South Africa coach admits that there are causes for concern, but hopes the team will give a strong account of itself against India
Gary Kirsten believes that South Africa has squandered its opportunities to win.
South Africa came into the ICC World Twenty20 2012 with one of the most balanced sides, which many believed had the potential to go all the way. It sailed through its group matches in Hambantota to reinforce that belief, but has found the conditions at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo hard to counter, finding itself on the brink of elimination after successive defeats to Pakistan and Australia in the Super Eights.
Ahead of the final clash against India on Tuesday (October 2), Gary Kirsten, now the South African coach, said the team had failed to seize the moments, and hence paid a big price. “We need to make good decisions,” said Kirsten. “In both the games, we were trying to win the games and then we let it slip. We haven’t played well enough in the key moments of the game. We had Pakistan at 76 for 7; we should be winning that game. It has been disappointing. We had tough batting situations in which we lost three wickets very early but in both those games we batted deep and well to get to a good competitive total. I thought in the second game (against Pakistan), 150 was a par score and we got 146. But it is a bit disappointing that we had opportunities to close a game out and we didn’t do that.”
Kirsten was the India coach when Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men won the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, but disagreed that he had some inside information that South Africa could put to good use against India. “There is enough information out there for every player to be analysed at length, there is enough on television, there is the IPL,” said Kirsten. “I don’t think we have something unique (about Indian players) to offer these South African players, they play with these players a lot. The focus of our attention is not on them, it is on what we need to do in the next game.”
South Africa’s top three haven’t made many runs in the Super Eights. “If something doesn’t click in your team, it is a cause for concern,” conceded Kirsten. “But you have to trust players, you got to back them and believe in them. We have enough skill in our batting line-up and we have seven batsmen on this tour. They have shown that they are capable of playing quality innings in big games and we’ve got to believe in them that they can do it. There is no reason why they can’t, they are all high quality players. They have produced runs in different situations around the world.”
Against South Africa, Raza Hasan bowled three overs for 12 runs and Xavier Doherty took 3 for 20 from four overs, so it was logical for Kirsten to be asked if South Africa had an issue with left-arm spinners. “I wouldn’t say so,” replied Kirsten. “We are used to playing left-arm spinners. Just because we lost a few wickets, it doesn’t mean that. The first six overs has been tough to plan at the Premadasa with the odd one gripping. It is about really understanding the conditions and decoding them.”
Virat Kohli cut his teeth in international cricket when Kirsten was the India coach, and Kirsten said he was delighted at the progress the young man had made. “He is a great player and we have always known that. He is probably one of the stand-out batsmen in the world at the moment and we all know what he is capable of doing,” said Kirsten. “He is one of those X factor cricketers that other teams want to get out because he is not going to get out himself. He doesn’t throw his wicket away. I am pleased for Virat, he has worked hard on his game and he is showing that he is one of the premier batsman in the world at the moment.”