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In 12 months’ time, Gary Kirsten will look back at the last couple of days spent at the picturesque golf estate here on the Whale Coast of the Western Cape either with great affection or aversion.
For while his players enjoy hitting the fairways with a group of former Proteas, Kirsten and his management team are brainstorming the plan ahead for the next 12 months. The 2012 season is not just another campaign for this group of Proteas, but a “big, big year”, as Kirsten said on Thursday – and he is right on the money.
South Africa have almost the distraction of a triangular Twenty20 series with Bangladesh and hosts Zimbabwe next week before embarking on a tour of England, where they will battle the current leaders for the ICC No 1 Test ranking.
The Proteas won’t even return home after three months in the United Kingdom before the ICC World Twenty20 gets underway in Sri Lanka in September, and that will be followed closely by an Australian tour.
It doesn’t help either that the marquee series against England is first on the agenda, especially as the Proteas have not played any form of first-class cricket since the final Test against New Zealand back in March.
This is in complete contrast to the English. Andrew Strauss’s men have just completed a three-match series against the West Indies and, despite comfortably winning 2-0, it provided a sufficient platform for key players such as the captain himself to find some form after a dry run the past winter.
So, considering South Africa’s notorious history of starting Test series slowly, like in England in 2008 when Graeme Smith’s side held on for a battling draw at Lord’s in the first Test, is Kirsten not concerned there will be only two warm-up games ahead of the opening Test at The Oval on July 19?
“I think everybody is looking forward to the season, looking forward to the year ahead,” he said. “It’s a big, big year, with some serious cricket coming up. I think the professional cricket landscape has changed. We know the schedule, most of the guys have played there before. They know how to bat and bowl in those conditions.”
An expected highlight of the three-match series will be the battle between the two sets of pacemen. England’s Jimmy Anderson, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graham Onions and Steve Finn against South Africa’s battery consisting of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morné Morkel, Jacques Kallis and Marchant de Lange.
Kirsten indicated that the performance of his charges in New Zealand has given him the belief that South Africa can win back-to-back series in England after the 2008 success.
“(The New Zealand tour) was exciting. There is a long way to go, and we have to put it together. Each guy understands that he is part of a unit. We’re not relying on Dale Steyn to take all the wickets. They are all enjoying each other’s success. Morné is often the unsung hero, so it was good that he took all those wickets in the final Test. Each guy knows his role,” he said. – Cape Times