6 Dec 1998

Northerns team selection puzzle for Kirsten

Trevor Chesterfield

Centurion (South Africa) -Ê As Peter Kirsten realises that his tenure as Northerns coach will be judged on the performance of the four day side than the limited-overs record, the little general, by his own admission has a worry about the outcome of today's selection meeting.

It could be that he has to select either a new captain, reinstate an old one or make do with what there is for the side to play Western Province in a SuperSport Series game against Western Province at Newlands and which starts on Friday.

No doubt there are those who feel playing A Section matches during a test is not ideal as the test, in Port Elizabeth will detract from the games. But if the players are to challenge for A Team positions as well as test places, playing four day games is the right way to go about it.

However, Kirsten's problem is one of historical fact as well as finding the right balance for the side which he feels is going to be the most important to be selected this season.

Northerns have yet to win an A Section match outright at Newlands, although the Northerns B side turned that little bit of history on its head earlier this season when they won by 10 wickets. The balance comes from who is to replace the injured Greg Smith and whether two or one spinner is the best option while looking at the possibility of a four-pronged pace attack.

With Smith out for at least 10 weeks after his jaw was broken in two places in the Standard Bank League game against Boland on Friday night, Quentin Ferreira is likely to be recalled to join the senior ranks along with David Townsend.

Newlands, like St George's Park, has a lot more life these days and suits the fast bowlers, which is why Kirsten, no doubt, is thinking on the lines of the four pace attack.

What makes selection even more difficult for the coach and Mark Davis as well as Chris van Noordwyk, is the choice of the top six or seven batsmen. Davis did a brilliant captaincy job on Friday against Boland. With a bowler light after Smith's injuryÊ his jaw was broken in three places when he was hit in the face by a hard drive from Kenny Jackson which required an operation on Saturday morning - Davis' patch up job was a fine effort.

Kirsten was full of praise for the way Davis handled the situation, fiddling around with the bowling attack for a further six overs. It was his efforts in this game which might see him back as captain at Newlands.

Kirsten, who has worked hard on the team's batting skills since his arrival on August 1, has to sort out in his own mind who he wants to bat up front. The way Rudolf Steyn is performing now, his retention as an opener with Mike Rindel is the best option. After that the coach has to look hard at who he feels should fill the lower middle-order. And this is far from easy.

It is going to be an interesting discussion all right.