Proteas

Kirsten’s nod for Bouch, Lopsy

2011-09-05 13:20
Lonwabo Tsotsobe (Gallo)
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 at present.

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 early January.

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 respectively.

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 said.

“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 December 2008.

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 different skills.

“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 busy down.”

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