Will it be Kirsten and de Villiers?
The process of looking for a coach and captain to take South Africa forward has started in earnest in South Africa.
The relationship between the captain and coach is of the utmost importance. Over the past eight years this particular relationship was sometimes hostile, at times uncomfortable, and occasionally pretty good between Graeme Smith and the coaches he worked with. It is not necessary for the captain and coach to be friends but there has to be a mutual respect and understanding between the two that leads to a positive influence on the team. Cricket South Africa will no doubt consider this when they proceed to find two individuals to fill these important positions.
As far as the coach is concerned, public opinion is strongly in favour of Gary Kirsten. Kirsten has the world at his feet after the recent World Cup win. He will have several options available to him. I would imagine that Kirsten will feel he has proved himself. Rather than him going through an application process, whoever wants him will have to come to him and agree to his terms. Rather than applying for a coaching job, he will respond to being headhunted.
Kirsten at this point holds all the aces. It must be appealing to him to take on an IPL coaching position or similar before he moves back into the international scene. This way he will be able to spend time with his family and consider options before accepting another challenging international job.
No national coaching position is without considerable pressure, and the South African job is no exception. The South African public is desperate for success at an ICC event. The next ICC event is the World Twenty20 next year in Sri Lanka. Should Kirsten accept the position, he will be under immediate pressure to transform the Proteas and bring home the trophy with a talented team - though not quite as strong as his recent Indian team with all the icon players he has been working with.
The advantage of securing the services of Kirsten for South Africa will be that he brings excellent qualities to a coaching position. He is a hands-on, hardworking coach with a non-confrontational style that appeals to the modern player. He brings a certain calmness to the dressing room. In the current turmoil, after the disappointment of South Africa's World Cup campaign, this will be a good thing.
The next South African captain will more than likely be one of Johan Botha, AB de Villiers or Hashim Amla. They can all stake a strong claim for the position. One captain for all three playing disciplines will be a good option. A new coach together with a new captain in all forms of the game will be the right move and will allow captain and coach to stamp their authority on the team and take South African cricket forward. A split captaincy at this point will make it very difficult for a new captain and coach to function successfully.
The most likely captain at this point is AB de Villiers. He is ready for the job. The advantage of de Villiers is that he is a certain selection in all versions of the game. He is an established and respected member of the team. He is young enough to be in the team for some time to come. He has become his own man and has matured as an individual and as a player. He ticks the right boxes.
In the past Johan Botha has done an excellent job as stand-in captain. He has all the right attributes for the job. The problem is that he doesn't appear to be a certain selection in all forms of the game.
The same applies to Hashim Amla. Amla has tremendous value as a top-order batsman and as a senior player. He is unlikely, though, to play in the Twenty20 format. There appears to be a reluctance on Amla's behalf, as well, to take on the position.
A de Villiers-Kirsten combination looks a good one. Cricket South Africa have been very supportive of Graeme Smith and his senior players as well as the coaching staff. They will embrace and support the new regime in the same way. All of South Africa will be watching and hoping that they find a World Cup-winning combination over the next few weeks.