Gary Kirsten as coach heralds a new era for Proteas, now Smith must return to his best

2011-06-08 00:00

The appointment of Gary Kirsten as head coach of the Proteas signals an exciting new era for South African cricket and a much needed fresh start. There is no question that in Kirsten, Cricket South Africa has the right man for the job.

CSA has negotiated well to secure his services and his commitment for the next two years. Kirsten’s choice of Allan Donald as Proteas’ bowling coach is a good one. As former SA team-mates they are a good fit. Donald wears his passion for the game on his sleeve. Had it not been for a late call from Kirsten, New Zealand would have been the recipient of Donald’s expertise. Kirsten’s choice of Russell Domingo as assistant coach was more surprising, but well considered. As coach of the successful Warriors franchise, Domingo has certainly shown his coaching credentials and Kirsten clearly appreciates his solid work ethic. Domingo’s knowledge of local players will be hugely beneficial to Kirsten, who has been away from the South African scene for some time.

Kirsten’s immediate challenge will be to ensure that the Proteas are well prepared for the arrival of the Ozzies in October. Many of the South African players will have had a long break by then, especially those not involved in the IPL. With few domestic fixtures featuring before the Australians arrive, Kirsten and his support staff will need to ensure that the Proteas are settled, fit and mentally match ready.

The new look Australian team will be chomping at the bit to get here. Australian cricket has been under scrutiny over the last few months as Cricket Australia tries desperately to restore its battered baggy green pride. Getting back to the top of the Test rankings will be very much at the forefront of the minds of Michael Clarke and his men as they prepare for the series.

The relationship between Kirsten and Graeme Smith, who remains Protea Test captain, will be key to South Africa’s success. Having played under Smith, Kirsten has a good understanding of his character and distinct leadership style.

Smith’s form and popularity have been on a slippery slope of late. His recent press conference in which he apologised for not returning with the team after South Africa’s exit from the World Cup has done little to mend fences with disappointed Protea supporters. Smith is no stranger to proffering excuses; we have come to expect them in post match interviews and Sunday’s confession was no different.

Like him or not Smith’s success as a batsman is vital to the Proteas. South Africa has relied heavily on him in the past and when Smith is doing well so is South Africa.

With Kirsten at the helm, South African cricket is in good hands.

Once Biff is back to his best, the Protea’s prospects will look even brighter.

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