He took over in tumultuous circumstances but India cricket coach Gary Kirsten could not have asked for a better send off as he guided the team to a historic World Cup triumph at the Wankhede stadium here.
When the South African took over the reins, Indian cricket was on the recovery trail after the controversy-marred tenure of Greg Chappell, but as he prepares to leave, Kirsten surely has several reasons to rejoice.
During his hugely successful and path-breaking tenure, India have risen to the summit of Test cricket, by claiming the number one spot, before winning the ultimate prize of the limited-over game — the coveted World Cup last night.
After the magnificent victory, Suresh Raina fittingly carried the former South African opener on his shoulders for a lap of honour, and he was accompanied by Virat Kohli, in front of 33,000 roaring spectators.
Staying well in the background and not trying to get the limelight, Kirsten had charted the glorious path for the Men in Blue.
The former Proteas opener, a dour and doughty batsman, brought to the coach’s job single-minded dedication as well as steely determination that helped India scale one peak after another.
India needed Kirsten’s calm and assured presence after their shock exit in the 2007 World Cup and how well he delivered.
Kirsten’s success mantra lay in giving as much space as they desired to the top Indian players.
It is significant to note that Kirsten’s tenure also coincided with the re-emergence of champion batsman Sachin Tendulkar after being troubled by a spate of injuries.
Spearhead Zaheer Khan also rediscovered his form during Kirsten’s tenure and has played a major role in the team’s success.
The coming-of-age of Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh, after his own spell of self-doubt, apart from the emergence of youngsters such as Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina — in the limited overs format — during the South African’s time also helped India become a cricket superpower.
Though Kirsten can take pride in the fact that Indian batting wears an assured look, in both Tests (with the likes of Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman around), the same cannot be said of the team’s bowling resources because of a spate of injuries.
That would be one of the biggest challenges for the man who takes over the reins from Kirsten.
But for now, the South African can bask in the glory of his boys’ success.
Keywords: Cricket World Cup 2011