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IN 12 months time, Gary Kirsten will look back at these last couple of days spent at the picturesque Arabella golf estate here on the whale coast in the Western Cape either with great affection or aversion.
For it is while his players enjoy hitting the fairways with a group of former Proteas players, Kirsten and his management team are brainstorming the plan ahead for the next 12 months. The 2012 season is a “big, big year” for the Proteas, as Kirsten said yesterday, and he is right on the money.
South Africa have the distraction of a tri-angular Twenty20 series with Bangladesh and hosts Zimbabwe next week before embarking on a tour to England where they will battle the current top team in the ICC Test rankings. 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, which will be followed closely by an Australian tour.
These are all massive assignments where the Proteas’ resolve, more than their talent, will come under intense scrutiny. It doesn’t help either that the marquee series against England is first on the agenda, especially as South Africa 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 only just completed a three-match series against the West Indies and despite comfortably winning it 2-0, it provided a sufficient platform for key players such as Strauss to find some form after a dry run the past winter.
”It’s a big, big year, with some serious cricket coming up,” Kirsten said. “We know the schedule, most of the guys have played there before. They know how to bat and bowl in those conditions. It’s more about how we respond in the pressure moments. We have to operate as a unit and as a team.” He reckons the performance in New Zealand on the last tour has given him the belief they can win back-to-back series’ in England after 2008’s success.