How will things change without Gazza?
For a bloke who freely admits that he never thought he would ever be good enough to play test cricket, Gary Kirsten has been pretty damn remarkable.
Gazza can walk away from the up-front jobs he has done for South Africa with enormous pride and complete satisfaction.
Yes, we all would have liked to see Gary cast his educated eye over his charges for longer, but the strain of constant travel and a family void has forced his hand. Just like his batting, once again his timing has been impeccable.
He moved on after the Indian team lifted a nation with a treasured trophy and is now doing the same after taking South Africa to the pinnacle at test level. ‘Quit at the top’ they say. Gazza does.
I am certain he is not lost to South African cricket as a carefully structured consultancy role deserves to be inked and for a couple of months every year expect him to be boundary-line and expressionless with an IPL outfit.
What does his unexpected departure mean for South African cricket? Having travelled with and been embedded amidst the team over the last couple of years, I can offer a considered opinion.
Don’t be fooled, Kirsten’s departure means plenty. Gary’s method greatly encouraged responsibility, ownership and maturity. He succeeded in providing a high performance environment that promoted excellence.
Importantly, his process allowed each personality to prepare for an upcoming task in a mature and individualistic sense.
Of course he was not alone in structuring this atmosphere as he received endless assistance from his loyal support team but, make no mistake, Gary was the rock. Just like his batting days.
The passing of the baton to Russell Domingo will guarantee continuity of the Kirsten mantra but while Russell is a good sound individual and his selection makes a great deal of sense, it won’t be the same and all must acknowledge that now. Change is inevitable.
Therein lies the challenge, not just for Domingo but all involved. Move on and dig deep and work cohesively to ensure that no cracks appear.
Domingo must have space to stamp his authority on proceedings with the execution of his own style and the players must become accustomed to a change in the guard and adapt.
Playing second fiddle, as Russell has done during Gary’s reign, is a very different role than being the head honcho.
I for one support the move and applaud those who gave Russell the nod and provided him this opportunity. He is a solid guy and a good bloke who has done the hard yards over the years.
Whenever I discuss the team ethics of the elite South African cricketers, there is one word that is never far from my opinion. Trust.
One of the immense strengths of this unit is that they value that word enormously and no-one ever lets another player down or compromises a teammate. Gary was adamant regarding that core foundation.
That Kirsten footprint will watch over proceedings and rewarding cohesion will endure only if senior players accept even greater responsibility in this transition phase.
Good luck Russell…if all get it right you have a superb bunch to move forward with.