Mumbai: An Emotional outgoing India coach Gary Kirsten today said bidding adieu to the team he has nurtured for three years is one of the hardest goodbyes he has ever had to say but is satisfied to leave Indian cricket in a ”healthy” state.
“It has been one of the hardest good byes I have had to say,” Kirsten told reporters in his farewell press conference after serving out a successful term during which the Indian team reached the pinnacle of Test rankings besides lifting its first World Cup title in 28 years, last week.
“It has been an amazing achievement to be a part of this special group of cricketers,” he said. 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.
“I think it was interesting to come into this job without any coaching experience. I used the reference of being a player to work with the team. I tried building trust in the environment. Me and Paddy (Upton) tried to make sure that they knew that we had come to India to make it the best team in the world,” he said.
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.
The Indian team performed consistently well under his guidance and Kirsten said there is hardly any area to improve upon from here except for fielding, which has also bettered in the past few months.
“They are the number one Test team in the world and won the World Cup so there is nothing much to improve. 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,” he said referring to the improved standards of fielding in the Indian team’s knockout stage campaign.
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.
Speaking about individual players in the team, Kirsten lavished praise on the young brigade.
“Virat Kohli is ready for Test cricket. He is a bright young star. He has taken the responsibility of playing for India in big games really well. I think it’s important to have competitiveness to be in the Indian team. You cannot be in the team with average performances.
“I have really enjoyed working with Suresh Raina. He has been an exceptional players. I have been impressed with Cheteshwar Pujara who can be a star of the future in Test matches. Pragyan Ojha has done well and he just needs to keep learning what he has to do. It is important to find one or two quality seamers.
“I was impressed with Munaf Patel. He performed well in the World Cup. Ashish Nehra also did well in the World Cup. Zaheer Khan has been number one for a long time but guys these need support,” Kirsten said.
Kirsten said Zaheer, in fact, is the best medium pacer in the world right now.
“Zaheer is the best 135kmph bowler in the world right now. He performs well under pressure. I think he is an unbelievable bowler to left-handers,” he said. Another player who got appreciation from the outgoing coach was flamboyant batsman Yuvraj Singh, who bagged the Man of the Tournament award at the World Cup for his fantastic performance with both the bat and ball.
“He was well-prepared and he had worked hard on his bowling. For Yuvi to end up being man of the tournament, I am extremely proud of him,” he said.
Looking back at the memorable World Cup, Kirsten he was glad that every match that the team played in the group stage turned out to be close one as it prepared the side for the knockout stage.
“It was an interesting World Cup. We never had it easy. The first one against Bangladesh was perhaps the easiest. In the last three games of the knockout stage, there were no big individual contributions. It was a team effort. I was excited about the way we played,” he said.
Kirsten said he would keep coming back to India and might even consider coaching an IPL team in future. “I would definitely consider coming to India. IPL is certainly an avenue from a coaching point of view. But I don’t know what I am going to be doing,” he said.
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.
Kirsten thanked the Indian fans for giving him the same respect that he got from the players he coached.
“It’s been a tremendous experience. I have been honoured by the way Indians have embraced me. It’s been incredible to see how much the Indian people love this game. To see the support the boys get from the Indian fans is fantastic. It’s a beautiful country. I have made lots of friends here. So I will keep coming back,” he said.
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.