Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Gary Kirsten has dropped strong
hints that immediate, sweeping changes to the South African Test team he will
take charge of are unlikely.
The new Proteas coach told Sport24 during a
lengthy interview that he doesn’t “want to tinker too much” with the Test side
His charges start their 2011/12 Test
campaign with a two-match home series against Australia; the first Test is at
Newlands from November 9, which is precisely where the Proteas also played
their last game in the extended format, the drawn third Test against India in
Of course that does not entirely preclude
the possibility that Kirsten and the national selection panel make one or two
adjustments to the XI: players like opening batsman Alviro Petersen and
left-arm spinner Paul Harris are arguably under the greatest threat from such
contenders as Jacques Rudolph and the attacking leg-spinner Imran Tahir
But if some Proteas enthusiasts are wishing
for more sweeping alterations, after India held the Proteas to a 1-1 outcome
last summer, then they may be disappointed – especially as Kirsten produced
words of encouragement for veteran wicketkeeper Mark Boucher and first-change
seamer Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
“I’ve always believed that in a Test side
you need a solid top six batting line-up, you need a wicketkeeper who is the
best in the country and a bowling attack who can take 20 wickets,” Kirsten
“In Jacques Kallis we’re very fortunate to
have two cricketers in one. Yes, there’s always the grey area around a No 8
batsman, and maybe that’s one area for exploitation by any opposition against
South Africa ... our tail is a bit longer than others.
“Dale Steyn is certainly committed to
whatever effort he can make (to nail down) No 8. I think there’s perhaps
potential down the line to be creative around that slot.
“(But) you can be more creative in your
one-day side; developing some Test players from it. That’s my ‘purist’
viewpoint, I suppose!”
Like many strike bowlers, Steyn has become
increasingly competent at the crease, especially in his use of the “long handle”,
and Kirsten is unlikely to have forgotten his series-swaying partnership of 180
with JP Duminy from the No 10 position against the Aussies at the MCG in
Asked about glovemen challengers to
Boucher, who turns 35 in December, Kirsten said: “Two come to mind, Heino Kuhn
plus Daryn Smit from the Dolphins, who I’ve been told about. Remember I’ve been
out of the South African loop for three years.
“But for me at Test level, from what I’ve
seen and what I know, Mark Boucher is the best wicketkeeper in the country and
he takes that spot.”
He also gave his thoughts on the slightly
problematic “third paceman” behind Steyn and Morne Morkel.
“We do have a pecking order going, although
it’s probably not right for me to mention names. But we’ve certainly got in our
minds the three potential customers who would be in that position, and all have
“Personally I think it’s very exciting for
South African cricket that the third seamer berth is not a sure place.
“Lonwabo Tsotsobe did exceptionally well
here (last summer) and there’s no reason to suggest he can’t continue to do
well here; he’s a factor in our conditions, a very good one.
“But that issue unfolds with time and there
are other names we can get excited by; some guys might be stronger on the
batting side, for instance. That’s obviously a consideration.
“We must also learn how to win Test matches
at some stage without Dale. His workload is immensely heavy; he loves playing
all formats. We need to be very careful how we manage him. You have to get guys
to buy into the value of rotation from time to time.
“The schedule only busies up, it doesn’t