Gary Kirsten favourite to be named England Test coach as appointment nears

Informal conversations with candidates have been held ahead of Friday’s closing date for applications and the South African is the front-runner

Rory Dollard
Thursday 05 May 2022 17:25
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Gary Kirsten, right, is the favourite to be named England Test coach (Nigel French/PA)
Gary Kirsten, right, is the favourite to be named England Test coach (Nigel French/PA)

England are hoping for a swift conclusion to their hunt for a new Test coach, with South African Gary Kirsten the leading contender as the deadline for applications draws closer.

The window for submissions officially closes at 6pm on Friday, but informal conversations have already been held and the field of candidates is unlikely to shift at the 11th hour.

The England and Wales Cricket Board are interviewing for two positions on Monday and Tuesday after resolving to split the red-ball and white-ball roles, but time pressure is most significant on the Test team.

They are back in action on June 2 at Lord’s, where they begin a three-match series against New Zealand, and would like the incoming coach, as well as new captain Ben Stokes, to play an active role in squad selection before that.

Kirsten appears to be the man in pole position, as he was four years ago before being edged out by Chris Silverwood.

That experience suggests there is still plenty up for grabs during the interview stage, which will be led by the recently appointed director of cricket Rob Key alongside Sir Andrew Strauss and chief executive Tom Harrison and take place via video conferencing for those unable to attend in person.

Simon Katich is another live candidate, emerging as the likeliest Australian to cross the Ashes divide, while Ottis Gibson’s name refuses to go away despite suggestions that he is committed to his current role in charge of Yorkshire and Graham Ford forged close links with Key at Kent.

Former Australia batsman Simon Katich could be another contender for the Test job (Clint Hughes/PA)

Internal candidates such as Paul Collingwood, one of Silverwood’s assistants and recently interim head coach in the West Indies, and Young Lions coach Richard Dawson may find themselves with a better chance of pitching for the limited-overs vacancy. Interest in that should be high given England’s status as 50-over world champions, but a homegrown prospect to work alongside captain Eoin Morgan may be preferable given the likelihood of an overseas appointment in the longer format.

If former South Africa and India coach Kirsten does emerge successful in that race, an agreement would need to be reached over his role as batting coach with Indian Premier League franchise Gujarat Titans.

They are currently top of the IPL table and on course to go all the way in a competition which runs until May 29 – just four days before England’s Test summer begins.

Extracting him from his longer-term commitments in future years should be simpler, while the ECB would also need to find a new coach for Welsh Fire in The Hundred. Having overlooked Kirsten for Silverwood, they successfully recruited him to front the Cardiff-based team in last year’s launch season.

Katich is also tied to that tournament with Manchester Originals, giving him recent exposure to the English game.

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