Gary Kirsten is likely to be on the shortlist for the vacant role of the England Test head coach as Rob Key moves to make his first major appointment as director of men’s cricket.
A job that could be split into two by way of Test and white-ball cricket is due to be officially advertised in the coming days, but Key has already begun sounding out potential candidates since starting his job last Tuesday.
Kirsten, the former India and South Africa head coach, missed out on the England job in 2019 to Chris Silverwood and was left bruised by a process that led to him flying to the UK under a belief it was his to lose. But those close to Kirsten say he remains keen on the challenge of reversing England’s Test fortunes and, having had concerns over the demands on family life when the job was all-format, is encouraged by the role potentially being split.
Speaking about Kirsten in February when a pundit for Sky, Key said: “He probably would [be a good option as head coach]. He was obviously a decent player and he’s got a lot of international cricket experience, so he’s used to that scrutiny and he coached India to No 1 in the world with [captain] MS Dhoni.
“What you have to work out with these people at times is who was the real driver of that success that India had. Was it MS Dhoni, was it Gary Kirsten? Did Gary Kirsten just facilitate MS Dhoni and everything that was great about MS Dhoni and all the decisions? That’s what you have to find out.”
Kirsten is the batting mentor to the new Gujarat Titans franchise that sits first in the Indian Premier League but with England keen to secure the right person for the team’s needs, a degree of flexibility over second jobs has not been ruled out.
There are others in contention, with the former Australia batter Simon Katich highly rated by Key after their recent stint commentating together in Pakistan. The 46-year-old already works in England as the head coach of Manchester Originals, has county knowledge from his playing days and past coaching experience in the IPL.
Though splitting the head coach roles reduces time on the road, candidates will still have to weigh up their own commitments and the lifestyle of international cricket. Katich, for example, has a young family and is among a number of former players who enjoy the flexibility of combining commentary work with short-term franchise roles.
Key is said to be optimistic about his options, with Graham Ford, the well-travelled former Kent and Surrey coach, another name linked and Paul Collingwood, the interim head coach for both legs of the recent Caribbean tour, a candidate for the limited-overs job that supports Eoin Morgan as captain. Justin Langer, the former Australia head coach, is not thought to be a contender.While Ben Stokes is also expected to take on the Test captaincy – provided Key is convinced the all-rounder is ready for additional responsibility after last year’s break for mental health reasons – a trickier task comes in hiring a new national selector.