Though Graeme Smith's South Africa inflicted the only defeat on host India in the recently concluded ICC World Cup it fell at the first hurdle in the knockout stage. And it was a case of mixed emotions for South Africa-born India coach Gary Kirsten; sadness at his home country's exit and relief for easing India's way.
“I feel a little bit sad for them, but it was not a bad thing that they got knocked out early in the tournament,” said Kirsten.
Explaining the mixed emotions at Nagpur during the India-South Africa tie when national anthems of both nations were played, he said, “South Africa is my home, but my heart was 100 per cent with the Indian team. It was my job and I certainly wanted India to be winning games, including against South Africa.”
Said Kristen, “South Africa are a great cricket team. They continue to perform well. Everyone seems to focus on one event and that's the World Cup and the knockout stages.”
Kirsten said the middle-order let the team down. “For me the most important thing in those games is to have a huge amount of experience in the middle order. I just felt that they were a little bit short on that in this World Cup and that probably was their undoing,” he said.
He winces at the ‘choker' tag used on the team by the media. “It's tough for them to go through because you guys really spin it big time the ‘chokers' thing. I understand opposition media using that, but what worries is when the South African media are putting it up there. It's tough for an individual to deal with.”