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Ashes 2021/22

‘Not a great look’ – Gary Kirsten criticised for expressing interest in England head coach role before it is available

Gary Kirsten
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Gary Kirsten has stated in an interview with i that he would be interested in taking the England head coach job, drawing a number of reactions across the British media.

The former South Africa opener coached India and South Africa with major success in the international arena, leading both the the No.1 Test ranking. Kirsten was one of two major contenders for the role back in 2019, with current incumbent, the under-fire Chris Silverwood, preferred to him. “Listen, it is always a consideration because it’s a tremendous honour,” Kirsten said when asked if he would consider taking the job now. “I’ve walked this journey twice now and I’ve always made it clear that I would never commit to doing all formats.”

This expression of interest in the  role wasn’t received well by some, given Silverwood remains in situ. Writing for the Evening Standard, Will Macpherson criticised Kirsten. “Gary Kirsten is clearly a very fine cricket coach, who did brilliantly with South Africa and India,” he wrote. “But it is hard to believe he’s done himself any favours in landing the England job (at the third attempt) by expressing his interest before it is available, while the incumbent, Silverwood, is in isolation with a family member suffering from Covid-19.


“Kirsten raises some fair points – the job is too big for one man, and should be split – and fair enough if he is answering questions at face value, but giving multiple interviews in the first place is not a great look.”

Similar sentiments were raised by The Cricketer’s George Dobell. “Maybe just me but… touting for a coaching role that isn’t vacant while the guy in the job is isolating due to positive Covid test in his family… not that classy, is it? [Insert ‘no thanks’ here]” he tweeted.

This view wasn’t shared by The Times’ Elizabeth Ammon though. “Nope. I find it fine,” she said in response to a Twitter user who described Kirsten’s interest in the role “…a bit distasteful”. “He was asked the question. I don’t mind him giving an answer. It’s better than some of the shit answers we get to our questions. And there is a vacancy in all but a formal sense.”

Gary Kirsten has an impressive CV as a coach. He took over at India in 2008, and led them to the No.1 ranking in Test cricket. Soon after he also helped them lift the World Cup. The next year he took over as South Africa coach, and helped them to the top spot in Test cricket too.

His positive influence on these sides didn’t go unnoticed, with some English pundits allowing themselves to get excited about the prospect of Kirsten in charge. Steve James, writing in The Times, believed that the South African could revive England’s fortune much in the same way his cricketing mentor Duncan Fletcher did in the 2000s. “If Kirsten can have the same influence as Fletcher did in being the sharpest batting technical guru the English game has seen, then that will surely be a significant step forward in England’s desperate need to improve its Test fortunes,” he wrote.

Fletcher’s tenure coincided with the reigns of Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan, and saw England improve from being the bottom ranked Test side in the world to winning away series in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and South Africa, while also winning the Ashes at home in the summer of 2005.

Silverwood remains in post, though batting coach Graham Thorpe will take charge for the fourth Ashes Test at Sydney.

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