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Ken Borland

No celebration, but see the bigger picture – Kirsten

Posted on May 08, 2013 by Ken

NARROWLY avoiding a whitewash against the eighth-ranked New Zealanders will not provide cause for celebration, but Proteas coach Gary Kirsten says the one-day international series should be seen as part of a bigger picture.

That bigger picture is the 2015 World Cup, with Kirsten hired as coach in large part because he won that title with India in 2011 and South Africa crave success in that event after a litany of heartbreak stretching back to 1992.

But while South Africa have a settled Test unit that is rightly ranked No1, there is a perception that there is no clarity when it comes to what the best one-day international team is.

Finding a top-class all-rounder to cover for the day when Jacques Kallis calls it quits looms large as a major assignment, and Kirsten will be delighted that Ryan McLaren repaid the faith invested in him with a match-winning performance under pressure in Potchefstroom.

“Jacques is a two-in-one cricketer and we’ve had the luxury of having him for 18 years,” Kirsten said.

“What can we do when he’s no longer around? Do we choose a fourth specialist pace bowler or play an all-rounder at seven?

“We’ve been mixing and matching to see what’s best and Ryan’s inclusion comes after the selectors decided that he’s the best all-rounder. He’s played 16 one-day internationals spread over four years and probably feels like he’s always playing for his place, plus it’s a grey-area position.

“So I would like to give him a run, to see what he can do and he’s learnt a lot about bowling in the middle overs,” Kirsten said.

Other new, or less regular, faces in the squad — Quinton de Kock, Farhaan Behardien, David Miller, Rory Kleinveldt and Aaron Phangiso — did not manage to have the same effect as McLaren, but Kirsten says the use of a larger pool of players is all part of the plan.

“I’m pretty clear on what the 15-man squad for the Champions Trophy will be and our focus is on the World Cup, which is two years out.

“This time of exploration allows for a great number of opinions and people get irritated. But this is a very important phase, and we need to go through this process.

“There’s obviously a risk attached in doing it at international level and we knew New Zealand would be dangerous and didn’t take them for granted. But we needed to find a series where we could explore our talent because in the long term, it has given us depth and exposure for those players,” Kirsten said.

There is a more worrying question over who is actually the best leader for the team.

It is becoming apparent that too much is being placed on AB de Villiers’s shoulders, hence the decision to call up De Kock as wicketkeeper. But then South Africa had to call on Faf du Plessis to captain the team after De Villiers was suspended for a dreadfully slow over rate.

Thrusting such a high-pressured job on somebody like De Villiers, who has no previous captaincy experience, was always going to be risky and the 28-year-old may be better advised to focus on his batting and keeping wicket in the one-day internationals.

“Faf has great leadership potential but it’s only fair that we give AB a run as captain, he’s only done it for 14 games.

“He wasn’t going to keep wicket because we wanted him to grow his captaincy, but it’s early days, we’ll have to see how things unfold,” Kirsten said.

“There’s a lot of conversation around AB as wicketkeeper and captain and yes, there is a risk attached that it might diminish his batting, but there’s also a risk that we’ll waste one of the greatest careers. He adds massive value as a wicketkeeper.

“We haven’t closed the door on him being the one-day international wicketkeeper. That was very specific to this series and we won’t make a rushed decision,” he said.

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