Gary Kirsten says he wants to go out of his Proteas job “with a bang”, and there’s only one way of achieving that – lifting the ICC Champions Trophy next month.
The June 6-23 event in England will be Kirsten’s last major tournament as South Africa’s coach and while he was able to keep them No1 in the Test rankings, he yearns to achieve something in the limited-overs format.
“I hope to go out with a bang,” Kirsten said in Khayelitsha yesterday, after spending the day encouraging kids at the Iqayiya High School and helping to hand over sports apparel and equipment provided by the Sports and Recreation department.
“We have a good squad going out there. But in tournaments of this nature, you need to be playing well at the right time. We’ll also need some luck, I think. We hope individuals will come through in pressure situations.”
South Africa have been pooled in Group B alongside India, Pakistan and the West Indies, and making it even more daunting for Kirsten to leave the team with a winner’s medal will be the absence of Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith.
But Kirsten has backed his team to deliver without the experienced duo. “Kallis and Smith will be sorely missed, no doubt. They are experienced internationals who’ve faced these situations before, but I have confidence in the guys who will take over. In the last two years we have tried out seven or eight new players for our ODI squad, and I’m encouraged by how they’ve fared.”
Kirsten emphasised he was leaving the team a happy man, in spite of rumblings that there may have been disagreements between him and cricket authorities, something which also had sports minister Fikile Mbalula weighing in. “I’m not unhappy about anything,” Kirsten said. “I’ve spent an incredible two years with the team. My contract is coming to an end. I was privileged enough to be offered an extension, but I declined for reasons already outlined (that he wants to spend time with his family).”
The former opening batsman’s decision left Mbalula so baffled that he quizzed him about it. “I was worried that he may have been forced out, but he was blunt with me, telling me he’s leaving for family reasons. But he has left the team in the capable hands of Russell Domingo, and he can continue with a good job,” Mbalula.
“We will continue to work with him so that he can nurture talent in this country,” Mbalula said. Kirsten was happy to oblige, stating he was committed to helping the department unearth black cricketers.
“I’m excited about development, but a lot needs to be done. We need to explore talent in this country, and understand the areas which are producing black cricketers so that we can put a concerted effort there.” - The Star