South Africa v West Indies, 1st Test, Johannesburg December 8, 2003

Kirsten out of first Test

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Gary Kirsten will miss the first Test against West Indies
© Getty Images

Gary Kirsten has pulled out of the South African squad for the first Test against West Indies which starts on Friday (Dec 12) at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. Kirsten and his wife Deborah are expecting their first child this week, and he is going to be at his wife's side for the birth.

Kirsten, South Africa's most-capped player and leading Test runscorer, told Omar Henry, the convener of selectors, that he would only be available to play if his wife had given birth by today (Dec 8). "Gary was very upfront and open about the situation," said Henry, "and I have no problem at all with his decision, this is a very special time for him and Deborah and he has made the right choice."

Regarding a replacement, Henry said: "We named a squad of 14 knowing that this situation might arise. Gary was due to bat at No. 5, and Martin van Jaarsveld now comes into the frame for the middle-order position, although the final XI will only be named on the morning of the Test."

Kirsten, who reversed a decision to retire at the start of the current season, has scored 6866 runs in 95 Tests, with 19 centuries, the last of which was scored in South Africa's most-recent Test, against Pakistan at Faisalabad at the end of October.

"It's disappointing to miss a Test match," said Kirsten, "but this is a rather different situation and my family must take priority. It is always a great thrill to represent my country, but I think any parent will tell you that the birth of their first child is one of the proudest days of their lives. I've played hundreds of cricket matches, but never been a father so I think its only right I should be by Deborah's side."

Eric Simons, the South African coach, added: "Naturally we will miss Gary. A player of his experience, skill and ability is difficult to replace, but I fully understand his reasons for not playing. Fortunately we have a big squad so we have good cover."