World Cup-winning coach and former Proteas batsman Gary Kirsten has played down his return to South African cricket as being nothing more than a chance to reconnect with the domestic game in the country.
The 51-year-old was last month unveiled as the new coach of Mzansi Super League side Durban Heat, replacing Grant Morgan for the second edition of the Twenty20 competition. The ex-opener, who also coached SA between 2011 and 2013, says his homecoming is more to have fun and get an early glimpse of the future.
Kirsten knows all about T20 leagues being played around the world. He has spent time in the IPL (Indian Premier League) and Australia’s Big Bash League.
He is widely seen as one of the games brightest minds and has legendary status in India, who he guided to the World Cup title in 2011.
He says watching last year’s inaugural MSL encouraged him hugely about the future of South African cricket.
Kirsten, who played over 100 Tests for South Africa, scoring 21 centuries and averaging more than 45, never got to play T20 cricket because it only arrived after he retired.
He says that coaching in the various leagues across different continents was a huge challenge, but says it was also exciting learning and working with different players.
The Heat had a season to forget last year, finishing bottom in the six-team competition with just three wins out of 10 games.
Kirsten and his new team were last week attending the MSL Draft held in Soweto to finalise their team for the new season.
He said he needed all the help he could get to select his squad, but feels they have assembled a strong group for the challenge ahead.
He is particularly excited by some of the young names selected by the teams. – Report by Thahir Asmal