Johannesburg - Gary Kirsten remembers well the importance placed on "consistency of selection" throughout his international career. The result was criticism that the national squad, in his day, was a club harder to leave than to join.
How ironic, then, that 23 players will have been used in three formats of the game by the time the test series is finished. When Kirsten started his tenure as national coach, he said he would like to have a national squad of 20 players within two years. He has exceeded that number in his first nine months.
“It’s very exciting for South African cricket. Not only are we selecting a lot of different players for the different formats, but they are rising to the challenge and putting in huge performances. It’s a great sign for the future,” Kirsten said in Dunedin on Monday.
Another irony, however, is that the all the ‘hard work’ done by eight players in acclimatising to local conditions and the debilitating time difference, has gone back to South Africa with them. And no less than five new test players, all certain of a starting place, will have just six days to get themselves used to local conditions and new sleeping patterns.
“Yes, they will have to make certain they are mentally ready for the format, but also for the conditions. Obviously there is the bounce of the ball and other practical things, but the weather cannot be underestimated.
“We have five new players, how quickly can they prepare, physically and mentally? One bad session, and we can be in trouble early. We have spoken about the need to be sharp straight away when the test series starts, we can’t affords to be caught napping. The last day of my test career (in Wellington, 2004) it was nine degrees! But talk is cheap, we just need to go out there and experience it. We can prepare the players as well as we can, but they have to go out there and do it.”
Kirsten was unequivocal about the role of the spinner in the team – well, almost. Would he consider an all-seam attack? “That’s not something on our radar at the moment, I think you need a spinner in a test match. But let’s see what the next 48 hours serves up.”