Gary Kirsten, former South African opener, will always go down as one of the greatest-ever coaches in Indian cricket history.
During his three-year reign (2008-11), Gary Kirsten formed a formidable partnership with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, creating a great team atmosphere and making both senior and youngsters equally comfortable set-up.
Under Kirsten, Team India scaled many heights, none better than the rise to the No.1 Test rankings in 2009 and a fairytale World Cup win in 2011.
Kirsten recently appeared on TalkSports ‘Following On’ Podcast where he revealed a bizarre set of events that led to him becoming the coach of the Indian team. Kirsten revealed that he had not even applied for the job and it was only after Sunil Gavaskar’s e-mail that he decided to go to India.
“I’ve got an email from Sunil Gavaskar – would I consider coaching the Indian team,” Kirsten said. “I thought it was a hoax. I never even answer it. He sent me another email, and said, ‘Will you come for an interview?’. I showed it to the wife, and she said, ‘They must have the wrong person’. So it was a bizarre entry into the whole thing, and rightly so. I mean, I had no coaching experience or anything,” Gary Kirsten revealed.
“Anyway, I went for the interview, it was a bizarre experience in many ways because I kinda arrived at the interview and I see Anil Kumble, who’s the current Indian captain, and he says, ‘What are you doing here?’. I said, ‘I have come for an interview to coach you!’. So we kinda laugh about it. It was quite a laughing matter,” he added.
‘I am happy with what he [Greg Chappell] was getting paid. That was it.’- Gary Kirsten
Kirsten said that he was quite intimidated by the environment and when he was asked about his vision for Indian cricket, he was blunt in his reply of not having one as he hadn’t prepared anything.
“Ten minutes later, I am in this board meeting with these BCCI officials, and it was quite an intimidating environment; the secretary of the board said, ‘Mr. Kirsten, would you like to present your vision for the future of Indian Cricket?’, and I said, ‘Well, I don’t have one.’ No one had asked me to prepare anything for it. I had just arrived there,” he revealed.
Ultimately, it was Ravi Shastri’s question that did the trick for Kirsten.
“Gary, tell us, what did you guys as the South African team do to beat the Indians?’. I thought it was a great ice-breaker because I could answer it and I answered it in about two-three minutes without saying strategies that we kind of probably use to this day,” Kirsten answered.
“He was suitably impressed, as was the rest of the board, because three minutes later – I had been in in the interview about seven minutes – the secretary of the board slides across a contract to me. [I] pick up the contract, and the first page, I am looking for my name frantically, and I can’t see my name, but I see Greg Chappell’s name, who was the previous coach,” he added.
“So I slide the contract back and I say, ‘Sir, I think you have given me your previous coach’s contract. He kind of looks at it a little bit perturbed, and takes out a pen from his pocket, scratches out his [Chappell] name, and writes my name on it,” the former World Cup-winning coach revealed.
“Then slides the contract back. So now I have my name on the contract. The beautiful thing about that was I didn’t have a clue what I should be paid. But then, obviously, with Chappell’s package there, I thought, ‘Well, let me just keep it the same!’ I am happy with what he was getting paid. That was it.’ he added.
Kirsten was handed a two-year contract worth Rs 2.4 Crore which was extended by a year, considering the 2011 World Cup. The rest, as they say, is history.