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Even if Mandela didn’t speak, his presence said a lot: Gary
- Top-notch batsman & coach on the modern-day Mahatma

Nelson Mandela, flanked by the then South Africa captain Shaun Pollock and manager Goolam Rajah, poses with the 2003 World Cup squad, in Cape Town, on February 9. Standing in the back row (fifth from left) is Gary Kirsten. (AFP)

Gary Kirsten, a former stand-in captain of South Africa, who also coached India and his own country, spoke to The Telegraph, almost exclusively on Nelson Mandela, when the modern-day Mahatma was alive.

The interview is being published to coincide with Mandela’s state funeral, on Sunday, in his ancestral village, some 700 kms from Johannesburg.

A memorial service has already been held, attracting numerous heads of state and government.

Mandela, hailed by Usain Bolt as the “world’s greatest fighter,” passed away on December 5 at the age of 95.

Recently appointed as the Delhi DareDevils’ head coach, Kirsten is a consultant with the South Africa squad.


Keeping track of politics — in South Africa and elsewhere...

I do, yes.

Favourite politician(s)...

I won’t mention names as I’ll then be getting into dangerous territory. Suffice to say politics interests me.

If he was in the US, whether he’d be a Democrat or a Republican...

(Laughs) Don’t know... I’d first look at their leadership and, then, form an opinion.

His idea of leadership...

Has to be inspirational, like Mandela. A leader is one who affects and influences the lives of others. Leaders in the world of politics do so at a macro level.

Left to me, I look for the small bits of leadership... Do I actually get to see the real leader? Do the values he stands for come through in his leadership? Ideally, leadership should come from the bottom upwards and manifest itself in the service offered to people. The definition of a leader is important and he could be in politics or sport or in business.


The misuse of power, which is very real. That’s a fear.

Mandela as a leader...

As I’ve said, Mandela was inspirational during the years he was active... His humility stood out and just being with him was a humbling experience. Look at the way he led his life and got around to accepting people (Whites) who’d made him undergo ridiculous hardship. A great leader does things quietly and humbly. Despite the past, Mandela told us South Africans that, as a nation, we had to move forward.

Interacting with Mandela...

Even if Mandela didn’t speak, his presence said a lot... I consider myself fortunate that I met him in person... He was so polite, leading some to believe he was soft. But he wasn’t, for he was so powerful in his own way. We’re talking of an individual who went through so much pain, yet championed the cause of one nation.

Finally, a standout memory featuring Mandela...

I still have a fax from Mandela, which is fading, sent after my record-breaking 188 not out in the 1996 World Cup. He was our President then and it was an overwhelming gesture. Footnote: Kirsten’s 188 not out was against the UAE in Rawalpindi. Till then, Kapil Dev’s 175 not out (against Zimbabwe, in Tunbridge Wells, 1983) had been the World Cup’s highest.