When Gautam Gambhir was struggling to cement his place in Team India, the appointment of Gary Kirsten as India coach proved to be a godsend. The Delhi batsman gives the former South African opener a lot of credit for understanding him both as a cricketer as well as a person.
Gambhir, 29, feels Kirsten's presence in the India dressing room has done a world of good to his game as he has given him a lot of confidence.
Kirsten, who joined the India team in March 2008, carried it to the top of Test rankings, and Gambhir says he is one of the players to prosper in the process.
"Kirsten worked on my game, he has helped me a lot. Unlike other coaches, he has never asked me to make changes in my game. Importantly, he understood me both as a player and person," Gambhir told IANS.
"Kirsten worked on my basics and tried to improve on them. It was quite encouraging coming from a person who has played 100-odd Tests."
The left-hander, who made his debut in 2004, had only one Test century to his name till 2007, but hit two more and a double century in 2008 and four centuries in five Tests in what turned out to be an incredible 2009, the year in which he was voted the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test Player.
Gambhir, who returned home after the South Africa Test series following a hand injury, said Kirsten, himself being a left-handed opener, worked on key areas to better his performance.
"For me, Test cricket is the most important form of the game. Players do not practice three-four hours just to play ten balls in a match. Test cricket is the ultimate test of a player's technique," said Gambhir.
"I was nervous playing Tests, but Kirsten helped me work on the areas a left-hander needs to work on and thankfully things started to work out for me," Gambhir said of Kirsten, whose term as India coach expires after the World Cup.
Gambhir, who was hit on his left-hand knuckles during the first Test against South Africa at Centurion, still has a bit of swelling, but is hopeful of hitting the nets by the end of the month to work out for the World Cup, beginning Feb 19.
"The pressure will be high in the World Cup. I will like to keep things simple and take one match at a time."
Gambhir, who played his part in India drawing the Test series against South Africa, said it was a good preparation for the World Cup.
"It is always tough to play in South Africa. It was a keenly fought series, a good preparation for the World Cup."