Kirsten: Always a big ask for Proteas to make CWC semis

Gary Kirsten (Gallo)
Gary Kirsten (Gallo)

Lord's - Former Proteas coach Gary Kirsten says it was always going to be a tough ask for South Africa to qualify for the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup

Kirsten, who coached the Proteas between 2011 and 2013 after guiding India to World Cup glory in 2011, says that he always had concerns over the side's batting consistency as they prepared for the 2019 edition of the tournament. 

"AB de Villiers at No 4 probably would have made a big difference," he said half-jokingly during an intimate chat at Weybridge Cricket Club in Surrey on Friday. 

Kirsten was looking on as his Gary Kirsten Foundation U13 team played their final match of what has been an unforgettable tour of the UK for 13 youngsters from Khayelitsha, near Cape Town. 

Not converting starts into scores of substance has been one of the Proteas' major concerns at the tournament, and one win from six fixtures means they are on the verge of elimination. 

Wednesday's four-wicket loss to New Zealand at Edgbaston was the final nail in the coffin. 

"I thought we actually played the game really well, but I've always felt that we are a little bit light, batting-wise," Kirsten said.

"Do we look like a team that can go and get 380?"

Known as one of the strongest players mentally that South African cricket has ever produced, Kirsten suggested that trying to figure out why the Proteas always struggle in that department at World Cups had become futile. 

"We've exhausted that conversation. I don't know and nobody knows what the answers are. What more can you say?" he said.

"We've all tried different approaches and it's tough to know what the answers are.

"It's amazing. The World Cup comes around and the mist comes in and everyone talks about it.

"The only way we'll turn it around is when somewhere down the line they get it right."

Kirsten knows all about high levels of expectation having coached the Indian national side, where winning is an absolute must. 

Even during his time there, though, Kirsten says he never experienced the same inexplicable weight of pressure. 

"It's a different vibe," he said.

"India doesn't have that pressure and a mist that comes over the team when it has underperformed in World Cups. Nobody ever spoke about it and it wasn't even an issue."

At the end of the day, South Africa simply haven't been good enough.

"We haven't played well. Normally we have actually played well in World Cups and we've battled in this one," Kirsten added.

"I feel for the players and the coaching staff. I know the effort that they put into it and it's disappointing

"If we're brutally honest, we wouldn't have been surprised if we didn't make the playoffs."

The Proteas are next in action when they take on Pakistan at Lord's on Sunday. 

Play starts at 11:30 (SA time).

@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ... 

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