the question mark comes, so maybe it’s a good decision to leave. As a coach, you always want to take the team forward in some way.I think there are some good signs. We’re playing some good one day cricket but certainly in events of this nature, we haven’t gone forward, and that is disappointing.”
South Africa showed a promise of potential with the performance of its young players.
It is always easy to play yourself into a team then keep the crest of the form wave running and suggest you belong in the team.
While good players may have been bled, there is nothing to suggest that South Africa can win a tournament.
Kirsten was seen as cricket’s messiah. And he may have brought the test mace, but the ICC success he has achieved with India has eluded him in the country of his birth.
An opportunity like the one he had will never come again, but South African cricket doesn’t recycle its coaches very well.
» Tshwaku was in the UK for the ICC Champions Trophy courtesy of Cricket SA
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