Colombo: There’s no doubting Gary Kirsten’s technical knowledge, but it is his man-management skills that sets him apart.
The failures and the disappointments are never allowed to linger and the stress is on having a positive atmosphere in the dressing room. The blame game is never played and the mental freshness remains a key element of his mantra to success.Ask any Indian or South African player and he will vouch for it. If Team India achieved stupendous success during his regime, it is now South Africa’s turn. The No.1 team in Tests and T20s, though, has failed to emulate such success in the Super Eights stage of the World T20 so far.
Having lost both their matches to Pakistan and Australia, the Proteas are in danger of making an exit unless they win against India. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side, too, are in almost a similar situation, and if South Africa are banking on Kirsten’s India years to give them a lifeline, the Indians are also aware of that possibility.
Kirsten, though, isn’t thinking on such lines. “There is enough information out there for every player to be analysed at length, there is enough on television, there is the IPL,” said the South African coach.
“I don’t think I have something unique 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.”
Various permutations and combinations have already cropped up while considering which two teams would be advance from this group. For the record, the Aussies sit pretty at the top with four points while Pakistan and India are tied on two each.
India’s poor run-rate (-0.452) is a major deterrent, which has placed them behind Pakistan (-0.426) in the points table. So, it will be important to win by a huge margin. However, if Pakistan lose to South Africa, an Indian victory will be enough to take them through.
“We can’t make plans right away as a lot of things will depend on the result of the earlier (Australia vs Pakistan) match. May be we will have some plans, but then we might not need that plan at all. So it’s not right to plan right now and wait and watch,” said Dhoni.
The Indians only honed their football skills during the optional session at the Premadasa on Monday afternoon. Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher had a close look at the wicket before speaking to the curator.
Considering South Africa’s struggle against the spinning ball, it won’t be surprising if the thinktank decides to bring Harbhajan Singh back into the playing XI. Lakshmipathy Balaji may have to sit out in that case.
There was a surprise during South Africa’s nets at the Colts Cricket Club ground. Dirk Nannes, who is here as a commentator, bowled at nets on a request from the team management. This was obviously done to counter the threat posed by India’s left-arm quicks, Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan.
Having worked with them, it is these intricacies of the Indian side that could help Kirsten in his planning for Tuesday’s match. The shrewd tactician that he is, it won’t come as a shock if he decides to employ the short-pitched stuff against the Indians.
Kirsten didn’t rule out including Faf du Plessis in the XI in place of Richard Levi, who has struggled against the spinners.
Kirsten has been pragmatic on South Africa’s failures here. “We need to make good decisions… In both the games, we were trying to win and then we let it slip. We haven’t played well enough in the key moments of the game,” he said.
Dhoni is also not keen to look too far ahead. “We’ll play the last match of Super Eights… Could be the last match for us too,” he quipped.
The Indian captain is aware of the threat posed by the South Africans. “They have a complete side with two good fast bowlers, plus Jacques Kallis and two spinners. They have batsmen like AB (De Villiers), Hashim Amla and JP Duminy who can score quick runs. But then in this format, you need to click as a team… They are a very good side… they have the talent and the balance.”
India (likely): Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Lakshmipathy Balaji/Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan.
South Africa (likely): Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, JP Duminy, AB de Villiers, Farhaan Behardien, Robin Peterson, Wayne Parnell, Faf de Plessis, Johan Botha, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel.
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena and Rod Tucker. TV: Ian Gould.
Match Referee: Jeff Crowe.