| Gary Kirsten and Mahendra Singh Dhoni |
A World Cup-winning coach, Gary Kirsten is now in the Delhi DareDevils’ colours. On Thursday evening, he spoke to The Telegraph at the ultra-luxurious ITC Gardenia, in Bangalore.
It was during Kirsten’s India years, 2008-2011, that we became No.1 in Test cricket and, of course, won the last World Cup.
The 46-year-old Kirsten, incidentally, remains as shy of the media as ever.
Q This will be your first season as the coach of an IPL franchise. What’s the No.1 challenge?
A It’s a different game for me, so understanding the IPL is the top challenge. It’s going to be a different space altogether, and I’ll try to learn as much as possible in a short period. I’ve already spent a lot of time with the DareDevils’ management, understanding the requirements. Now, I’ll have to take things forward.
You must be happy with the DareDevils’ squad...
We’ve covered our bases. Our strategy was to form a core team and we’ve pretty much succeeded. But, in an auction, you don’t always get everybody you set out to. All franchises have some good players.
But would you have loved to have had any one player, who got bought by another franchise?
Look, there are a lot of players we would have loved to have. In fact, we had five-six options for each position. So, if we didn’t get player X or player Y for one position, we at least got player Z... That’s the way it goes at auctions.
Could Dinesh Karthik captain the DareDevils?
Dinesh has a good chance, but we haven’t made a decision as yet.
Kevin Pietersen, the DareDevils’ most high profile player, had issues with two England head coaches... Is that at the back of your mind?
You never know how things will go, but I’m looking forward to working with Pietersen. He’s a great player and, in the past, has had a great time with the DareDevils. There were no issues.
But Pietersen will come with more ‘baggage’ this time...
This is a fresh squad (the DareDevils didn’t retain anybody) and a fresh start. I’m looking forward to working with all the players.
What makes the difference inT20?
It’s a scientific game, which requires a whole different set of skills. In T20, you have to exercise a variety of skills in pressure situations. Situations change very quickly, so it’s an exciting format. But if you talk of a war of attrition, it’s Test cricket.
To move away from T20 and the IPL... You took the South Africa job just months after ending your India innings as coach. That came as a surprise, for you’d been wanting to spend more time with the family... What swung it for you?
It was, first, a privilege to be offered the job... When an individual is offered a job of that magnitude by his own country, it’s difficult to turn it down... It really is difficult.
One expected you to remain with South Africa till the 2015 World Cup...
(Laughs) I left (after the 2013 Champions Trophy) for the same reason I’d left the India job: To spend time with my family... I have three young children... I couldn’t cope with the international commitments, because of the time involved. My role with the DareDevils is a lot less hectic. Suits me and my family fine.
But you remain a consultant with South Africa, don’t you?
Yes, but it’s for me to choose when I’ll be involved. I couldn’t spend time with the boys before the ongoing series (against Australia).
Do you follow India’s performances closely?
I’m a cricket enthusiast, so I do watch, but not very objectively.
Overseas, India struggle...
I don’t know why, for the team has good players. Momentum is important and you need to get out of the losing mode. The team has quality, so that can be done.
[The interview was conducted on the eve of the Wellington Test, which, in a welcome change, is being dominated by India.]
Mahendra Singh Dhoni became the India captain across the three formats during your years as the coach. He’s still there... What’s your assessment of Dhoni as captain?
Nothing has changed and Dhoni remains one of the most remarkable captains... I’d say he’s great... I enjoyed every moment that I worked with him.
Finally... What makes Dhoni a special captain?
There’s an acceptance about Dhoni. He can do special things on a cricket field and still has the X factor. The only other captain that I can think of, who has had so much success, is (South Africa’s) Graeme Smith.