Over the years, India has had some illustrious coaches that has taken over the reins of the Indian cricket team featuring the likes of John Wright and many others who has placed India on countless pedestals. The position of the Indian cricket’s coach is an extremely high-profile job and not everyone can acclimatize to the same.
Gary Kirsten, former South African batter and India’s coach who propelled them to the most prestigious trophies of the world, had a very bizarre experience to start his career. He got into the Indian side in 2007 after they suffered a crushing exit from the 50-over World Cup.
Gary understood that there was some serious discontent in the Indian room but he spotted that one big shot who stood over all and kept the Indian team in a piece. He was none other than MS Dhoni, who towered over the Indian greats and stepped up for the nation.
Speaking to Adam Collins in a cricket podcast, Gary said, “The standout for me then was what kind of leadership was then required to take this very talented team and turn it into a world-beating team. That was the conundrum for any coach moving into that situation. When I took over there was definitely a lot of scaring in the team. There was a lot of unhappiness and hence for me it was more important to understand each individual and where they felt they fitted in the team and what was going to make them play cricket for the sheer joy.”
He further added, “Sachin was probably a stand out for me because he was deeply unhappy at the time that I joined the team. He felt he had a lot to offer, but he wasn’t enjoying his cricket and he was at a time in his career when he felt may be he should retire. It was important for me to connect with him and make him feel that he had a massive contribution to make to the team and his contribution was more than what he needed to do.”
Gary also stated, “Any coach would want a group of players playing for the name on the front of the short and not the name on the back of the shirt. India is a tough place with a lot of hype around individual superstar and you often get lost in what your own personal needs are. And Dhoni meanwhile was standout as a leader as he was so focused on the team doing well he wanted to win trophies and have great success and he was very public about that. And that pulled a lot of other guys into line and quite simply Sachin started enjoying cricket as well.”
He concluded by saying, “MS and I formed the most unlikely partnership of captain-coach you will ever imagine in international game, and we end up having this incredible journey together.”