New ‘big name’ joins race
Johannesburg – The race for the position of Protea coach has taken another twist, with no clear leader emerging.Click to vote and WIN in the Sport24 Annual Awards
Gerald Majola, executive head of Cricket South Africa (CSA) confirmed on Thursday to Sport24 that another "big name" in world cricket had, at the last minute, entered the contest to follow in the footsteps of Corrie van Zyl.
Van Zyl will step down in less than three months after the World Cup tournament.
Gary Kirsten, a former South African opening batsman and the coach of the visiting Indian team, was up till now the overwhelming favourite to take over the reins from Van Zyl, who will return to his position as training coach at the high achievement centre in Pretoria in April.
Kirsten's contract with the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) also expires then.
Majola said CSA decided on Thursday to extend the deadline for applications for this position by a month. This follows contact by a strong contender, whose interest was registered with the governing body only after the initial deadline – last Friday - had expired.
"We weren't completely satisfied with the number of applications that we had received by the weekend, and that is why we wanted to extend the search," he said.
”Another big name has in addition asked that his late application be considered, as he wasn't aware of the initial deadline."
Applications will now close on February 18, a day before cricket's biggest showpiece on the sub-continent (in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) begins.
A panel consisting of, amongst others, Majola, Van Zyl and the national selection chief, Andrew Hudson, will begin with interviews shortly afterwards.
"There is no rush and at least another five highly-regarded coaches have applied (on Thursday)," said Majola.
He wouldn't reveal who they were or whether Kirsten had added his name to the mix.
"It is a confidential process, and it wouldn't be fair to any of the applicants to reveal who had been in contact."
"What I can say, is that the decision to extend the application date has nothing to do with Gary."
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian captain who described Kirsten last month as "the best thing that has yet happened to this country's cricket", recently revealed that he might not be staying on with the team.
The 43-year-old Capetonian, under whom the Indians have become the world's top Test team since February last year, has often said that his young family would like to return to SA.
Vincent Barnes, the Proteas assistant coach, and Graham Ford, a former national coach, are also apparently interested in the position.