Gary Kirsten

THERE are people who are in a job for a long while, but never really make an impression, and others who hold a post for a brief time and leave a legacy.

Gary Kirsten forms part of the second group. Kirsten was at the helm of the Proteas for just two years, and in that short period transformed the South African cricket side. It was not a radical overhaul, but one which was achieved with a velvet glove.

The subtlety with which he moulded a group of talented individuals who were on the brink of greatness for a while before he arrived, into a team that could rightfully call themselves the best in the world, is a tribute to Kirsten the man.

Off the field, he treated his players like adults, and allowed them to think for themselves. It was a mature approach with a group who had previously been guilty of very immature decisions.

It was a gamble, but with his close ally Paddy Upton nearby, it had the desired effect, and the results followed on the field as the Proteas Test side went undefeated in England, Australia and New Zealand.

An undesirable home record was also rectified with a first series win at the start of 2012 against Sri Lanka before a clinical 5-0 clean sweep over New Zealand and Pakistan in a glorious 2012-13 summer.

The only negative tinge to Kirsten’s tenure is the lack of African representation in the national team. The Thami Tsolekile saga left a particularly sour taste, but that was not entirely Kirsten’s fault.

There is more to life than just cricket for Gary Kirsten. He showed that belief system to his players. And that is why his decision to end his term at this juncture to spend more time with his young family was so graciously accepted by the national side.

Kirsten may not have brought home the Holy Grail, the elusive World Cup title, like he did with India in 2011.

But he has certainly left a solid foundation on which the new Proteas coach Russell Domingo can build his own future.