Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - New Proteas coach Gary Kirsten has
“close” relations with Andy Flower, his international counterpart who has
masterminded England’s climb to top position in the ICC Test rankings.
With Kirsten having helped steer India to
the 2011 World Cup before switching allegiance back to his country of birth,
the pair are probably the most revered names in the cricket coaching world at
Both are products of southern African soil,
conscientious former Test batsmen, and coaches renowned for a strong work ethic
and endeavour to go about their business unobtrusively and out of the public
eye, as much as possible.
Kirsten acknowledged “similarities” between
“Absolutely – we’ve had lots of
conversations around this, and I respect him hugely,” Kirsten told Sport24
during an extended interview.
“A lot of the stuff we do is the same,
although I do pick up some differences, of course. I just enjoy connecting with
Andy; he’s very shrewd and a very organised guy – probably more organised than
“It didn’t surprise me at all that England
were going to do well under him. Remember that in his first game they got
bowled out for 51 by West Indies (at Sabina Park, in an innings defeat in 2009)
... look where they went from there!”
Asked about England’s 4-0 whitewash of his
former charges India in the recent Test series, Kirsten said: “In fairness, I
don’t think India ever put them under too much pressure, so the momentum in the
English team was allowed to flow pretty freely because of that.
“The teams that are stable, that don’t
change too much ... these are the ones that inevitably prosper.
“The (Indian) team loses now, so people
quickly say ‘OK, we’d better move people on’. I’m not sure that is the right
Kirsten said English top-level cricket was
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look
at their structures and systems, the coach they’ve got, the captain (Andrew
Strauss) they appointed ... the systems in English cricket are foolproof these
“They have great leadership within their
national team and good people in admin like Hugh Morris (managing director of
England cricket). That is everything.
“But then again, what do we need in South
African cricket? We have a high-performing, fine team.
“By everyone’s admission in the one-on-ones
I’ve had with players, we need only a 10 percent tweak to turn us from a very
good team into a great one: I must help the players get to that.
“I agree it’s a shame we only play three
Tests in England next year; four would have been good, I think.”
England’s conditioning and training
intensity has been praised during their ascent to No 1, but Kirsten does not
necessarily believe they have set new benchmarks.
“I don’t think from an athletic point of
view there’s anything particularly new out there. They might have created a
system that better monitors players, I’m not sure.
“Certainly in the games India played last
season against South Africa, I found them to be extremely well conditioned.
Ditto Australia, for that matter. So I don’t think they’re actually ahead there
in any way.
“As for practising, I always felt one of
the keys for India’s success was that very thing: I thought our practising was
absolutely outstanding. That’s a given – players have got to have real purpose
of Gary Kirsten’s thoughts to Rob Houwing will be published on www.Sport24.co.za over
the next few days.