Things just got interesting folks. Although nothing has been confirmed yet, many news outlets are reporting that Gary Kirsten, one of the best cricket coaches in the world, is meeting with Ashley Giles at Lord’s today. And somehow I don’t think they’re meeting to discuss the latest episode of Columbo.
This is really exciting news. It’s like finding out that Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola are in talks with the FA to replace the waistcoated one. You think it’s something that would never happen in a million years but sometimes life surprises you.
Everything I’d heard had suggested that Kirsten wouldn’t touch the England job with a sixty foot pole. He’s reportedly turned the ECB down before, and everyone in the know assumed he was happy in South Africa spending time with his precious family.
However, our very own King Of Spain, the man formerly referred to as the Wheelie Bin, the guy who screwed up the Alex Hales drugs saga so badly that he made the board look like villains rather than the player, seems to have pulled off a blinder. Well done Ashley Giles.
When you think about this it makes perfect sense. Having been England’s ODI coach in the past, Gilo wants to learn from his experiences and appoint one man to lead both the test and white ball sides. And there’s no better candidate (theoretical or otherwise) than Kirsten.
The problem has always been how intense and tiring this job can become. It puts a lot of people off even though the ECB usually offer top dollar. Thankfully Giles has realised this uncomfortable fact and agreed to offer the new head coach strategic breaks to recharge his batteries.
This news would’ve been like catnip to a Maine Coon for Kirsten, who is keen for a new challenge but still wants plenty of downtime with his family. I’m pleased that Giles is making the necessary compromises to land the best man for the job.
The situation is perfect because Giles is reportedly keen to groom an English successor for when Kirsten steps down – presumably after we’ve won the World T20, triumphed at the Champions Trophy, regained the Ashes 5-0 down under, and retained the World Cup. Ahem.
With Kirsten apparently keen to retain our existing coaching team (which includes the likes of Chris Silverwood, Graham Thorpe, and Paul Collingwood) I assume one of these former playing stalwarts will learn from the new gaffer and eventually replace him.
Although the concept of ‘succession planning’ (or indeed ‘planning’) is a new one at the ECB, I really like Giles’s ambition. Obviously plans are subject to change – especially when we actually lose all our World T20 group games, surrender to Afghanistan in the Champions Trophy, lose the Ashes down under 0-5, and fail to quality for the 2023 World Cup – it’s good to know that Gilo is at least thinking ahead.
If Kirsten does eventually sign on the dotted line then it will be brilliant for England. His CV is second to none. India went unbeaten in eleven test series in a row when Kirsten was in charge a decade ago. He subsequently took South Africa to No.1 in the world rankings and beat the Aussies in Australia in 2013.
Kirsten’s overall white ball record is also impressive. He was India coach when they won the World Cup in 2011, and his Hobart Hurricanes teams finished runners up in the Big Bash twice. His last IPL stint with Royal Challengers Bangalore ended in disappointment but you can’t have everything.
The other encouraging thing about Kirsten’s appointment – and I hope I’m not jinxing it by assuming it will all go through – is that it backs up Giles’s promise to prioritise test cricket. Kirsten was a very good opening batsman for South Africa with excellent powers of concentration; therefore he could be the man to help our batting line-up last longer than a single session.
What’s more, the new coach’s white ball pedigree should ensure that we don’t take a backward step in ODIs and T20s. Although Trev took our ODI team to new heights, our test team was frequently a liability – a price the ECB thought was worth paying. A Kirsten led management team promises to excel at all forms of the game (in theory).
But what about Andy Flower I hear you ask? Will there still be a role for the mood hoover in the new set up? Well, according to the Daily Mail the answer is no. Although cynics believed that Flower’s stint at the ECB would never end, Matt Hughes has reported that he’s off. In fact, he’s currently looking for employment at the IPL.
I have mixed feelings about Flower’s departure. There’s no doubt that he was a very good England head coach for a substantial period of time. However, he was also a little bit conservative, and I eventually grew tired of the containment (‘bowling dry’) strategy implemented by Andrew Strauss. It worked a treat when we beat Australia down under in 2010/11 but it all went a bit stale too quickly.
Flower had been working as ‘Technical Director Of Elite Coaching’ at the ECB (essentially coaching the coaches) and overseeing the England Lions for the last few years. Although he remains well respected, very few of these Lions players amounted to very much. The new specialist batsmen in particular struggled.
It was always going to be interesting to see what Giles did with Flower. For many years Flower had the England test job that Giles craved so badly. And he rarely seemed impressed when England’s best players were rested from the ODI side against his wishes.
Is this Gilo’s revenge? Probably not. I doubt Ashley is that petty. But it’s fun to speculate.