Tuesday, March 22, 2011


As the World Cup enters the Knock Out stages, every team knows that one slip-up and it might spell the end of the road for them. For some players in these teams, it may well be the end of their cricket careers.

India play a tough Quarterfinal match against the Australians at Ahmedabad's Sardar Patel Stadium on 24th March 2011. If we lose that match (I desperately hope not!), that would be the end of Gary Kirsten's coaching period with Team India. His coaching career with India is now anything between 1 to 3 games long.

Since there is this uncertainty about what can India do in these Knock Out stages, I thought I'll write this tribute to Gary Kirsten right away, for I do want to be amongst the first ones to applaud him during his last few days with the team.

Whether or not India succeeds in winning this World Cup, Kirsten will always be remembered as one of India's best loved coaches, and definitely the most successful one till now. He will leave India, having attained the No. 1 ranking in Test cricket, No. 2 in ODI cricket, and hopefully, a World Cup!

Officially, Gary Kirsten took over as the coach of India's cricket team on 1st March 2008. India's previous full-time coach was the controversial Australian Greg Chappell, who had resigned almost a year earlier, after India's disastrous campaign in the World Cup 2007. During this interim period, where India had a good and successful tour of England, a win in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup, and a tour of Australia, we did not have a full-time coach, but the responsibility was carried out by men like Chandu Borde, Lalchand Rajput and Ravi Shastri.

During that acrimonious tour of Australia, the Indian team saw Gary Kirsten joining in as a traveler. He was not officially the coach then, but he had been announced as the future coach. He wanted to spend some time with the team before he took over the coaching duties. He joined the team after the infamous Sydney Test, and almost saw the tour being called off. Luckily it wasn't, and India won the next Test at Perth, followed by a win in the ODI tri-series.

His first assignment as the official coach of India's cricket team was against his home country South Africa, who had toured India in March 2008. That was the start of a wonderful journey, during which India lost just 1 Test series (to Sri Lanka in August that year), and towards the end of this journey, several cricketers have come out profusely praising the contribution of this man to their success.

Almost every Indian cricketer that I can think of, who has played substantial cricket for India during this period, has gone on record praising Gary Kirsten. The Indian skipper MS Dhoni called him "the best thing to happen to Indian cricket." Mighty words those!

Less than 50 days into his new job, Kirsten saw the launch of Indian Premier League. The most commendable part of Kirsten's coaching has been how he has managed to get a lot of youngsters to ground themselves from the high they attained in the riches of this league. India's sustained presence at the top of Test rankings, and emergence of Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan and in particular, Virat Kohli bears ample testimony to Kirsten's brilliant handling of India's post-IPL cricketers. It is no wonder that his man-management skills have been hailed by one and all, and I won't be surprised if his tenure is taken up as a case study in the future by management graduates at reputed B-Schools studying the subject of Human Resource Management.

During Kirsten's tenure, India played 33 Tests, with 16 wins, 11 draws and 6 losses. The fact that these results came despite the fact that India lost 21 tosses makes it even more commendable! In the 94 ODIs, India won 56, lost 29, tied 1 and others were abandoned or yielded no result. The worst ODI win-loss record that Kirsten can end with is 56-30, and the best is 59-29... both numbers of a highly successful coach during the Golden Era of India's cricket!

Kirsten leaves the job due to family commitments, as he would like to spend more time with his two young children and his wife. The Indian team, along with the followers of Indian cricket, respect that decision. We all wish you well, Gary!


Soulberry said...

Yessir, Kirsten's experienced success on his beat.

For whatever reasons we, India, began to opt for foreign coaches, I hope that India - players, ex-players and the board - are building up a head of experience and wisdom filled with the things we were looking for.

What exactly were India seeking via foreign coaches? How much have we succeeded in learning what we were seeking? Are we transmitting the wisdom gained towards the grassroots? Are we building a system based on this collective knowledge from John Wright downwards? Have our current, recent ex- and older ex- players come to terms with foreign coaches as a learning experience and are willing to use the gathered wisdom to apply in their academies?

There is of course the immediate purpose of keeping the senior team going.

Govind Raj said...

Langer wants to succeed Gary. Hope he doesn't succeed !

Gary was good. But I think it is time to appoint an Indian Coach now. How about Ravi Shastri ?

The reason: We can get rid of his commentary !

PS: Any Tom, Dick or Gary can do well with this team. Coach has a limited role in Cricket at higher level.

Unknown said...

The effect of soft spoken gary was felt more because of the previous control freak and more blunt spoken chappel. Gary gave every member of the team, the breathing space, the wanted feeling and chose not to come in media limelight. He knows how to keep things simple and that is not so simple as it sounds.....good luck to affable gary....;-)....

@govind raj: doctor saab..i too want to get rid of his commentary, but I dont want to get rid of our team.....:P...(i would lend him to WI and see that if he can make matters any worse there.....we can also add Sidhu as assistant coach)....:P

Unknown said...

btw Sreedhar...nice posts...i too was thinking along similar lines when i learnt that Gary's stay would be depending upon the length of India's stay in knockouts.....

Unknown said...


It's quite sad really to me that the length of stay of a man who has provided such service to Indian cricket has to be decided by the format of the tournament. But then, such is our sport! Win or lose, he will always be remembered fondly!