Eyes on Kirsten as South Africa prepares for India

Updated 19 February 2015

Eyes on Kirsten as South Africa prepares for India

MELBOURNE: Having coached one team to the World Cup title, Gary Kirsten is now helping plot another nation’s bid for the coveted prize — and the two will meet when India take on South Africa on Sunday.
Kirsten, the former South African opening batsman, was India’s coach when Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men won the World Cup in Mumbai four years ago.
He left the job immediately after the tournament to take over as South Africa’s coach, serving the Proteas for two years before handing the baton to his deputy Russell Domingo.
The 47-year-old is now back with AB de Villiers’ side as a consultant for a part of the World Cup and joined the squad on Wednesday after returning from the players’ auction in the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he coaches the Delhi Daredevils franchise.
Kirsten will be on hand to watch the two sides meet at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday in a key Pool B match, which will almost certainly assure the winner a place in the quarterfinals.
Domingo said he was happy to have Kirsten around, even if only on a temporary basis.
“Gary is an experienced coach, he has been with the side for a long period of time,” Domingo said on Thursday.
“He has a certain number of days with us for important stages of the event where we think he can offer us a lot of input and advice.
“Just having his presence around is a big source of inspiration and motivation for the team.”
Both teams won their opening games, with India thrashing arch-rivals Pakistan by 76 runs in Adelaide and South Africa beating neighbors Zimbabwe by 62 runs in Hamilton.
South Africa have never won the World Cup, despite being one of the most powerful sides in modern-day cricket, and Kirsten’s input will be vital as the Proteas seek to ditch their unwanted tag of “chokers.”
“I’m desperately hoping that we win the World Cup this year,” Kirsten told the Kolkata-based Telegraph newspaper as he vowed sentiment would play no part in his approach to Sunday’s match.
“In a professional environment, work is work. Whatever the colors you wear, you’re expected to give your best shot. In today’s world, little is unknown as information spreads fast and gets shared.”
Kirsten is not the only man in the South African set-up with Indian connections.
Bowling coach Allan Donald is involved with the IPL and trainer Gregory King was with the Indian squad for four years until 2007.
Several players, including skipper de Villiers, Duminy, Miller and fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, also ply their trade in the lucrative IPL.
Australian Mike Hussey, given a backroom role by the South Africans specifically for the World Cup, has also been an IPL regular since its inception in 2008.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar said the expertise of Kirsten and Hussey could benefit South Africa but urged Dhoni’s men not to think about them too much.
“Kirsten knows how people react in the Indian dressing room,” said Gavaskar. “Hussey has also played in the IPL. They will try and tell them how to negotiate 20 overs of spin.
“It will help to an extent but then a lot depends on how they play on the field. It will only help South Africa if India thinks too much about Kirsten and Hussey.
“These things are peripheral.”
India have never beaten South Africa in the World Cup, having lost to the Proteas at the 1992, 1999 and 2011 editions.
Kirsten, who played 101 Tests and 185 one-day internationals between 1993 and 2004, holds the record for the highest individual score at a World Cup — 188 not out against the United Arab Emirates in Rawalpindi in 1996.


Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

Updated 38 min ago

Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

  • Barty aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open
  • She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major

MELBOURNE, Australia: Top-ranked Ash Barty is a step closer to ending a long drought for Aussies at the national championship.
Barty saved set points in the 11th game and another in the tiebreaker before seizing the momentum against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in a 7-6 (6), 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena. She next faces No. 14 Sofia Kenin, who reached the semifinals at a major for the first time with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 78-ranked Ons Jabeur.
Barty fended off eight of the nine break-point chances she faced in the first set before finally getting the upper hand when she won a 22-shot rally, defending for much of it just to stay in the point, at 3-2 in the tiebreaker.
After clinching the first set in 69 minutes, she went on a roll to take a 4-0 lead in the second and take all the momentum away from Kvitova, who beat Barty here at the same stage last year before losing the final to Naomi Osaka.
Barty rebounded from that to win her first major title at the French Open, where she beat Kenin in the fourth round. Until she arrived in Australia, Kenin’s run at Roland Garros — which included a third-round upset over Serena Williams — was her best at a Grand Slam.
There’s a lot of local expectation riding on Barty, who is aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open. The first major of the decade may see the end of the 42-year wait, and an Australian man hasn’t won since 1976. Barty is already the first Australian woman since 1984 to reach the semifinals of the home Open.
Barty doesn’t expect to feel the pressure. She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major.
“I’m not going to have anything but a smile on my face when I walk out onto this court,” Barty said of her next match.
Kenin and Jabeur were both into the quarterfinals for the first time at a major.
For Kenin, who was born in Moscow but moved to the United States as a baby and grew up in Florida, the degree of difficulty will only increase.
“I’m in the semis,” she said, when asked for her preference of semifinal rival. “Anyone I play, they’re playing really well.”
Kenin is playing her best tennis, too. Her best previous run at Melbourne Park ended in the second round, when she lost to Simona Halep last year.
She finished last year ranked 14th, and could match Barty in one category: they were tied for most hard-court wins on the women’s tour last year with 38 wins each.
Kenin’s run here included a comeback win in the third round against 15-year-old Coco Gauff, when she made only nine unforced errors across the second and third sets.
In the second set against Jabeur, she saved three break points in a long sixth game, then broke serve in the seventh game to set up the win.
“It was a tough moment,” Kenin said. “I didn’t know it was 10 minutes (but) it was pretty long, the game. After that I got my momentum.”
Jabeur, a 25-year-old Tunisian, was the first Arab woman to make it to the last eight at a major.
“Ï think I proved that I can be in the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam, even if I have a lot of things to improve probably physically and mentally,” she said. “But I’m happy that I pushed through a lot of things. I proved to myself that I could do a lot of great things.”
In later men’s quarterfinals, 20-time major winner Roger Federer was playing 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren, and seven-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic had a night match against Milos Raonic of Canada.