SA in New Zealand

Kirsten pleased with progress

2012-02-25 09:49
Gary Kirsten (File)
Wellington - Proteas’ coach Gary Kirsten is pleased with the way the players have responded to the flexibility he has created within the limited over’s space of the game, as the Proteas prepare for the first ODI at the Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

Kirsten welcomes back Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn after they were rested during the series against Sri Lanka last month, a key feature of the brain-trust’s rotation policy.

“It (rotation) has worked nicely from a team perspective,” commented Kirsten. “We can rest players and we can look at other individuals, which I think is important for us and it allows us to build our depth. It also rests some of our seniors players who are getting to a stage where they can’t be expected to play in all the games, look at Jacques Kallis, he has had a 17-year career and things are catching up with him.

“I’m enjoying the flexibility that we have created within the batting line-up, especially with guys getting more comfortable with the fact that where they sit on the batting order is based on a situation rather than a fixed position, I think that is outdated thinking in cricket. I’m really excited about that and we are getting a feel for those guys that can play in a certain type of way in a game and those that can close games for us. There is still a long way to go but I’m excited by the way that it is developing.

Kallis is expected to play in the 320th ODI of his career,  and he yesterday sent out an ominous warning to the New Zealand bowlers. He averages 42.11 against the Blackcaps in 43 matches he has played against them since his international debut 16 years ago, and admitted yesterday that he is playing some of the best cricket of his career.

“I’m probably batting as well as I’ve ever batted, certainly from a confidence point of view and a technical point of view. The last couple of years I’ve really felt good and scored quite quickly because I have got into good positions,” said Kallis. 

He also lauded the way Kirsten managed the players, and believes the extra rest for the senior players leaves a valuable window of opportunity for the youngsters finding their way.

“The nice thing about our rotational policy and resting some guys is that we find out new players that are coming through so that when your senior players retire or do get rested it is not a major step for the guys coming in because they have played a bit of cricket and they know what to expect, especially during the pressure situations. It gives them a better opportunity to come in and to perform well,” said Kallis.

A recent affirmation of Kallis’ theory was the performance of Richard Levi and Marchant de Lange in the T20 International Series against New Zealand, with the duo stamping their mark on the International scene with maturity and confidence.

“We unearthed one or two players the we can be very excited about,” added Kirsten. “I think that Marchant de Lange proved to us that he is a man capable of playing a big situation, which I was very encouraged by and I think we have a better understanding of our combinations in terms of what we want to do and what type of individuals we would want to play in certain situations.

“I was excited by the process but probably the most important thing was the mental aspect,  that we were able to close the series out coming into difficult conditions, a lot of guys not understanding how they were going to play in these conditions as well as playing against a team that was coming off good form and had done well in T20 cricket.  I was happy that we hung in there and for us to win that series was a very big plus for us.”

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