While I’ve touted Kepler Wessels as my preferred choice to take over from Mickey Arthur as the new Protea’s coach, there are a nmber of contenders who will be talked about in the coming weeks.
Interim coach Corrie van Zyl must be the front runner, being the current high performance head, a former assistant coach for the Protea’s, when Graham Ford was in charge, and having extensive stints with the Free State Eagles, as well as a solid first class career. Should the Protea’s have a successive tour in India it would do little to harm van Zyls claim. His bowling skills will also come in handy with a young and potentially lethal attack that will need patience and more patience on Indian wickets.
Van Zyl has added Kepler Wessels to his team, as a batting coach, as well as a selector. Wessels will have first hand knowledge of what would be needed to take the team forward during this brief role as bating coach and selector. Although the appointment should be made before the end of the tour it would be a seemless transition should Wessels be named new coach.
Other’s who will be mentioned are Vince Barnes, Duncan Fletcher and Richard Pybus. Barnes has served as the deputy and bowling coach for almost a decade, under Eric Simmons, Ray Jennings and Arthur. The fact that he was not appointed interim coach suggests that he probably won’t get the job. Fletcher enjoyed a successful spell as England coach, winning series in South Africa as well as the Ashes. He also served as a batting consultant at times under Arthur. As a former Western Province coach he formed a mentor role with Jacques Kallis. Pybus has had success with in South African domestic cricket with the Titans, but would seem an outside bet at best.
One name that is quietly being spoken about is that of former Protea’s opening batsman and current India head coach Gary Kirsten. Kirsten certainly would be a popular choice with the supporters, who have fond memories form his playing days, as well as being impressed with the job he has done with India. Under Kirsten India have risen to the top of the Test rankings are are challenging near the top of the ODI rankings too. Most impressively has been their form away from home, something that many past Indian teams have lacked. The Indian cricket job is perhaps the most high profile and stressful in the game, and by not only copping, but excelling, Kirsten has shown he has what it takes to handle another potential difficult job, that of South Africa. The political goings on behind the scenes that come with the Protea’s job mean it is one only for the strongest characters, like Wessels, Kirsten would suit the job. Interestingly Kirstens contract expires in March, and if he isn’t tied down by India soon, he could be making his way home to South Africa – something that would suit his family. Should Kirsten get the Protea’s job it would mean he started and ended his Indian career against the Protea’s.
It’s clear that strength of character and will are needed for the Protea’s job, and with the team setting goals of being the best team in the world, and winning an ICC event, Kepler Wessels or Gary Kirsten must be the front runners to lead the team. The best man for the job must be appointed.
pic from cricinfo.com