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Smith needs support, says Kirsten

An abundance of options has left Proteas coach Gary Kirsten with plenty to smile about, but for fans here the exclusion of yet another crowd favourite will be a bitter pill to swallow.

With Hashim Amla on paternity leave and Jacques Kallis given a break, news that Dale Steyn will be rested for the remainder of the series will not go down well with the fans at the De Beers Diamond Oval on Friday.

Graeme Smith (left) and coach Gary Kirsten. Credit: Gallo Images

Kirsten believes the time is right to give the team’s top bowler some much-needed time off.

“We decided to give Dale a break for the rest of the series,” Kirsten said on Thursday. “This falls in line with our vision of not relying on individuals but rather on a squad of players capable of performing.”

While the coach didn’t name his squad at the press conference, he did say that Wayne Parnell would come in for Steyn. It’s been 10 months since the 22-year-old last competed at this level and with a promising career ahead of him, Kirsten has his sights set on creating a unit where he has no shortage of options.

“Wayne has been working very hard at training and having a player like him gives us a chance to rotate the players.”

Robin Peterson retains his position in the team as the frontline spinner.

The exclusion of Johan Botha has been a topic of hot debate recently, but according to the coach, Botha is taking it in his stride.

“We’re giving Robbie another crack, but Johan has been fantastic about his exclusion. As one of the team’s leaders, he understands that we need to explore all our options and he has handled the situation like a true professional.”

Meanwhile, Graeme Smith’s inconsistent form has been the subject of some criticism but, as skipper AB de Villiers did on Wednesday, Kirsten came to the opener’s defence, revealing that a lot of behind-the-scenes work put in by the Test captain has often gone unnoticed.

“Graeme is going through a lean spell, but what he needs right now is support,” said Kirsten. “With AB still learning the ropes in his position as captain and behind the stumps, Graeme has been incredibly useful.

“As for his batting form, he has been solid in the past and taking these factors into consideration, I think he deserves another opportunity.

“Looking back at my playing days, I’ve been where Graeme is now and he knows that he needs to get a score.”

The coach said that with the series already wrapped up, he has given the players some time off ahead of Friday’s match.

“We made the decision to cancel practice in Kimberley and Johannesburg to give the players a chance to get their minds off cricket. There is a bit of fatigue slipping in and I think it’s often far more valuable to spend time away from training. It’s a decision that we made and I think it is necessary.”

Kirsten warned, though, not to underestimate the visitors.

“Throughout the summer, we have learned that we need to respect the opposition. International teams come here with a lot of national pride and want to do their best for their country.

“But worrying about our opponents is an exercise in futility. What is important is our need to constantly upgrade our skills and become mentally stronger.

“I think at this stage we are well prepared and this will make us difficult to be beaten,” said Kirsten.

Looking ahead, Kirsten is very excited about his options at numbers four, five and six, where the reintroduction of Kallis, as well as a number of others, will leave him spoilt for choice. – The Star

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