Biff batting hunger 'priority'

2011-08-31 10:31
Gary Kirsten (Gallo)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – South Africa’s Test captain Graeme Smith may well have lost some of his enthusiasm for cricket in recent months, new coach Gary Kirsten has concurred.

Kirsten has also outlined some of his “preservation” plans for 35-year-old kingpin player Jacques Kallis.

In an extended, wide-ranging interview with Sport24, it was put to Kirsten that the 30-year-old Smith may have fallen out of love with the game, considering his many years of cricketing travel, the cares of leadership and a multitude of surgeries.

“I think you’re close to spot-on, and if he sat here with you I suspect he’d agree as much,” Kirsten replied.

“He’s been very open about it, and I think that’s fantastic.”

Smith has relinquished limited-overs captaincy of the Proteas to AB de Villiers, although he wishes to continue playing as an ODI batsman, and retains the Test reins he has held since 2003.

Kirsten emphasised that he has “always been a supporter of Graeme Smith and his captaincy”, and that the player had achieved huge milestones both as a player and leader.

“By his own admission he’s also made mistakes. He’s a bit tired, yes, and a big thing is that he wants to get his batting form back.

“I’ve said to him ‘that’s certainly my priority for you’.

“His Test captaincy is a given, and I’ve also said he can be a great mentor for AB in the years to come, which he’s embracing full-on.

“He’s a real presence at the crease, which is what you want, so I’m hugely looking forward to any (rebirth) there. I see an exciting few years still for Graeme.”

Kirsten also lifted the lid on his plans for veteran, ever-indispensable all-rounder Kallis.

“We’ve already had a conversation around that. He’s extremely keen to keep on playing, which I’m thrilled about.

“I’ve said to him ‘we’re going to have to manage you smartly’.

“So look, we may not see Jacques out there in every single game of cricket South Africa plays. He’s certainly served his time, and earned the right to be picked for this but not for that.

“If any people think age may be catching up on him ... well, some said that about Sachin Tendulkar (now 38 – Sport24), and he got 18 international hundreds in the time I was there. He probably performed better than at any equivalent stage of his career.

“You get the guys in a good space, wanting to do it, playing for the badge ... you can get anything you want out of them under those circumstances.”

*More of Gary Kirsten’s thoughts to Rob Houwing will be published on over the next few days.

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