Kirsten lauds 'shrewd' Flower

2011-08-31 14:14
Gary Kirsten (Gallo)
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 present.

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 the two.

“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 I am.

“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 answer.”

Kirsten said English top-level cricket was structurally sound.

“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 days.

“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 to it.”

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

Read more on:    gary kirsten  |  cape town  |  proteas

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