It's Been One of the Hardest Good Byes: Gary Kirsten

It's Been One of the Hardest Good Byes: Gary Kirsten
File photo: Virat Kohli, right, and Suresh Raina, left, carry coach Gary Kirsten, after India won the Cricket World Cup final match between Sri Lanka and India in Mumbai.
AP Photo/ Aijaz Rahi
It's Been One of the Hardest Good Byes: Gary Kirsten
Proud of the Indian cricket team's achievement in the last three years of his association, outgoing coach Gary Kirsten today said he was leaving the job with a heavy heart and it would be one of the hardest goodbyes he has ever had to say.

He also said that he loved India, its people and the way they had embraced him and his family

"This is one of the hardest goodbyes I have had to make. India would always remain a part of my life and future. I will return many times. I thank the people of this beautiful country who accepted me and my family with open arms," Kirsten said at his farewell press conference here.

"It's one of the most cherished experiences of my life. We wanted to be the no.1 ranked Test team in the world and win the World Cup and we have achieved both these goals. It has been a massive privilege to be part of Team India," Kirsten said at his farewell press conference here.

Kirsten had a successful three year stint with the Indian team during which Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men not only reached the pinnacle of Test rankings but also lifted the World Cup title after 28 years, last week.

Kirsten, who seldom interacted with the media right through his tenure, spoke for more than half an hour on various topics relating to his job and outside today.

Dhoni Leads By Example: Kirsten

He praised the the leadership qualities of triumphant Indian skipper Dhoni and termed the Ranchi-born wicket-keeper batsman as the best current captain in world cricket.

"For me MS (Dhoni) is one of the greatest leaders of this country. It has been an honour to work with him over the last three years. I thank him for his support and friendship. He's easily the best captain in world cricket today," Kirsten said.

The former South African opener also endorsed the widely held view that Dhoni was the quintessential "Captain Cool".

"He's (Dhoni) the leader by example. He always gives 100 per cent and expects his troops to be ready for battle. He is calm and level headed. I have never seen him lose his temper, he takes on responsibility. (There's) no reason for him to move on...He can be captain for many years," Kirsten said.

The outgoing coach did not forget to mention the enormous contribution of all the team members during his three-year tenure.

Sachin Greatest Sports Model: Kirsten

Terming Sachin Tendulkar as the "greatest sports model" he had ever met, Kirsten said the master batsman's humility and dedication was a thing to watch out for.

"To Sachin, I want to say thank you for your friendship. You are the greatest sports model I have ever met. Your humility, work ethics and sheer love for the game have been a real pleasure to watch," he said.

"To all the players who have played for Team India in the last 3 years and in particular the World Cup and the current Test squad, I say you have represented your country seriously and you have taken massive efforts to reach this goal," he added.

Kirsten was not certain whether Tendulkar would be around for four years to defend India's World Cup crown in Australia and New Zealand but said the master batsman was still enjoying his cricket a lot.

"He will be 42 then. It would be great if he can do it. He is getting old and will have to pick and choose his games and can't play all. He's still enjoying his cricket and it's great leaving the team with him enjoying his cricket," the 43-year-old former player said.

Before taking questions from reporters, Kirsten read out a prepared statement in which he said that he loved India, its people and the way they had embraced him and his family which made it one of the hardest goodbyes he has ever had to say.

"This is one of the hardest goodbyes I have had to make. India would always remain a part of my life and future. I will return many times. I thank the people of this beautiful country who accepted me and my family with open arms," said Kirsten.

Though as a player for South Africa, Kirsten did not win any World Cup title, his coaching stint has provided him with one cherished triumph and he said he would always savour it.

"As a player I wanted to win the World Cup which never happened. This is the second best, to win as a coach. It was an amazing achievement to be a part of this special group of cricketers," he said.

Coming with No Coaching Experience Helped: Kirsten

Kirsten came into the job with no coaching experience but turned out to be the most successful for India and the South African said having no prior experience probably worked to his advantage.

"(It was) interesting coming into the job without coaching experience. Played cricket against some of them and gained some respect from my playing days.

"I used the reference of being a player to work with the team. I tried building trust in the environment," he said about the secret of his success.

"Me and Paddy (Upton) began afresh and tried to make sure that they knew that we had come to India to make it the best team in the world," Kirsten said about his coaching mantra.

"Man management is most important for a coach. It is important to understand individuals and there's no point in telling these players how to go out there and play. No need to change their technique.

"We wanted to create an environment where they felt like a family and worked as a team. Sachin was for me the leader of the team. He said we are playing not for ourselves but for the country," he added.

Kirsten said the instillation of team spirit is reflected from the way India played in the crucial knock-out phase of the World Cup.

He also pointed out that contributions from all and sundry and not individual performances helped India to regain the World Cup title after 28 years.

"One thing that stands out in the World Cup is that in the last three games there was no big contribution, everyone chipped in and took on responsibility. We started playing to our potential around 60 per cent and increased it to 80 per cent. We were really battle hardened in league phase," Kirsten said.

"We have been working really hard on fielding and I was quite amazed at the way we fielded in the last three games of the World Cup. Even I was surprised with their efforts. We had worked hard on our ground fielding."

Kirsten saw a bright future for Indian cricket but pointed out that the fast bowling bowling department still remains a concern.

Kirsten, who declined an offer to extend his tenure, said he has no plans to take up any other coaching assignment as of now and wants to spend time with his family.

"I am going home to spend some time with my family. But I have to consider my future at some time. I have been fortunate to have been offered some jobs but I want to spend time with my family right now," he said.

Indian Cricket in Healthy Position Right Now: Kirsten

The 43-year-old Kirsten said it would be quite a job for the next India coach as the task at hand is to sustain the consistency that the team has achieved in the past couple of years.

"Indian cricket is in a healthy position right now. Seam bowling is a slight concern but it has always been. But Indian cricket is going to be in a healthy state for a long time.

"It is going to be tough for the new coach in terms of the standards that have been set. But I don't see why the team should not continue doing well. The foundation has been set. The new coach should bring in fresh ideas," he said.

"I certainly wouldn't want the new guy to try and emulate what has been done in the past three years. Consistency for this team is now going be very important. I think the foundation is well set," he explained.

Asked whether he found handling temperamental pacer S Sreesanth difficult given that even skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni seems to have given up no him, Kirsten broke into a laughter.

"Paddy spent a lot of time with Sreesanth. He is highly skilled. Sree needs to work on his consistency. He played seven Test matches in a row for us and he was the key. So I think he needs to deliver those performances consistently. It would be wasted potential if a Sreesanth didn't go to the next level in his cricket," he said.

Felt Sad for SA But Heart was 100% with India: Kirsten

Asked whether he ever felt emotionally confused when the opposition team was his own country South Africa, Kirsten said quipped he was happy to see the back of Graeme Smith's men from the World Cup as India coach but did feel bad for his nation.

"It's always been a mix of emotions. South Africa is my country, I felt sad for them that they didn't do well but then it was good for us that they were knocked out. We have played South Africa many times but my heart was 100 per cent with the Indian team," he said.

Kirsten also urged his country's media to stop calling the Proteas chokers.

"South Africa is a great team but I think everyone seems to focus on the World Cup and the knockout stages. In a tournament like this, you need to have huge amount of experience in the middle order which I think they were probably a little short of.

"It worries me when the South African media puts up the chokers' tag. I can understand the opposition media doing it but your media shouldn't. I do feel sad for them. Graeme Smith said 'it's not easy, we are trying' and it's true, it's not easy," he said.
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