Gary Kirsten’s IPL role is the only sticking point as he moves into pole position to become England’s new coach – with this year’s final taking place just FOUR DAYS before first Test against New Zealand
- Gary Kirsten currently coaches the Gujarat Titans, a new franchise, in the IPL
- He is believed to be willing to end his association with the side after this year’s edition of the tournament
- England’s first Test against New Zealand comes shortly after end of the IPL
Gary Kirsten’s appointment as England Test coach has moved a step closer after he told Rob Key he is available and interested.
It was reported earlier in the week that Kirsten had been approached by England about the role, but Sportsmail understands discussions between him and Key — the recently appointed ECB director of men’s cricket — reached a new level on Monday, with issues including Kirsten’s lucrative IPL gig as batting coach and mentor at Gujarat Titans.
Candidates for both the Test and white-ball roles can express their interest until May 6, with interviews beginning on May 9.
Gary Kirsten is reported to have held talks with Rob Key on Monday over the England position
But Kirsten, who coached India to World Cup success in 2011 and his native South Africa to the top of the Test rankings a year later, when they won 2-0 in England, appears to be in pole position.
One potential complication is that this year’s IPL final is on May 29, only four days before the start of the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s.
And the Titans, one of two new franchises in this year’s tournament, are on course for the knockout stages after winning six of their first seven games.
Key left his job as a Sky Sports pundit last week to become England’s new director of cricket
Kirsten is believed to be willing to end his involvement with the Titans once this year’s IPL is over, assuming the ECB compensates him sufficiently. But he may insist on seeing out the remainder of the competition, giving him little time to acquaint himself with England’s Test set-up before the three-match series against the New Zealanders, the current world Test champions.
If appointed, he would provide a chalk-and-cheese contrast to Ben Stokes, who is set to be unveiled as Joe Root’s successor as Test captain and would lead very much from the front.
Kirsten, 54, is quieter and more analytical, and his experience as a Test player ought to prove invaluable to England’s struggling top order — 149 of his 176 innings for South Africa were as an opener. His average of 45 and 21 Test hundreds mark him out as a technician of the highest class.
Kirsten (centre right, in July 1994 at Lord’s) was a top order batsman of the highest order for South Africa and his experience will prove invaluable
Kirsten has come close to coaching England before and in 2019 arrived for an interview at Lord’s believing he was hot favourite to succeed Australian Trevor Bayliss.
But his lack of preparation cost him his chance and the ECB opted instead for Chris Silverwood, who was sacked in February after England’s Ashes fiasco and has since become head coach of Sri Lanka.
Kirsten then ruffled feathers in December when he admitted during an interview that he would be interested in the England job even though Silverwood, who was in Covid quarantine at the time in Melbourne, had not yet been sacked.
The South African’s lack of preparation for his 2019 interview to succeed Trevor Bayliss was thought to be the reason he missed out to Chris Silverwood
That went down badly with some in the England dressing room, although Kirsten felt he was simply giving an honest answer to a direct question.
None of that, though, will matter now as England seek to get appointments in place for a summer in which they play seven Tests — the New Zealand series followed by the postponed fifth Test against India from last year and a three-match rubber against South Africa.
Kirsten has spoken in the past of his desire to maintain a healthy work-life balance and Key’s decision to split the coaching roles for the first time since early 2014, when Andy Flower was in charge of the Test side and Ashley Giles of the white ball teams, is another factor that appears to be in his favour.
Ben Stokes (L) is expected to be announced as Joe Root’s successor after impressing Rob Key